Liquor liberty

Yet another poll is out showing that a majority of Pennsylvanians favor privatizing the state-run wine and spirits stores.

This latest one, however, comes with a twist: it is sponsored by two ideologically opposed organizations. That would be the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation, a free market think tank, and Keystone Politics, a liberal news and commentary website.

What the survey of more than 1,100 likely voters found is that the desire to privatize transcends age, geography and even political affiliation. According to the poll, 70 percent of Republicans and Independents,  nearly 60 percent of liberals and 55 percent of union households favor abolishing the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's (LCB) monopoly on the wholesale and retail side of selling wine and hard spirits. The full survey results are available here.

Jon Geeting, editor of Keystone Politics, argued during Tuesday's press conference in the Capitol that privatization does run afoul of liberal ideals, even though Democratic legislators in Harrisburg appear solidly unified against it.

What if, asked Geeting, there was one natural gas company that controlled not just the production of natural gas in Pennsylvania - but its regulation. That, he said, is the situation with the LCB, which is responsible for both enforcing liquor laws and promoting the sale of alcohol.

"It stinks," he said.

Still, despite a fervent push earlier this year to strike a deal on liquor privatization, the issue withered on the legislative vine after lawmakers broke for the summer. And there hasn't been much discussion since on ways to revive it, nor does it appear to be high on the legislature's priority list this fall.

The Commonwealth Foundation's Matt Brouillette argued Tuesday that privatization remains in his mind "the easiest issue" for Democrats and Republicans to accomplish this fall, if for the simple reason that it's popular with voters.

"It's a no-brainer," he said. "The public wants this."

Click here for's politics page.

Continue Reading