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More LCB propaganda: Kill the monopoly

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Self-serving status-quo proponents crowing over the Liquor Control Board again setting revenue and profit records in fiscal year 2012-13 portray the agency's glass as full to the brim. But so long as they keep privatization's benefits bottled up, it's half-empty at best.

Driven by higher wine and spirits sales at both the wholesale and retail levels, revenue rose 4.5 percent over 2011-12, to nearly $2.2 billion; profit rose 24 percent, to $128.4 million. About $80 million of that, plus liquor- and sales-tax revenue, resulted in $512 million for the state's General Fund.

But that's “only telling half the story,” the Commonwealth Foundation says. It notes the LCB ended 2011-12 “with negative $9.8 million in net assets” — and more than 80 percent of 2011-12 “profits” came from taxes.

Paying additional taxes and licensing fees, private stores “would produce the same revenue or more,” the foundation reminds. They'd also end annual losses of more than $180 million in sales and more than $40 million in tax revenue to “border bleed” — residents buying alcohol out of state, where no government monopoly controls price and selection.

And all the crowing over “profits” spotlights the LCB's inherent conflict as chief alcohol promoter and enforcer — which privatization would end.

Those citing the LCB's latest numbers to justify its archaic monopoly put narrow special interests — think unionized state-store workers — ahead of all Pennsylvanians' interests, which privatization would best serve.

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