Some legislators pushing for quick liquor privatization vote

Privatizing Pennsylvania’s liquor system could come to a vote sooner rather than later.  Some legislators are looking to push a plan through the House as soon as this month.

It’s ease against enforcement.  Money versus jobs.  The idea of privatization has been floating around the Capitol for years but now there is a renewed push by some Republicans to make it happen.  One Republican representative is pushing for a vote on Governor Tom Corbett’s plan as early as this month.  While others are saying it’s time to cool the jets.

Changing the way Pennsylvanians buy booze.  Governor Tom Corbett and some House Republicans are pushing forward with a plan.  That proposal is meeting some opposition, even within their own party.

“We would like to see more Pennsylvania wine and spirit shops inside supermarkets,” said John Meyerson from the United Food and Commercial Workers.

The Governor`s plan would auction off 1,200 liquor licenses across the state.  Beer and wine would be available in an unlimited number of pharmacies and grocery stores.  Any convenience store would also be able to sell beer.

“Pennsylvanians will join Americans of 48 states who have convenience, who are able to pick up beer and wine in a grocery store,” said Lt. Governor Jim Cawley.

Box stores and beer distributors will be able to sell beer and wine, and if successful in getting a license they can sell liquor as well.  Proponents say Pennsylvania could finally make its way into the 20th century.  Opponents predict dire consequences.

“Right now Pennsylvania has the lowest rate of alcohol morbidity in the country. We think that the system we have now is keeping Pennsylvania safer,” Meyerson said.

However, the Governor and Representative Mike Turzai’s plan could face a challenge inside the Republican party. Representative John Taylor will offer some changes to the Governor’s plan.  He would like to allow grocery stores with cafes and restaurants to sell take-out wines.  Also, Representative Taylor’s plan would allow gas stations and convenience stores could to sell alcohol.  Neither idea is included in the Governor’s plan.

Both of the privatization plans are mostly opposed by the democrats.  They are worried about giving up control of both the retail and wholesale side of the booze business.  The union that represents the 4,000 state workers who work at the liquor stores is also opposed to the privatization plan.

28 comments

  • guest

    "…Both of the privatization plans are mostly opposed by the democrats. They are worried about giving up control of both the retail and wholesale side of the booze business…"

    They're democrats, the only thing they're worried about is maybe somehow losing out on revenue. They have no concern for the citizens of PA.

    • HowIgnorantRU?

      Ummm, if that is true, then who is that revenue benefiting? The citizens of PA.

      A majority of those that oppose privatization are concerned about decreasing the control of an addictive substance that causes so many of society's problems. All forms of alcoholic beverages are readily available now in controlled atmospheres and with price controls (one liquor store is not undermining or gouging since they are all under the same price structure).

      Privatizing and increasing the availability of alcohols will surpass the availability of cigarettes. Children and teens who use alcohol are not obtaining it illegally from the sales source like they do cigarettes. Same goes for prescription drugs. If kids are obtaining it, they are not getting it from purchasing at pharmacies. Same concept which is a concern of those that oppose widespread lack of control alcohol sales.

  • Katrinals

    What I see is those wanting to privatize liquor (either party) are not concerned about citizens. Getting more liquor and any form of alcohol into the hands of citizens is the ultimate goal. Despite the claim of "drinking responsibly", this will have adverse affects on more relationships and lives. Who cares about lives?

    • Al P

      Lives are not the issue. Loss of revenue to other states where liquor is upwards of 15% less expensive is. As is the gouging of PA citizens and lack of selection in wines and spirits. If you're so concerned about lives, go to the NTSA site and you'll find that PA has a higher alcohol death rate from accidents than any of the surrounding states except DC. That data is current. Do some homework before you chant the phony mantra.

      • HowIgnorantRU?

        Al, I'd think that if alcohol is much more expensive in our state, then looking at that problem should be the issue. Besides, 15% is not that much anyway. Gas prices also vary by market. NJ has full-service gas stations yet consumers pay less at the pump.

