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The Turzai plan

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Monday, April 26, 2010

House Republican Whip Mike Turzai's comprehensive plan to get Pennsylvania out of the wine and spirits business -- and significantly reduce state budget woes -- deserves action, not just Harrisburg lip service.

In questioning why Pennsylvania still monopolizes wholesale and retail liquor sales, Rep. Turzai, of Bradford Woods, cites a Duquesne University study's finding that state control doesn't reduce alcohol's societal harm. His privatization plan makes philosophical, practical and financial sense.

Taking over Liquor Control Board retail and wholesale operations would be high bidders who'd pay an estimated $2 billion -- enough to greatly narrow the budget gap -- at auction for 100 wholesale and 750 retail licenses. Any bidder could own no more than 10 percent of those licenses, assuring keen competition.

The LCB would enforce, license, inspect and educate. Displaced LCB employees would be assisted. Wine and spirits would be taxed by the gallon, with only retail sales subject to sales tax. But annual revenue wouldn't drop. With more private operators paying taxes, it likely would rise.

The Turzai plan is an opportunity -- one Harrisburg must not miss -- to do the right thing for taxpayers, consumers and businesses.

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