RE YOUR Dec. 22 editorial that asks

"Should state stores be privatized?":

The editorial concludes that government-run state stores are a public asset. I simply ask: for whom?

If you're implying they're an asset to consumers, common sense begs to differ. On Philadelphia's southern and eastern borders, Pennsylvania consumers stream across the border daily, not for exercise, but for greater selection and better prices. They are voting with their wallets while silently screaming for the personal and economic freedom the current state-run system can never offer.

But what about taxpayer benefits, you ask?

The notion that privatization is a one-trick budget-gap pony is simply erroneous. Wine and liquor sales generate revenue two ways - through liquor taxes (approximately $376 million annually) and state store "profits" (only $90 million annually).

Under Rep. Mike Turzai's proposal, the state would auction off state-store inventories, as well as 750 retail licenses and 100 wholesale distribution licenses, estimated to bring in almost $2 billion.

With another $500 million expected annually by license-renewal fees, state alcohol taxes and taxes not currently paid by government entities like corporate and property tax, privatization would likely generate more state revenue than produced by the current system.

More choices, better prices, keeping money in the state - what's not to like about that? The Daily News suggests that the answer is 2,200 middle-class workers who'll be out of work, receive less salary or sacrifice unfunded pensions for which the state well is currently dry.

In response, some might callously say, "Welcome to the world the rest of the taxpayers live in," but the reality is much sunnier than that. Jobs will not be lost but simply transferred from a government monopoly of mediocrity to a free-market economy that in some instances will benefit those experts beyond their current levels of compensation.

Ultimately, Pennsylvania can no longer afford having its economy and personal freedoms held hostage to benefit the few who hold self-interest in an antiquated thiefdom. The time is now to stop the border from hemorrhaging tax revenue and stop the bleeding Pennsylvania citizens face from a government refusing to get out of the booze business.

Jay Ostrich, director of public affairs,

Commonwealth Foundation


nolead begins

'The Champ' passes on

Philly has truly lost a good son.

What an honor it was to have worked with Bennie Briscoe, a hard-working, dedicated sanitation worker with old-school values who'd have worked seven days a week if allowed.

First time I worked with Bennie, I asked him did he need help lifting?

He looked at me and said, "Do I look weak?"

Philly, I saw the love you gave this man. "The Champ" (he was an ex-boxer) was a celebrity on the routes. People would always stop and greet him with, "Hey, Champ!" or ask for an autograph. We'd also run into other old-school boxers, and every once in a while we'd talk about boxing.

He also thought a lot of President Kennedy. And one day, he said, he wanted to own a restaurant and cook Southern foods.

Bennie was a very private and proud man, but he loved being a part of the sanitation family.

God bless your family, Bennie. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven.

Roger D. Holland