Well, if Washington is any comparison, the answer would be yes.
Privatization of Pennsylvania’s liquor stores has been bandied about this legislative session but was torpedoed last month when the sponsor tried to expand it beyond its original intention of opening up the sale of hard alcohol and wine to private retailers and large grocery and chain stores. Perhaps Pennsylvania isn’t ready for privatization. But Washington was, when voters in that state last year approved an initiative to get the state out of the liquor business. And now is reaping what that move has sewn.
Straw polls indicate that not only did liquor prices increase because of the move, liquor revenues across the border in Oregon have boosted by 35 percent as a result. According to NBC, the increase in prices are thanks to a distributor tax (10 percent) and retail fee (17 percent) meant to help offset the loss in revenue from the transition.
The proposed bill that was shelved here in Pennsylvania would have meant a loss of jobs for 4000 state liquor store union employees and 1000 nonunion workers. There are 640 state liquor stores, but under the language of the new law, that number would have doubled for retail outlets, allowing the state to auction off more than as many liquor permits.
The bill would have also done away with the state mandated 30 percent markup on liquor and the 18 percent so-called Johnstown flood levy instituted in the aftermath of the devastating flood that killed over 2200 when the South Fork damn failed and flooded the town.
Instead, the state would require a tax of $8.25 to $12 per gallon of liquor. No one has weighed in on what effect this will have on the overall price of hard liquor and wine in this state. But one thing is certain. The idea of privatization is not dead. Come the fall, I’m certain it will reappear, as will the debate.