Gov. Tom Corbett finally served up his liquor store privatization plan this week, and it came with a surprising chaser: extra funding for public schools.
Corbett isn't the first Pennsylvania governor to try this, but his pledge to earmark proceeds from liquor license sales for education might make his proposal easier for Legislature to swallow.
The governor said his plan would generate $1 billion over several years, money that would be used to create a proposed block grant program to help finance certain public school projects.
Most of the revenue, an estimated $575 million, would come from the sale of wholesale liquor licenses, while $224 million is expected from auctioning off 1,200 wine and liquor licenses to stores. The sale of beer and wine licenses to retailers would generate more money.
More than two years ago, Corbett campaigned on privatizing Pennsylvania's antiquated system of state-run liquor stores -- one shared only by Utah -- and Wednesday's announcement was his attempt to finally make good.
"I want Pennsylvanians to enjoy the same convenience that virtually every other American today has," said Corbett, who unveiled his proposal at a news conference.
To that, we say, "Cheers."
The state has no business being in the booze business. A government responsible for enforcing liquor laws on one hand should not be pushing the sale of alcohol on the other.
And if this plan can generate cash for our struggling schools, even better.
But let's hold the applause for the governor.
One of the main reasons our schools are struggling right now is because in the two years Corbett has had to come up with this plan, he's cut about $1 billion in basic education funding.
So will it be a wash?
Corbett's Republican colleagues in the Legislature like to say those weren't cuts, but rather the end of federal stimulus dollars, which were never intended as a long-term fix.
School districts should have known they couldn't count on that funding, these lawmakers said.
Well, the districts can't count on money from this liquor store plan, either. Once the last license is sold, the money is gone and our schools will be right back where they are now.
The twist in Corbett's plan would hardly make up for the program and staffing cuts school districts have had to make because of his budgets, especially because the new money would come with restrictions.
It's unclear if this garnish will bring the Legislature on board; some in the governor's own party are already touting their own plan, with an emphasis on convenience rather than privatization.
Corbett's plan won't rescue our schools, but it might ease, at least for the short term, some of the pain inflicted over the past two years.
That, and privatization is long overdue.