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Corbett Eyes Privatizing Pennsylvania’s Liquor Stores

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The stars could be aligning in Harrisburg next year for a massive overhaul of the way alcohol is sold in Pennsylvania. At the top of the list: privatizing Pennsylvania’s 625 state liquor stores.

Incoming Republican governor Tom Corbett has said selling the state stores is a top priority of his administration, something he reiterated at a press conference Wednesday.

That goal will be much easier to achieve with Republicans in decisive charge of both houses of the General Assembly.

“I believe this is one of the first things we look at coming out of the gate,” said Rep. Tom Killion (R-Delaware County). “That’s a basic question: should we be in the alcohol business? I don’t think so.”

Rep. Killion co-sponsored a bill this year with Rep. Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) to privatize the state stores. Turzai is now in line to become the House Majority Leader.

Selling the state’s liquor system has been tried time and again in Harrisburg, but Killion says next year will be different.

“I think the big difference is the budget dilemma we’re in. We’re facing between a $3 billion and a $5 billion deficit,” he said. “We need revenue.”

Killion estimates selling 750 retail and 100 wholesale liquor store licenses could net the state at least $2 billion dollars. That’s a potential nest egg that could be invested for transportation or other budget needs. He says the state would then still be able to tax the sale of alcohol to make up the roughly $200 million it earns from liquor sales each year.

But not everyone agrees.

“It would be hard to make up the revenue for the state. In fact, it wouldn’t happen,” said Wendell Young, president of Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers. Young’s union represents many of the 3,800 state store employees.

“The idea that Pennsylvania is not competitive is ridiculous,” Young said.

He points out lower alcohol prices at state stores in recent years and several steps the Liquor Control Board has taken to modernize the system: opening larger stores, starting Sunday hours and installing self-service wine kiosks in grocery stores.

“This is not an example of where we hear government can’t do things well,” he said. “This is something government has done very well.”

If the state stores are sold off, it’s likely that most Liquor Control Board employees would lose their jobs. The LCB would still oversee enforcement of the state’s liquor laws.

Rep. Killion says there is still a lot of work to do on the proposal, and lawmakers will need to thoroughly crunch all the numbers to make sure it won’t end up costing the state revenue over the long-term.

Reported By: Ben Simmoneau, CBS3

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  • E

    If the stores were managed correctly at all levels it would make a lot of sense to stay in the business. Alcohol can be very profitable and there are some very good Pennsylvanians working in the stores. Unfortunately there are a lot of problems from the top down at the district and store levels, unjustifiably bloated salaries, nepotism, and A LOT of State owned vehicles used to support these stores. The staff who use the cars drive them to and from work (park them at home), use them for personal business and there is little to no accounting of mileage and fuel consumption. Huge waste of tax dollars and potential profit.

  • andre

    this young guy is lying through his teeth. well? if you call rude employees, bad hours, bad wine as doing something well i guess you could work for mr young. the state should easily make money. the biggest market in the state bleeds revenue to de and nj. issue more licenses. why shouldnt we have a choice?

  • John Steslow

    The state is the largest.volume purchaser of both wines and liquor. Breaking up this purchasing power will result in increased liquor and wine prices, hurting the people who cannot afford it.I say that they can pass this legilation after they pass one to reduce their salaries and perks by 30%and after they eliminate their earmarks.

  • Frank

    Privatize them and kick the union turds to the curb! I just might start drinking again!

  • itz

    The state should NOT BE IN THE LIQUOR business at all. Wendell is only looking out for his job. Way past the time to get rid of the antiquated liquor state store system and open the sale of liquor and beer to retail liquor stores, including beer by the bottle or 6 pack like normal progressive states. The beer distributors have had it good for way too long seeling the cases and kegs.

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