        Market prices vary for many items by state. I'm sure pot in Oregon will cost different than the pot in Colorado (I don't know if those were really the two states that approved pot in the last elections).

      • ChrisM

        Do you really think booze will be as cheap as Delaware? Unlikely.
        If it does go private, they will be free to charge anything they want- that spells disaster for most of PA as we don't all live in metro areas. Also, have you given any thought on what you will have to pay more for to make up that lost revenue? Increased sales tax? Clothing tax? Higher car registrations based on the value of your car like OTHER STATES HAVE?? I say keep the stores and keep the profits.

        • Albert Brooks

          For what I buy I find it less expensive in Jersey. Since PA is unlikely to stop charging sales tax on liquor and wine it probably won't be as inexpensive as DE. However, the increased taxes collected from having 1200 stores instead of the 600 now will bring in more then what the PLCB contributes and that isn't counting license fees that the PLCB doesn't pay or business taxes the PLCB doesn't pay. Nor does it account for any of the $273 million (PLCB estimate) lost in border sales some of which will be captured by have some greater convenience in PA.

          The nice thing about the free market is that if someplace is charging too much somebody will come in and try to take that business by selling for less. That is competition which PA hasn't had in 80 years with the PLCB,

      • Jay

        And do you have a breakdown to accidents related to Beer drinking vs Wine and Liquors?? Beer is the number one Beverage to most people, and most related accidents are people leaving bars and clubs, not from a Wine and Spirits store. I kills me how stupid people are to rid of assets that bring money into the state and yet you want to get rid of them, then in the next breath you complain you pay to much in taxes. I work for the PLCB, and I have first hand feedback from customers. Many of my customers are from out of state and they are amazed by the selection and prices. If you think privatization is better then look up Washington State privatization. Selection has gone down, prices have gone up 15 to 35% and most mom and pop stores are already going out of business thanks to big box stores. This works for our state, do not try to fix what is not broke.

    • Darly

      Alcohol is not a necessity, so what if we have to spend a bit more for it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!???????????

  • Albert Brooks

    The citizens of PA have wanted this for decades. Hopefully after 80 years the legislature will grow a spine and do what the citizens want.

      • Albert Brooks

        And those who don't think the state should be in retail and those who believe in freedom of choice and those that are moderate drinkers. If fact the majority of all but the people who don't drink want this. Every scientific poll ever taken on the subject shows this.

  • Albert Brooks

    Mr. Meyerson apparently doesn't read the National Vital Statistics Report Table 19 which lists both Maryland and New Jersey with lower deaths due to alcohol induced causes. Nor does he mention that MADD ranks PA 35th (1 being best) or that PA has a higher DUI rate then all but two border states and higher then the national average. Or that PA has a higher underage DUI rate then all but one border state and is again higher then the national average. Al P pointed this out already but I expanded it some.

    • John Rzodkiewicz

      I see Mr. Brooks is still using the MADD rating the states report. If you Google that phrase you will see that the report has nothing to do with control sales systems and everything to do with mandatory license suspensions and use of ignition "blow and go" devices. This has been explained to him before. He also knows the raw data for DUI deaths is misleading. When adjusted for factors like average miles driven per year, road congestion, and other pertinent factors Pa fares much better. Folks like him are responsible for those that believe liquor is always cheaper in border states and the stores lose money. They repeat the same talking points even when they know their wrong. If the Plcb stores weren't a valuable asset the big boxes wouldn't be so anxious to get their hands on them.

    • HowIgnorantRU?

      I'm not seeing apples to apples comparison here. Geography, enforcement efforts, medical data and the like don't measure up.

  • GaryLangII

    This will save the state millions in labor, marketing, utilities, transportation and loss via breakage and theft. I dont understand why they are still waiting.

    • John Rzodkiewicz

      I don't know where you get that Gary. The system as a whole generates a profit well above the national average for retail. Let's stick to the facts.

