Corbett booze plan reasonable

Right on cue, the Chicken Littles started crying, “The sky is falling,” as Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled his plan for privatizing alcohol sales in Pennsylvania.

But residents shouldn’t be taken in by the hysteria as Henny Penny and Goosey Loosey were in the children’s story.

Corbett announced Wednesday that he wants to get the state out of the retail and wholesale liquor business and turn those operations over to the private sector.

“Our plan gets the state out of the liquor business, it gives consumers what they want – it gives them convenience, it gives them choice,” Corbett said.

Pennsylvania and Utah are the only states that completely control liquor sales.

Corbett is proposing to close the state’s 600 wine and spirits shops and auction off licenses for 1,200 privately operated wine and spirit stores. He would sell off the state’s wholesale liquor business and allow big-box, grocery and convenience stores and pharmacies to sell beer and wine, if licensed.

In all, Corbett said the sales could net $1 billion, which would be used for educational block grants.

Not surprisingly, those opposed to any change in the status quo immediately started to cry out.

State Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Allegheny, said Corbett “envisions Pennsylvania as the Wild West of booze sales.”

What a Turkey Lurkey thing to say.

Opponents predict a litany of woes that will befall the state if Corbett’s plan is adopted.

Fortunately, area residents can rely on their experience to avoid falling victim to much of the phoney hysteria.

Remember all of the predictions of woe that accompanied Sheetz’s initial application for a beer license for its convenience restaurant on 17th Street? After all the uproar, society didn’t crumble because a Sheetz enterprise is selling beer in the state.

That’s why we think there was so little negative reaction when the Altoona Giant Eagle received a license to sell beer in its cafe.

Residents have found it’s a nonissue.

As for the much vaunted money the state receives from its current liquor setup, the vast majority of it is from taxes collected.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board states the wine and spirit stores turned over $494 million to the state in 2011-12. Of that, $298 million was liquor taxes and $116 million in state sales taxes. Because Corbett isn’t proposing any changes in alcohol taxes, that money will continue to come in.

The board also transferred $80 million from its profits to the General Fund.

Corbett said his plan will be revenue neutral, so he will have to find $80 million to cover that money, which we believe he will be able to do.

It will be an uphill fight to change the way alcohol is sold in the state. But the time is right, and we call on our state legislators to get it done.

Don’t worry, regardless of what the Chicken Littles say, the sky won’t fall.