Gov. Tom Corbett serves up plan to privatize Pa. liquor sales

Gov. Tom Corbett, accompanied by Lt. Gov. Jim Cawley, center, and Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, center left, speaks during a news conference Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, in Philadelphia. Corbett on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious plan to end the state monopoly over the sale of liquor and wine by replacing hundreds of state-owned stores with twice as many private outlets and allowing beer and wine to be sold at a wide range of stores.  (Rikard Larma Photo)

Gov. Tom Corbett was in Philadelphia on Thursday to discuss his plan to privatize Pennsylvania’s liquor sales.

“Here in Philadelphia, we know that there are a few people – no, make that many people – that get in their cars and travel across those bridges or travel down 95 and over to Delaware or New Jersey to buy their alcohol,” Corbett said. “I want a system that gives our people the flexibility to have their purchases here in Pennsylvania.”

Corbett’s plan would over the next four years allow customers to purchase beer and wine from grocery stores and big box retailers, buy six-packs from convenience stores and obtain takeout bottles of wine from restaurants and taverns.

It would also allow beer distributors that obtain the proper licenses to become “one-stop shops” slinging wine, liquor and six-packs. Distributors can currently only sell beer by the keg or case.

The number of alcohol retailers in the state would double. “This proposal would allow the number of establishments to be naturally driven by the free market, as it is in other states,” Corbett said.

Aside from Utah, Pennsylvania is the only state that controls its own liquor sales.

“Simply put, I am proposing that Pennsylvania join the ranks of those 48 other states and once and for all get out of the business of selling wine and liquor, get out of the business of being a monopoly,” Corbett said.

An estimated $1 billion in revenue from the auction of retail and wholesale liquor licenses, as well as from stepped-up enforcement and penalties of alcohol sale violations included in the plan, will go to block grant to fund public schools and childhood enrichment education.

“It is time for Pennsylvania to lift the rules put in place 75 years ago,” Corbett said. “Because the selling of alcohol is clearly not a core responsibility of government, but education is.”

Reactions

Some stakeholders decried what they say are threats to middle-class unionized jobs and small businesses, as well as a blow to state revenue.

“We all know what will become of our distributors and taverns that rely on beer sales and have adapted in order to compete in a closed system. They will fail and those local businesses that support our little league teams and volunteer firefighter organizations will be lost, replaced by indifferent big box stores run by huge corporations.”

– State Sen. Jim Ferlo

“It’s nice that the governor has acknowledged that he created a school funding crisis, but our students shouldn’t have to count on liquor being available on every corner in order to have properly funded schools. We need to restore the nearly $1 billion in education cuts made by Governor Corbett with an adequate and sustainable funding plan, not with money that doesn’t exist.”

– Pennsylvania State Education Association president Mike Crossey

“The governor is targeting 5,000 family-sustaining jobs and more than $500 million a year in taxes and profits that this valuable, publicly held asset provides.”

– President of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776 Wendell W. Young IV

“The governor’s fixation with privatization now includes a bizarre and unhealthy attempt to tie education achievement to what can only be described as a one-time alcohol funded stimulus package.”

– State Sen. John Yudichak  

Consumers, for the most part, rejoiced over the prospect of the increased convenience and choice the plan would offer.

“PA liquor stores potentially going away? F––k yeah welcome to the rest of America!”

– @robothero

“I’m very excited about Governor Corbett’s plan to privatize the liquor board. The government shouldn’t be the only seller in a free market.”

– @darin22b

“PA bout to have a one stop shop, liquor beer grocery store all in one.”

– @_StackzXo

Though not everyone was so happy.

“Ya know who loves @GovernorCorbett’s cynical plan to sell off our liquor stores? CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid and Walmart.”

– @tettemer


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