Despite Increased Income from Liquor Sales in Pennsylvania, Privatization Still a Priority

Aug 19, 2013

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board reported revenue near $2.2 billion for fiscal year 2012-2013, a 4.5 percent increase over the previous year. In addition, contributions to various state agencies and the general fund exceeded a record-setting $660 million dollars.

Still, this news doesn’t sway Gov. Tom Corbett, who remains a proponent of privatizing the state’s liquor system.

“We proposed a plan that was revenue neutral,” said Corbett spokesman Eric Shirk, “so it would have brought in just as much, if not more money, and on top of that our plan would have brought in a billion dollars over the next four years that we proposed to use toward education.”

A plan from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny), and supported by Corbett, calls for the state to close its more than 600 Wine & Spirits Stores and then issue 1,600 licenses to sell wine and distilled spirits.

Beer distributors would be given first crack at purchasing the licenses. The remainder would be sold to the highest bidders. That plan failed to gain any Democratic support. Still, Republicans are not giving up on the effort.

“Privatization is still a priority for the governor and we’re going to keep working toward it,” Shirk said. “It’s something that most Pennsylvania citizens and consumers want. They’ve been clear, it’s an issue their behind and it’s something we’re going to keep working toward.”

While state Democrats don’t support privatization, some do support modernizing the state liquor system.

“We see a great system that provides not only jobs and benefits but instantly and immediately collects a tremendous amount of revenue that gets returned to the state revenue department so we see no need for so-called privatization,” said state Senator Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny).

Ferlo supports updating the state’s liquor code to include more appropriate pricing, a change in how beer sales are allows, easier access, and direct shipment of wine to consumers. He said the state’s liquor system is benefiting the state.

“It’s very unclear that any of the current proposals other than my modernization approach would return the equal amount of revenue that many of these institutions and organizations within state government and local government would benefit from,” Ferlo said. “It’s a very radical departure and privatization, I think, has more negatives associated with it.”

In an earlier report, Turzai said the issue will most certainly come up when the Legislature reconvenes in the fall.