Time is ticking on liquor privatization

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Step two in liquor privatization process; Senate committee takes a lookIt’s crunch time at the State Capitol and besides the budget that is due in three days, several major issues are getting a look.  Privatizing Pennsylvania’s liquor system could be a hot topic on the floor of the Senate today.

There are no direct ties between the privatization plan and the state budget for this year.  Still, the Governor has asked for a plan to be finalized and on his desk by the June 30th budget deadline.  The Senate is expected to take on this measure, with a floor vote possible as early as today.  With only three days until the self-imposed deadline, the time is ticking.

T-minus 72 hours until the state budget is due.  Still, no deal is done on the spending plan or the Governor’s three main issues including pension reform, transportation funding and liquor privatization.

“Pennsylvanians wants this.  Pennsylvanians have demanded this for a long time and clearly there is much more of an impetus to get this done now than ever before,” said Matthew Brouillette from the  Commonwealth Foundation.

Liquor has been getting a lot of attention in the Senate.  A Senate committee approved a version of liquor privatization plan on Monday, setting the table for a possible floor vote as early as today.

“This is a responsible proposal made by responsible people,” said Lt. Governor Jim Cawley.

“Once again, the administration is coming up with solutions in search of a problem,” said Representative Frank Dermody, (D) 33rd District.

The Senate plan includes the two-year selling off of the state stores to private buyers but does allow for state leaders to reexamine the plans and its financial implications.  Some worry about the hundreds of millions of dollars that the PLCB brings in for the general fund each year.

“These entities are going to be taxed.  We are going to get the exact same amount of money and more because we are going to stop the border bleeding,” said Representative Tom Killion, (R) 168th District.

This idea stops short of the House’s plan to fully privatize the system immediately on both the wholesale and retail side, completely taking Pennsylvania out of the booze business.  Besides the implications to the state budget, at stake is between 4,000 and 5,000 state jobs.

“You’re going to kill all these family sustaining jobs and somehow people are going to go out and work minimum wage at a damn Sheetz is outrageous,” said Senator Jim Ferlo, (D) 38th District.

Still, the Governor is pushing for a deal to be reached by the June 30th budget deadline.  At this point, many don’t think the Senate Republicans have the 26 votes needed to pass a floor vote.  Some rural Republican Senators remain dicey about the plan and the affects it will have to servicing smaller areas.

Again, there are no floor votes scheduled for today and many people think the Senate Republicans are running out of time.  Any deal they would be able to manufacture would have to go back to the House to get passed.  If no deal is reached by the June 30th deadline, it could however spill over into the fall.

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