The state Auditor General is taking another shot at the proposal to turn state liquor sales over to the private sector. There have been a few different estimates about how much the state could stand to make by privatizing its liquor system, ranging from one to two billion dollars in one-time revenue. However, Auditor General Jack Wagner said that those figures are pure speculation.
"What is the real number? No one knows what the real number is. And that's the point I want to make today. No one knows what that real number is," said Wagner.
Wagner believes that privatizing the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board would mean higher wine and spirit prices for customers, and less revenue for state coffers in the long run. He does not think that the process has been properly vetted. "There are members of the General Assembly that simply want to privatize this system," said Wagner. "The reasoning behind it, I'm not sure. And as we continue to look at the numbers, I'm less sure."
House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Bradford Woods) is one of the leading proponents of selling off the stores. He counters, saying that Wagner is just kowtowing to the labor union representing liquor store employees.
"Jack Wagner has no data. He hasn't done any comprehensive study. His is just at the behest of the unions, on his way out the door, you know, to try to buck up the unions, and I understand: he's always been tied to the unions, it's OK," said Turzai.
It is unclear if the privatization issue will come to a vote this year. The legislature has a full plate for the remaining month of the session. It has to settle the next decade's district lines, both at the legislative and congressional level, and the two chambers are negotiating a final Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling impact fee.