But to Democrat Dan Onorato and Republican Tom Corbett everything does not include getting the state out of the liquor business. That needs to change.
Pennsylvania's exit from this relic of Prohibition -- a government-owned and -operated monopoly of wine and spirits at the wholesale and retail levels -- must be at the top of the list of any candidate who professes to be forward-looking. As it is, this state is rivaled by only Utah in the degree that government dictates the merchandising of alcohol. Put that in your come-and-do-business-in-Pennsylvania brochure.
Not only does it make sense to get the government out of an enterprise that in normal states is held by private merchants, but at this point it may also be financially imperative. With the state facing cataclysmic budget choices, the license value of a liquor industry is an asset too great to keep under a barrel, so to speak.
Rep. Mike Turzai, a Bradford Woods Republican, is the latest state official to put forth a plan to get government out of the liquor business. Part of House Bill 2350 calls for an auction of 750 retail store licenses and 100 wholesale distributor licenses. He estimates that the one-time transaction could bring the state $2 billion.
He also believes that, under the system of taxes in his bill, the privately held stores could exceed the $466 million that the monopoly delivers yearly to the state. He calculates that about $500 million would be the annual yield under his plan, which answers the knee-jerk contention that privatization can't possibly fill the revenue void left by repeal of government control.
The Turzai plan also seeks to do well by Liquor Control Board employees by offering tax credits to businesses that hire them and giving the workers hiring preference for other state jobs. Those provisions and others may be needed to reduce worker and union resistance to this sensible reform.
Despite the fresh attention being paid to Mr. Turzai's legislation, a report in Tuesday's Post-Gazette showed neither Mr. Onorato nor Mr. Corbett as being on board. A spokesman for Mr. Onorato said he is against privatization of liquor stores and an e-mail from Mr. Corbett failed to endorse the Turzai proposal. That's too bad.
To the candidates, this must seem like the Post-Gazette just raising its pet issue again. It's actually a lot more than that.
Keeping the archaic LCB in place, decades after other states have moved on, has perpetuated the notion of Pennsylvania as a backward-looking, behind-the-times state. Now the act ignores what may be a key to solving the state's looming financial shocks.
Elected officials here and elsewhere have sought to privatize turnpikes, highway connectors, parking garages and other assets. Why not the merchandising of a product commonly handled by the private sector?
Gentlemen, if you want to kick this state into the 21st century, you need to see getting government out of the wine and spirits business as the opportunity that it is.