In honor of the anniversary of the 21st amendment, let’s take a look at what Tom Corbett said about alcohol reform in his one of his interviews with PA political media heavyweights:
But two, what this really comes down to is an issue of consumer choice. I’ve been asking people, ‘What do you view privatization? What’s your view of it?’ Is it, as I call it, the New Jersey view, all those guys who go to the shore, go to Ocean City and everyone stops at Circle Liquors … and gets everything they want at one location. Is that it?
Or is it … we vacation in South Carolina … is it the South Carolina view, where you walk into the grocery store … and they have wine at one end and beer at the other. And I finally figured it out, they want to make you walk through the grocery store to buy other things, to get the two. And then next door, in a separate location, is a spirits store. Is that it? We’re still working that out. And talking with the Legislature.
Whatever you think about the privatization plans on the table, Corbett is absolutely right that this is how people should think about the issue: what do we want this to look like at the end?
So far, the game Mike Turzai’s been playing is figuring out ways to give consumers a little more choice without meaningfully disrupting the business models of the incumbents in the alcohol market. Politicians have been starting from the “don’t mess with the incumbents” position, and then looking for small ways to expand choice and convenience.
This has all led to some really awful bills that even supporters of a more consumer-friendly alcohol market can’t get behind.
To get a bill worth supporting, we have to start at the end goal and work backwards like Corbett’s saying. What are we aiming for here? What has to happen to get us there? Advocates for a more consumer-friendly alcohol market need to have a set of demands to ask politicians for, rather than mistakenly assuming everybody who says “privatization” means the same thing.
So here again is the list of demands Lew Bryson and I came up with that we think the pro-consumer left and the free-market right could agree on:
1. Let supermarkets sell beer, wine and liquor, purchased from private wholesalers. This competition will likely kill the State Stores anyway.
2. Charge a flat fee to any business that wants to sell booze – no cap on licenses. This will actually make more money for the State, and make it easier for non-nuisance bars to thrive.
3. Tax volume, not value. The Johnstown Flood Emergency Tax makes cheap booze even cheaper, while making better booze even more expensive. Go to a gallonage tax, like almost every other state.
4. Allow Pennsylvanians to buy wine, spirits, or beer in other states, or through the mail/Internet from anywhere, without penalty. — End the police-enforced monopoly.
5. Allow any authorized retailer to sell beer in any volume they desire, without fake restrictions. — End the case law.
6. Open up the wholesale market to more competition. — More wholesalers means more competition, which means better prices and service.