Advertisement

A bad idea, back again

January 14, 1997

Like crabgrass in your lawn or the flock of crows in the apple tree in your back yard, bad ideas have a way of coming back, year after year. So it is with that hardy perennial, the proposal to sell Pennsylvania's state liquor store system. The measure of how bad this idea is, is what proponents want to do with the proceeds, which could be as much as $1 billion for the 659 stores.

Gov. Tom Ridge would like to pay part of the cost of building a couple of professional sports stadiums and other so-called community facilities that would "economically enhance" the neighborhoods where they're located. And what happens when the stadiums begin to age and another generation of owners begins to get itchy feet? The governor hasn't addressed that one yet.

State Sen. Stewart Greenleaf at least has a loftier goal. He wants to pump the cash into the state's education budget. Would this be for capital construction, the operating budget or both? No word on that from Sen. Greenleaf.

Advertisement

Before the state sells what is an irreplaceable asset, elected officials (and the public) ought to have some agreement about what the cash will be used for. Pennsylvanians also need to know how the sale will be conducted and how the state will regulate the new private-ownership liquor business. For example, will the existing stores be the only ones allowed to do business, and if not, why should anyone pay the state a premium price for them?

And before any sale, state officials should also make the case that privately operated stores will be as scrupulous in checking IDs as state employees, who have a lot more to lose than the average liquor store clerk.

Another question: Rep. Jeff Coy estimates the system brings in $300 million a year in tax revenue. Would a privately run operation match that?

We'd feel better about this proposal if proponents were planning to set up a trust fund that would use only the interest from the sale proceeds for various public works. But no, in their minds these boys already have the money spent, and that scares us.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|