State Senators pass privatizing liquor sales; bill moves to Governor Wolf

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HARRISBURG, Pa. --  There are just hours to go until the deadline to pass the State budget. There's a lot of scrambling at the Capitol to pass several bills related to the budget, including closing hundreds of state-owned wine and spirits stores.

Privatizing liquor sales has been a spirited debate. On Sunday, the proposed House Bill was approved in Senate Committee. That set up Tuesday's historic vote.

If passed, the measure would lease the state's wholesale system. It would allow places with restaurant licenses to sell wine and liquor. It was also allow beer distributors to sell unlimited amounts of spirits and wine. The Liquor Control Board would close the 600 state-owned wine and spirit stores.

Some lawmakers say the plan would eliminate over 4,000 jobs. Others for privatization say Pennsylvania is one of two states to control liquor sales and it's time for things to change.

Democratic State Senator, Rob Teplitz says, "We have a revenue generating asset that brings in money for the commonwealth at a crucial time when we need to bring in money. We have a system, why would we get rid of that when we could modernize the system?"

Republican Senator Scott Wagner says, "If you take a beer distributor that's only selling beer and thy can expand and start selling wine and spirits, there's going to be people who will benefit from this if they're willing to change and see the opportunities."

Instead of privatizing, some lawmakers would like to modernize the system to enhance revenues.

Senator Teplitz says, "We can expand store hours we can expand selection, give the LCB more control over pricing, we can do the things to help address customer concerns but without hurting our own bottom-line."

Senator Wagner says, "We're not in the investment business. We need to get out this system and let the private sector operate. I'm not in favor of modernization that's a kick in the can down the road."

When the bill passed in the Senate, it moved to the House for a concurrence vote. Then Governor Wolf will make the final decision. A spokesperson for the Governor says he will make up his mind when the bill lands on his desk.