    • Jay

      The PLCB is a does not take tax payer money to pay salaries or pensions, We put into the general fund not take out.

  • HowIgnorantRU?

    Disclaimer: I personally don't care which way this goes because I drink once in a blue moon. Whether I pay $5 for a drink or $5.65, it is not going to amount to making or breaking me.

  • Albert Brooks

    Maybe if the PLCB did a better job then the blow and go devices wouldn't be needed as much. You are responsible for licensing and regulation so if you don't do that very well maybe you don't do sales very well.

    Just like Mr. Rzodkiewicz to try and twist things to his point of view by mentioning things that I didn't say. However, now that he has brought it up there are reports that state"If indirect costs and wholesale mark-up are attributed to stores, nearly all PLCB stores would be unprofitable." (PFM report pg 6) I'm also sure that the number of people killed in DUI accidents and their families really care that PA places better (but still not as well as some border states) when miles driven is accounted for.

    Are things always cheaper in border states no but I didn't say they were either. However, I can ALWAYS go to another store if I don't like their prices. Try that in PA John.

    It should be noted that Mr. Rzodkiewicz works for the PLCB and is a union rep….no bias there.

    • Jay

      Corbett's PFM report is not accurate. Just like Former Gov. Ridge tried to pull a fast one with false numbers. Its funny how this and the lottery they want to try and pass in a hurry without any public debates!! Very sly on their part. This state has nothing coming in as income besides what they are trying to sell off that is an asset to the state. So tell me what happens when all the money is gone and there is nothing coming in anymore, where are you going to get the money? Tax us some more.

  • Darly

    Yes, if the Governor privatizes the PLCB, it will bring in a "one time" glut of cash to PA coffers. AND he is planning to spend that on education. HELLO, I sincerely believe that the more money that is thrown into education, the weaker the education system becomes. I am not a huge advocate of education spending. Reason being, tenure allows mediocre teachers to draw a paychecks, and get huge PA education pension at the end of their mediocre career, same as the excellent, devoted educators. Teachers, oh excuse me, educators, should not be allowed union representation, they need to police their profession, because there are a lot of rotten apples who draw (not earn) the big pay checks, but are not quality educators. Why not keep the current PLCB, and its control over liquor sales in PA, at least someone will not be selling spirits to a person who has no business purchasing liquor, be it a minor, or someone who is intoxicated. As for education, eliminate the union representation, and police the profession.

  • Darly

    The first part of my comment was "too long" here is the rest of my thoughts"
    I am ashamed that I voted for Tom Corbett, because he has also been pushing for Lottery privatization (and PA has one of , if not, the best run Lottery in the country). Why would this governor continually push for fixing state programs that are "not broken"? Truth to tell, I will NOT vote for Tom Corbett if he runs for a second term Governor of PA, and you can take that to the bank. When Corbett is done with PA, we'll be lucky if there is any money left in "the bank". I realize that I drifted "off topic", but this Govenor is becoming "bad news" for the Commonwealth of PA."

  • Darly

    ALSO, bear in mind, this is the same Govenor who CUT education in the PA State budgets!!!!!!!!!!!!! What gives???????????????? Either he cares about education (NOT) or he doesn't What changed????

  • HowIgnorantRU?

    If you look at adding taxes to the bottom line of private retailers, won't that increase alcohol prices to the consumer? It's weird that Republicans tout decreasing spending versus increasing revenue yet seem to reverse the stance in this issue. Democrats also reverse the common stereotype in this issue. I think both parties just love to oppose each other for whatever the opposite party supports.

  • Albert Brooks

    There are no new taxes proposed and there is also the convenience factor. People pay more for better access and that is why there are so many convenience stores. A private market will allow you to price shop to fit your needs which can't be done in the one size fits all PLCB world. Also private retailers are far more efficient in the their operation. Will everything be cheaper everywhere….of course not but you will have choice which you don't have now.

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