The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

March 28, 2013

Make sure liquor fix is done correctly

Daily Item

---- — For the first time in the history of the Commonwealth, one house of the Pennsylvania legislature has passed a measure to end the state's monopoly over liquor sales.

It is one step in a long process toward ending the decade-long plan, but a step nonetheless. Now it moves into the Senate where, despite being Republican-controlled as was the House, the issue of liquor control is not quite on the front burner.

Senate Major Leader Dominic Pileggi said after Thursday's historic vote that "it's nothing that's been an item of interest and discussion in the Senate."

Pileggi is now in the position to be the straw that stirs the drink, but it sounds like the ice may melt before we move forward again.

So maybe now is the time to consider just what is going on here and what we are doing.

After two years of gutting the budgets for schools across the state, governor Tom Corbett sees reelection is right around the corner. Headlines across the state have routinely been about districts trying to find ways to close budget deficits incurred when state funding was chopped.

The governor knows he is going to need to fill in some financial gaps his administration has created and hopes pouring money into things like education and infrastructure now will make everyone forget when they go to the polls in two years.

It's been a difficult sell. His plan to sell off the lottery backfired when new attorney general Kathleen Kane pulled the plug quickly on that prospective money maker. The plan to do the same with the turnpike has also blown up.

The final option to possibly save his reelection is the liquor sale, but there are enough questions surrounding it now to put it in doubt.

Agree or disagree that the state should even be involved in the sale of liquor in the first place or that the sale of liquor (or licenses) should fund education, a one-time influx of cash is not a long-term solution. It's a $1 billion band-aid that will be gone in four years. When that time is up, and all these new programs are humming along, the cash flow from the sale of licenses will stop coming into districts.

Then what?

The liquor system in Pennsylvania has been around for 80 years. Certainly we can take our time and make things get done correctly the first time.