Liquor Privatization Veto: A Healthy Decision for PA Residents, Communities

Governor Tom Wolf recently vetoed a bill that would have closed state-owned liquor stores and privatized liquor and wine sales in Pennsylvania. Compass Mark, which has worked since 1966 to prevent substance abuse, supports Governor Wolf’s action. We’re sharing the full text of Compass Mark’s position on PA liquor privatization:  

Liquor Privatization Veto: A Healthy Decision for the Commonwealth

Compass Mark, a leading provider of substance abuse services in the South Central Pennsylvania region, supports Governor Wolf’s recent veto of HB 466 regarding privatization of liquor stores. As a nonprofit agency that has received state and national recognition for its success in preventing substance abuse, we believe there are better ways to achieve fiscal, social and physical health for the people of the Commonwealth than through increasing access to alcohol. Rather than striving for the mediocrity of every other state, Pennsylvania’s policymakers ought to be asking these questions: Will increased access to alcohol lead Pennsylvania to national and global excellence? Will beer on every grocer’s shelves improve the health of our citizens? Will it raise workforce readiness? Will it enhance technological innovation? Will it improve academic performance? Will it foster the development of new cutting edge industries? Check with every reputable health organization from the WHO to the CDC, along with local police departments, mayors, district attorneys and judges. The consistent response is that increased access to liquor leads us away from those things that would strengthen the Commonwealth and drives us toward damaged communities. HB 466 increases access. It does not improve the state’s revenues, consumer selection and probably not price. It increases harm with little in offsetting benefit. Despite proclamations that privatization will bring Pennsylvania into the 21st century, it is far more likely to send us back in time. There are no high tech companies eager to move into Pennsylvania if only their employees could get beer at the Wawa. But there are many new and exciting businesses choosing to go elsewhere because our schools are underfunded, our bridges are dangerous and our fiber optic networks are insufficient. Why would we divert the state’s limited funds to the healthcare and criminal justice expenses brought on by increased access to alcohol instead of applying those funds to strategic investments that will make us 21st century leaders? Financial issues aside, the Governor’s veto placed a high value on the human costs of increased access to alcohol. Historically, Pennsylvania has had the lowest rate of alcohol-induced death in the entire United States. For those who say privatization will bring Pennsylvania into the 21st century and in line with other states, where is the value in that proposition? If our goal is mediocrity so that we fit in with all of the other states, the move from the lowest rate to the average rate means that 930 Pennsylvanians will die from alcohol-induced death each year instead of 503. For what great purpose will those 427 additional people die? Convenient access to alcohol? Who will tell their sons, daughters, mothers and fathers that their losses were worth that convenience? Who will foot the bill for the damage caused along the painful path to those deaths? What opportunities will be lost? What tragedies accrued? Every year, our work with thousands of children and adolescents in our counties has resulted in rates of alcohol use that are lower than state averages. We engage in this privatization issue because we don’t want to face these young people one day to say that we destroyed their futures…that we let them have easy access to liquor but stole their access to decent jobs, education, safety, a clean environment and all the other things that will be taken away from them to provide nothing in return but convenience. What have we come to – what laziness have we fallen into – when convenience is worth more than our children? A veto was the only thing standing between these young people and a future far less rewarding than the excellence they deserve. For this sign of courage, we are eternally grateful. We stand ready to assist in any effort to improve the health and wellbeing of the citizens of the Commonwealth.

Who We Are

Since 1966 Compass Mark has been the leading provider of substance abuse information, referral, prevention and intervention services in Lancaster County. PA. Today this nonprofit organization also serves Lebanon County and delivers training on compulsive gambling, cyberbullying, adolescent subcultures, video gaming addictions and related issues at statewide and national conferences. It is the only Commonwealth-approved trainer for Student Assistance Programs located in Lancaster and Lebanon counties as well as the only court-approved provider of alternative sentencing for underage drinking and related offenses in those counties. For further information visit our websites: and Thank you.   Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/