Last updated: February 20. 2013 4:46AM - 1257 Views

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GOV. TOM Corbett's decision to link privatization of the state liquor business to public-education funding is either bizarre or brilliant … or maybe bizarrely brilliant, or brilliantly bizarre.


It is certainly in keeping with the governor's longstanding support of small government and faith in private enterprise, and he deserves credit for consistency. It is also deeply disturbing to see him link booze to schools.


Corbett's first budget slashed public education spending by – gee, just about $1 billion. What a coincidence. Despite strong criticism from many, he stuck to his guns and kept funding flat in his second budget.


His reasoning was not unsound: Prior budgets had used federal stimulus money to plug growing holes in the education budget and the stimulus money was gone. Corbett argued he didn't cut state education funding, he just didn't increase it to cover the lost federal dollars.


But the cuts hurt. Teachers were either furloughed or not replaced upon retirement, class sizes grew, popular programs were curtailed and local taxes increased. These consequences were part of the reason Corbett saw his popularity tumble.


Now he comes forth with this: Let me privatize the liquor business and, behold, I will have $1 billion to immediately pour into our schools.


Hmmm … he cuts a billion, lets the hurt hit, and then offers a billion… if you allow him to do something that no governor has been able to accomplish for decades. Sounds almost Machiavellian.


But there is no reason to get conspiratorial to find Corbett's deal creepy, even unpalatable.


Elementary music programs restored because it's easier to, as rappers Busta Rhymes and P. Diddy put it Pass the Courvoisier? Foreign language courses added thanks to increased sales of Chateauneuf du Pape and Fuki Plum? Ancient Western history brought to you courtesy of Ouzo and Amaretto?


There are strong arguments for privatizing the state's liquor business. And there are strong arguments for increased spending on public education. But directly linking the two?


Long ago the state linked lottery to help for seniors. More recently it linked legalized casino gambling to property tax relief and economic development. Now alcohol and ABCs?


It's time to stop justifying vice with virtue. The arguments for increased education spending can stand or fall on their own.


The arguments for privatization of the liquor business should be forced to do the same.




Long ago the state linked lottery to help for seniors. More recently it linked legalized casino gambling to property tax relief and economic development. Now alcohol and ABCs?




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