Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Main Street, not State [Government] Street

Main Street, not State [Government] Street

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When it comes to selling liquor, Main Street can do it better.

So advocates a new, four-minute video (see below) by the Pennsylvania chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), which has made no secret of its support for Gov. Corbett's plan to privatize the sale of wine and hard liquor in the state.

The NFIB took to the streets this past weekend, interviewing customers at liquor stores just over the Pennsylvania border in Delaware and New Jersey.

Its findings? The parking lot was packed with cars sporting Pennsylvania license plates.

"Forty-five percent of residents in eight Philadelphia area counties left Pennsylvania to buy wine and liquor…buying a forth of their liquor in neighboring states," the NFIB's Suzanne Collins Stoltenberg narrates during the video, citing a 2011 study by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (LCB).

In the video, which will be distributed to all 253 members of the legislature, several Pennsylvania residents are interviewed while shopping at Total Wine in Delaware and Canal's in New Jersey. They make no bones about the fact that they buy their liquor outside Pennsylvania's borders because the prices and selection are better. (Let it be noted here, as it is in the video, that anyone who buys wine and hard liquor out of state, and then drives it into Pennsylvania, is technically breaking the law.

Aside from the video, the NFIB is also launching a new website this week called www.MainStreetDoesItBetter.com.

It's all part of the take-no-prisoners battle that will surely ensue over the next few months as liquor privatization's fate is decided in the Capitol.

But will it make a difference?

It has long been known that the majority of Pennsylvanians want the system to go private - poll after poll has shown deep support among voters for privatizing the LCB. But the legislature for years has been loathe to even broach the matter, which is strongly opposed by unions, many Democrats, and some conservative Republicans who advocate for strict controls over alcohol sales.

Still, the House of Representatives last month, in a historic (if close) vote, passed a bill that would start Pennsylvania down the road toward privatization. The bill is now in the Senate, though top Republican leaders there have shown little enthusiasm for debating it. And if they do take it up, they will likely make radical changes to it.

But Corbett, the NFIB and other pro-privatization groups feel the momentum is there for change.

The governor, for one, hasn't let an opportunity pass over the last few months to make a pitch for privatization at public events he attends.

"We have got to get government out of the business of selling alcohol," Corbett said at a press conference earlier this month, repeating a line he has uttered dozens of times since the beginning of the year. "We must do away with this antiquated system ... and move Pennsylvania into the 21st Century."

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About this blog

Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.



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