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Commonwealth Foundation Supports Privatization of Wine and Liquor Sales

A committee in the General Assembly is considering a bill that would abolish the retail and wholesale operations of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. The Commonwealth Foundation has launched a website presenting arguments in favor of privatization.

Public Affairs Director Jay Ostrich said it's not true that the PLCB is a "cash cow" for the state and maintains that tax revenues would be the same or even better with privatization, because residents would no longer go to neighboring states for "better prices, more convenience, and better selection."

Although House Bill 11 would sell only 1,250 retail licenses, about twice the 615 locations the PLCB has now, Ostrich said 9,000 stores would be more in line with the national average and could create thousands of new jobs beyond the PLCB's current 5,000 employees.

According to Ostrich, Pennsylvania and Utah are the only states with total control over sales of wine and spirits. "If more control equals more safety, then Pennsylvania would be ranked one or two. It's very far from that; in fact, it's toward the middle of the pack when it comes to things like underage drinking and problematic adult drinking like binge drinking."

The PLCB has a conflict of interest, said Ostrich: spending $10 million a year to market and promote liquor sales, and then spending more taxpayer money on the regulation, safety, and law enforcement side, which should be the role of government.