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Pa. Liquor Store Privatization OK with LV Lawmakers

Lawmakers appear to like Gov. Tom Corbett's proposal to eliminate and privatize the state's wine and liquor stores.

Several Lehigh Valley lawmakers look favorably upon Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to privatize the state's approximately 620 wine and liquor stores.

Under Corbett's plan, announced Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh, state liquor stores would be eliminated. That, it is hoped, would increase availability of beer, wine and liquor sales.

In a press release, Corbett committed $1 billion in proceeds from the process to education funding.

Corbett said that the $1 billion will be used to create the Passport for Learning Block Grant, which will provide flexibility to schools.

“Our plan gives consumers what they want by increasing choice and convenience, and helps to secure our future by adding $1 billion in funding toward the education of our children, without raising any taxes," Corbett said in the press release.

State Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24th District, said the idea of privatizing state liquor sales is popular within his district.

"Divesting is not a bad idea to me," said Mensch. "To me, it's an economically-driven decision. It could be handled by the private sector."

Mensch said he supported a bill introduced by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny. That bill, however, died before making it into the state Senate.

In Turzai’s plan, beer distributors would have the first shot at buying 1,600 new liquor licenses — finally allowing Pennsylvanians to purchase beer and liquor in the same location.

Steve DeFrank, a spokesman for State Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-18th District, said the senator would have no statement on the matter at this time.

"We'll need at least a couple of days," DeFrank said. "The devil is always in the details. We'll have our Law and Justice committee as well as appropriations committee look at the details."

State Rep. Ryan McKenzie, R-134th District, said he supports efforts to remove government competition from industries that can be adequately operated by the private sector.

"Privatizing the liquor system in Pennsylvania provides the opportunity to reduce the size of government and allows the private sector to take over," he said.

McKenzie said he is reviewing the financial details of the proposal, along with the safety precautions that will be implemented alongside the private sale of wine and spirits.

State Rep. Marcia Hahn, R-138th District, said she was in favor of privatization during the last legislative session and stated 65 percent of her constituents agreed.

"I'm in favor of the concept," Hahn said. "There are just a few more things that I need to look at."

State Rep. Joe Emrick, R-137th District, said he's "generally a free market guy," but didn't have a position on the legislation yet since he hadn't thoroughly vetted it.

Meanwhile, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce weighed in with the following statement:

"The Chamber doesn’t have a formal stance. We commend the Governor for putting this entrepreneurial proposal on the table.  The Chamber is built on the spirit of enterprise and there are certainly a number of members who have interest in buying into an opportunity like this. As always, jobs are a concern but we look forward to learning more details as the plan is debated in Harrisburg."

Corbett said the $1 billion in revenue will come from the three- to four-year process of selling the Liquor Control Board. A total of $575 million will come from the wholesale license process, $224 million from the wine and spirits retail auction process, $107 million from the wine/beer license application process and $112.5 million in the enhanced beer distributor application process.

Joe Sommers February 03, 2013 at 04:35 PM
Hey STW. Resident..Time for the retail Clerks to join the global economy like everyone else. it is not the State's responsibility to take care of thier retirements on the taxpayer dime. Those days are long gone. These retail clerks have long known that their days are numbered so if they havent improved their skill sets to become more marketable knowing the State was privatizing than shame on them. The State has a job to do and thats meeting a budget for all the taxpayers .Ending this State Store charade is long overdue. Look at what the Retail Clerks union 1776 has done to the retail food industry ,..Its contract demands have closed several PROMINENT Retail supermarket chains.... A&P and Acme to name a few. Your arguements are weak and your voice is a small minority on what most Pennsylvanians want.
Joe Sommers February 03, 2013 at 04:47 PM
Amend...Fracking has been a boon to the economies of many Pa towns (Like Williamsport) . If the State didn't bring Shell here then W. Va or Ohio would have . Economically speaking...a great move for the future of our State. Regarding Booze...All the research has been completed ...State would be the clear winner in selling off the State stores.Income from PLCB licences and the taxes generated from Private business would far exceed their 100 M in annual revenue. All the push back you hear is being funded by Wendell Young, the President of the Retail Clerks Union 1776 . His union almost single handily put A&P and Acme out of business. Nuf said.
Ruby Montana February 04, 2013 at 09:47 PM
Correct. And for the record ... I said "second pension", not you! And it is true.
Ruby Montana February 04, 2013 at 09:51 PM
I am in an actual civilization. AND near a border. There is no knowledgeable person waiting on me. A sales person for the State controlled store cannot tout one item over another. They must treat them equally. What wines are returned often because the bottle is bad? What box wine turns to vinegar first? No one will tell you. They can't. They are not allowed. When you own your store and stock your shelves, you can have a place where only vodka is sold! And know everything there is to know about it. THAT'S private enterprise.
Ruby Montana February 04, 2013 at 09:53 PM
That's a good point! Yet only one other state has the restrictions that PA does and that is Utah. So, maybe the better question is: "What are WE missing, LOL?"

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