From the Morning Call:

Gallons of ink and countless gigabytes of data have been consumed by the ongoing debate over the future of one of the commonwealth's most valuable assets - the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
That's right: The LCB is a valuable asset whose shareholders include every Pennsylvania taxpayer. Despite the relentless spin by some Republican lawmakers, pundits and editorial writers, the LCB is an extremely successful enterprise that returns significant dividends each year to this commonwealth.

And I do not expect The Morning Call's readers to take my word for it. I represent some 3,200 Pennsylvanians who work in the liquor stores, and, as such, I have a vested interest in this battle. Unlike some of the leading advocates for privatization, I do not try to pretend otherwise.

But The Morning Call's readers can rely on real data based on independent research that our union had nothing to do with. The fact is that the state treasury will take a major loss, taxpayers will be on the hook and prices will increase if the state liquor system is privatized. The general public simply does not support dismantling this asset, and privatization will not lead to a wave of new jobs in our state.

Privatization is a loser on all fronts.

An analysis of privatization by Public Financial Management that was commissioned by former Gov. Tom Corbett found that privatizing the agency would result in at least $1.4 billion in transition costs over five years. PFM also said that the state would have to come up with $408 million in new revenue each year to make privatization fiscally neutral.

This is a national firm hired by Gov. Corbett, an ardent privateer. Yet some continue to insist that the state will actually make money if the system is dismantled.

PFM also found that prices will actually increase in many parts of the state under a private system, especially in rural areas. The report found that, after Iowa privatized, "Price increases were gradual and totaled 7.4 percent above what they would have been if the state had retained its stores."

Consumers in Washington state are paying from 10 percent to 30 percent more for wine and spirits after privatizing in 2012 and even some GOP lawmakers in Harrisburg concede that prices will increase in our state as well.

PFM also found that at least 2,300 employees who work for the PLCB will go on unemployment. Big-box and large grocers, drug stores and small retailers will not hire scores of new employees, PFM found. Instead, they will simply clear some shelf space next to the chips and start selling vodka.

In addition to the PFM study, a quick review of the agency's financial performance makes a compelling case for improving the system that we have in place today. Lawmakers continue to mangle the agency's financials to muddy the debate. For five years now, we've been told that the LCB is losing money. That is not true.

The LCB provides at least $565 million to all taxpayers each year. According to preliminary figures released recently by the LCB, the agency last year generated at least $585 million for taxpayers. Sales last year increased by 4.2 percent over the previous year, to roughly $2.3 billion and sales spiked in July over last year's numbers.

Keep in mind that the LCB pays all of its expenses, including those for the State Police Bureau of Liquor Enforcement, drug and alcohol programs in the state and all employees' costs, including benefits.

Modernizing the LCB makes the most sense for the state, especially given the $1 billion budget deficit that lawmakers and Gov. Tom Wolf are trying to close. It's time to allow for more Sunday stores and Sunday hours. The agency can open more stores inside of or adjacent to grocery stores or beer distributors to improve convenience.

These and other common-sense proposals would help the agency generate at least $185 million in new profits in the first year alone. Profits would grow in the out years, adding to the agency's contribution to all taxpayers.

Facts still matter, even in the midst of a heated political debate. Lawmakers need to focus on real numbers and the data, not the privateer's hype. The LCB is a valuable public asset and it should be maintained as such.

Wendell W. Young IV is president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776.

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  March 28, 2016 9:45pm

If the state system works so well with alcohol, why not apply it to everything. State run gas stations, hospitals, grocery stores,etc. Then according to Mr. Wendell the state would be rolling in money and the cost of everything would go down. We would all be state employees.😃