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Pennsylvania Leaders Eying Higher Energy Taxes Should Look Instead to Liquor Reform

by Lee Schalk / /

Budget negotiations in Harrisburg are just around the corner and there’s a chance that a massive tax on natural gas drilling could end up on Governor Corbett’s desk. This is a major concern for tax fighters across Pennsylvania, as Corbett faces re-election and continues to grapple with the Republican-led legislature on how to best deal with the $1.2 billion deficit.

The Tribune-Review reports:

The smart money is on the Senate sending the House a Marcellus shale tax proposal, perhaps in obscure legislation that accompanies the state budget, such as the fiscal code that sets state tax rates…

It’s quite the conundrum for the Governor:

Corbett might not get a shale tax bill from the Legislature before the November election. In that case Democrat Tom Wolf, his party's gubernatorial nominee, will continue to hit the issue and tout it for education funding while pointing to the need to fill budget holes that he says exist due to Corbett's cuts.

Despite pledging to not support tax increases upon entering office, the Governor signed a bill last year to raise gas taxes. Now he’s in another sticky situation, especially since, as the Tribune-Review notes, his re-election campaign is themed “promises kept.”

Instead of working on a tax hike bill that could cripple the Pennsylvania’s energy sector, perhaps lawmakers and the Governor should pursue common sense, cost-saving reforms. Liquor privatization should be at the top of the list.

Over the past few months, National Taxpayers Union has been beating the drum for true privatization of beer, wine, and liquor sales in the Keystone State. Like I said last September in the York Dispatch, Pennsylvania’s liquor laws are an absolute mess. It’s a system that has unfairly constructed anti-consumer monopolies for both government and private entities.

Last month, after catching wind of a faux-privatization plan in Harrisburg, NTU Vice President Brandon Arnold and I penned another piece in the Tribune-Review.

We pointed out that the corruption-riddled Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) is running state liquor stores on a taxpayers tab of approximately $400 million per year. By privatizing sales, the state could save hundreds of millions each year while increasing both competition amongst retailers and convenience for consumers.

Of course, privatizing liquor wouldn’t solve Pennsylvania’s budget crisis on its own, but it would be the best place to start, as would slowing government spending. Here’s to hoping that some fiscal sanity finds its way to Harrisburg over the next few weeks.