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Don't privatize, modernize

| Sunday, Dec. 16, 2012, 8:56 p.m.

It was encouraging to read in the news story “Despite vow, governor faces same battles on LCB privatization” (Dec. 6 and TribLIVE.com) that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are willing to put aside political differences to focus on improving the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware County, and House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Oakmont, told the Trib that modernizing the PLCB makes sense — regardless of how the debate over privatizing this public asset plays out. A growing number of lawmakers recognize that consumers can gain greater convenience and the state can realize more revenue.

The math is compelling: The PLCB generates more than $500 million a year in taxes and profit. If a handful of commonsense proposals are enacted, it could generate an additional $150 million annually. That's real money.

These proposals include direct shipment of wine to consumers' homes and expanding the number of stores open on Sundays and those stores' hours. The PLCB should be allowed self-service lottery machines in the stores and should have more flexibility in pricing and staffing.

I oppose privatization principally because the PLCB employs 5,000 fellow Pennsylvanians in family-sustaining jobs. Everyone expects most of these jobs would be lost under privatization. But I can support modernization and am hopeful that a majority of lawmakers in both parties can come together on this issue.

Barney Oursler

Squirrel Hill

The writer is executive director of the North Side-based community advocacy group Pittsburgh United (pittsburghunited.org).

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