State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

Liquor privatization plan clears committee

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Mar 18, 2013 2:28 PM
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Photo by Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board website

This entry has been edited since its original posting. 

A state House plan to privatize the commonwealth’s liquor system has made it through the House Liquor Control Committee.

Rep. John Taylor (R-Philadelphia), who chairs the panel, oversaw more than two hours of questions and answers on an amendment to scale back Governor Corbett’s privatization plan.

It would allow wine and liquor licenses to go to beer distributors and wine licenses to go to grocery stores, but does not call for shuttering all state wine and liquor stores. Instead, the amendment allows for a phasing-out of the more than 600 state stores.

“As we wind down stores through the addition of private licensees, when we get to the point where there’s only 100, then the entire system would shut down,” said Taylor.

The amended version is, in part, an attempt to placate beer distributors, who opposed the governor’s plan to charge them steeper licensing fees and open up wine and liquor sales to big-box retailers. The measure would also allow them to sell smaller packages of beer, and would allow for special permits for Sunday sale of wine and liquor.

Taylor also acknowledged the re-worked plan would raise less money than the $1 billion Corbett envisioned collecting for education grants, though he said full fiscal analysis isn’t yet available. Steve Miskin, the House GOP spokesman, said Taylor's amendment wouldn't funnel any money raised from privatization into education grants automatically, but would put the funds in an escrow account until the Legislature passes a measure deciding how to appropriate the money. 

The changed proposal passed along party lines, with much consternation. Democrats called for hearings on the amended measure before moving it out of committee. Republicans said the issue of liquor privatization has been debated long enough in past failed efforts.

Rep. Tina Davis of Bucks County said her caucus had too little time to review the amendment they received last Friday. “I’m very disappointed that it’s getting shoved down our throat in three days,” she said.

“It’s been 80 years, Representative,” said Taylor in response. “80 years.

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