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Privatizing liquor: A sobering example

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Friday, July 5, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Harrisburg's invertebrate pols raised a toast to union fidelity and the status quo by their abject failure to privatize the state's liquor stores. They should have considered the experiences of Washington state on the one-year anniversary of its liquor overhaul.

Transferred to private hands, demon rum didn't destroy the Evergreen State, as The Seattle Times reports. Far to the contrary, liquor sales increased along with revenues. Prices varied and in some cases did increase. But there also was a net job gain as 329 state stores became more than 1,400 retail outlets. And drunken driving fatalities declined, although authorities reported an uptick in shoplifting.

Closer analysis by the Commonwealth Foundation reveals that those higher customer prices stem from excessive taxes and new fees. At $35.22 per gallon, Washington imposes the highest liquor tax in the country, the Tax Foundation reports.

But even with the higher taxes, prices for 50 popular products (in the 1.75-liter category) were still more than $5 cheaper than state store prices, according to the president of the Total Wine & More chain.

And who's to say that Pennsylvania can't do better than Washington?

Sadly instead, lawmakers in a stupor of inaction kowtowed to unionized state store workers and bellowing beer distributors, turning a blind eye to what obviously works well in other states.

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