Wolf Vetoes GOP’s Liquor Privatization

Jul 2, 2015

Gov. Tom Wolf has let fly another veto of a major Republican priority – the privatization of the state-run liquor system.

In a written statement Thursday, Wolf said he doesn’t want to sell a state asset before it reaches its full money-making potential: “This legislation falls short of a responsible means to reform our state liquor system and to maximize revenues to benefit our citizen.”

Steve Miskin, House GOP spokesman, called the move disappointing.

“This privatization bill was bringing in more than 200 million dollars – new recurring revenues – each year, and for this year’s budget,” Miskin said. “That’s new money that could be dedicated for human services and for our schools, without raising taxes.”

The plan would have phased out state stores by opening up the sale of wine and spirits to private stores, bars and other businesses already selling beer. It also would have leased the rights to control product selection and prices.

Members of both parties noted that this particular GOP plan for privatization was likely to result in higher prices for wine and liquor. Job losses among state store clerks were considered inevitable.

Republican supporters say the state shouldn’t be in the business of selling alcohol, especially when it’s standing in the way of customer convenience. But Democrats sympathetic to state store clerk unions say new laws could make wine and liquor purchases more convenient without dismantling the state system.

If Wolf has made concessions to Republicans on the state-controlled aspect of wine and spirit sales, he hasn’t made them public. Instead, he’s pushed his ideas for what is commonly known as “modernization” – eliminating some of the constraints that keep the state stores from being more profitable.

“I am open to options for expanding the availability of wine and beer in more locations, including supermarkets,” said Wolf in his statement. “I have also put other compromises on the table, including variable pricing, direct shipment of wine and expanding state store hours.”

Also on Thursday, Wolf announced the veto of two bills that accompany the budget – the school code and fiscal code. One pertains to education funding, the other is commonly referred to as a “user’s manual” for the budget document. Wolf had said Tuesday that he would reject the bills as part of his veto of the entire spending plan passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature.