Lawmakers take another shot at privatizing state liquor system

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State lawmakers are taking a shot again at trying to sell off wine and liquor stores. A House committee voted Monday to move a bill forward to privatize the state’s liquor system. Republicans have tried this before, so what proof is there anything is different this time?

House Bill 466 is similar to versions Republicans have tried numerous times to get passed, but they believe this time may be different with upcoming budget negotiations.

"Like so many other kinds of businesses that operate in Pennsylvania, grocery stores, gas stations; we don't do those as a governmental function," said Committee chairman Representative Chris Ross (R-Chester).

The House Liquor Control Committee moved a step closer after a 15-10 vote in favor of a bill to privatize the state's liquor system. The Republican-controlled House is working quickly to get it passed and already have a floor vote scheduled for Thursday.  This is something they may use as a bargaining tool in upcoming budget talks with Gov. Tom Wolf (D), who doesn't support the plan.

"Here we are in February and June is a long time away so I am sure we are going to have a lot more conversations between now and then," said Rep. Ross.

The bill is similar to previous versions. If passed, it would shut down 600 state-operated liquor stores and in place create 1,200 wine and spirit retail licenses to be sold off to beer distributors and private retailers such as convenience stores.

Rep. Paul Costa (D-Allegheny) said the state will lose money in this deal.

"The math that we have been doing after five or six years, we start losing 200 million dollars every single year for infinity," said Costa, who brought up a recent interview in which the bill's sponsor House Speaker Mike Turzai (R) confused the bill with previous versions. "If the Speakers own bill he's confused with what's in it, how do you think the rest of our members feel?" said Rep. Costa.

Those against the bill say if it passes, 4,000 state employees will lose their jobs. Instead of privatizing, Gov. Wolf wants to modernize the system by doing things like allowing more Sunday sales.

"Governor Wolf supports modernization of the state’s liquor stores, which can produce new revenue that can be used to fund vital programs while improving options for consumers and making sales more convenient," said Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan.

Sheridan cited the following proposals:
- The removal of Sunday sales limitations so that there are more consumer-friendly options
- Ensuring prices are competitive with those in other states
- Opening small state stores inside of retail stores like supermarkets
- Direct shipment of wine and spirits

Rep. Costa supports a similar, consumer convenience plan. "My issue is that there is a better way we can do this," said Costa.

 

6 comments

  • Joe

    Hogwash. By continuing to pander to the union, Wolf continues to make PA 20-30% more expensive than surrounding states with a pitiful lacking selection. No problem, Komrade, we will continue to buy in Maryland and catch us if you can. If you knew how much revenue PA loses every year to surrounding states you would be amazed.

  • OneMan'sOpinion

    I’ve already seen a kid (visibly reasonably under 21) run out the door at a Giant supermarket cafe with a six-pack of beer at 3am because of reduced controls on alcohol sales locations. This sort of theft will occur more often if the state put alcohol everywhere. Mark my words, a class of social problems and thefts that occurred much less in PA before relaxing alcohol/beer controls a few years ago will increase dramatically after flooding alcohol and beer everywhere in PA.

  • xds45

    We lose revenue. OK what’s the state pay for the gold package health care, pension play to its employees. I thought the state pension plan was some of Pa buget problems

  • nuttkraker

    PA has a monopoly on wine & booze. You have to go the Wine & Spirit store, and deal with piss-poor customer service. The LCB says all clerks go through 24 hours of intensive training.I don’t think so… NEVER Heard clerk say “Hello & thank you” I would go elsewhere if a retail store, convenience store, or a gas-station if I were treated like that . 4000 folks might lose their jobs..BOO-HOO In the private sector, you do a bad job, you get fired. In the Commomwealth of PA, you do a shitty job & get promoted….

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