Despite recent proposals to reform and privatize Pennsylvania's antiquated alcohol laws, Steve Esack reports in The Morning Call about how the money derived from the state's current government-controlled wine and liquor system could be cited as a reason for blocking any reforms:
"With one eye on the state budget and another on his own political future, House Speaker Mike Turzai is pushing a series of bills aimed at dismantling and selling the state-owned liquor system.
Turzai, an Allegheny County Republican, has made liquor privatization a cornerstone of his 16-year legislative career and a talking point for a prospective run for governor in 2018. He and a majority of the GOP-controlled House believe government has no business running a business — the Liquor Control Board, one of the country's largest importers and retailers of wine and spirits.
That collective philosophical belief allowed the House, over the objection of Democrats, to approve four bills Tuesday that would force the LCB to sell its wine and spirits wholesale operations, and eventually close its 617 retail stores due to increased competition from more than 14,000 privately operated outlets.
'Pennsylvania should be out of the business of selling wine and spirits,' Turzai declared after the vote.
But that philosophy does not square with fiscal reality in a state with weak job growth, weak tax collections, mounting pension costs and a growing deficit. In coming years, the bills appear certain to exacerbate the state's deficit, estimated to hit $3 billion by June 2018, leading to program and service cuts or higher taxes in other areas, according to a Morning Call analysis.
The LCB pours millions of dollars annually into Pennsylvania's coffers in taxes and post-tax profits. That cash infusion is so addicting to the state's bottom line that state senators, Gov. Tom Wolf and the state store workers union repeatedly cite it to beat back privatization efforts..."