Bill to privatize liquor passes the state House

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House Bill 466 passed by a vote of 114 to 87 and will now move to the state Senate. The proposal would close most of the state stores and sell about 1200 licenses for wine and liquor.

The vast majority of Republicans supported the bill.

“It should be handled by the private sector, we should continue to tax it as we have, keep the revenue stream coming but get rid of carrying this expensive, bureaucratic overhead,” says Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-Cumberland).

But opponents say the government would take a loss of $190 million a year with this move; and liquor has been one of the most consistent revenue streams. Some Democrats say with a budget deficit of more than $2 billion, now is not the time to privatize.

“This is not the best deal,” says Rep. Kevin Schreiber, (D-York). “This is a fire sale of a very good asset, an asset that’s owned by all Pennsylvanians, that actually returns a significant amount of revenue.”

But some Democrats, including Governor Tom Wolf, are in favor of modernizing the system.

“We can put stores within stores, like grocery stores,” says Schreiber. “That can all be done without having to sell off the entire system.”

Some customers say the system now isn’t convenient enough and they want the private sector to take over.

“Anytime you want, any day you want, you go in and make purchases, they’re open for the convenience of the customer,” says Viktor Schimko of Middle Paxton Township, Dauphin County.

Democrats say this is happening now to pressure the governor before he presents the budget.

“This not only tries to handcuff the governor but also would really hamstring his efforts to really move Pennsylvania,” says Schreiber.