The Bell for Round One of the 2013 Liquor Privatization Fight has Sounded

Mar 5, 2013

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s plan to privatize the state’s liquor stores is taking shape in the form of legislation.  A plan was introduced in Harrisburg Tuesday that if nothing else will begin another round of debate.

State House Republican Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) is sponsoring the proposal but has no delusions it will emerge from negotiations unscathed. Turzai is already softening his rhetoric about the bold plan to get rid of the more than 600 state stores.  He said he thinks a “win” would be a plan that moves “toward” the private sale of wine and spirits.

"Once the private sector gets the opportunity to sell wine and spirits, the state stores are, you know, over time, they’re just not going to be able to compete,” said Turzai.  

He’s vowing to send a privatization bill to the Senate by early April.  “I can tell you that our caucus is very engaged in the discussion of the details and there’s significant support for moving Pennsylvania forward.”

The chairman of the state House Liquor Control Committee is passing around a list of potential changes to the bill to keep the state stores open and sell fewer liquor licenses.

The move isn’t sitting well with the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative group that supports the governor’s plan.  Its president is criticizing the draft amendment, saying such changes wouldn’t mean real privatization.

In the meantime, Turzai is looking for common ground to use as a starting point.  He said there is a general agreement within the state legislature that the state wine and spirits stores aren’t doing enough to provide consumer convenience.

“I think under any scenario, everybody realizes that the state store system is antiquated. The issue is really how do you transition?  That’s really it,” said Turzai who tried unsuccessfully to privatize the system last year.