Liquor privatization bill up for discussion again

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Lawmakers are taking another shot at privatizing the sale of wine and liquor in Pennsylvania.

The Liquor Control Committee will meet at 10:00 a.m. Monday to discuss and vote on House Bill 466.

House Bill 466 is sponsored by Republican Mike Turzai and if passed it would eventually get rid of Pennsylvania’s 600 state operated liquor stores.

Turzai says the legislation would create 1,200 wine and spirit retail licenses which would then be auctioned off.

Under the bill, PA residents would be able to buy beer from a beer distributor in quantities less than a case.

Groceries would also have the option to sell beer and wine.

While supporters say the proposed bill would generate millions of dollars to help balance the state’s budget, not everyone is sold on the idea.

Nearly two years ago State Representatives made history when they passed a similar bill only for it to be killed by the Senate.

Those lawmakers who rejected the idea then, say they’re still against it now.

“The prospect of making some quick money by selling them off to private ownership is outweighed by what we would lose,” said House Democratic Spokesman Bill Patton. “We have a large structural budget deficit right now it and it would be foolish to get rid of a state asset just to get a little money in year one or year two,” he said.

Patton says they’re also concerned about the future of state workers.

He says if they do privatize liquor sales, some 4,000 state employees could be at risk of losing their jobs.

At this time, Pennsylvania is only one of two states in the U.S. in which the government still controls the liquor system.

If the committee decides to move forward with House Bill 466, it will then go to the House floor where Representatives would then vote on it sometime later this week.