HARRISBURG—It has been a debate for over three decades as state legislators battle over whether or not to privatize Pennsylvania's wine and spirits system. That battle is playing out across the state today ahead of a committee vote on December 13.
Pennsylvania is the only state in the country, besides Utah, that still has complete control of both the wholesale and retail end of liquor sales. Many people have complained about the setup for years but yet the 80-year-old system still exists. Today, both sides will make the case for the future of Pennsylvania's booze system.
To sell or not to sell, that is the question facing Pennsylvania legislators as they consider privatizing Pennsylvania's wine and spirits system.
"The government shouldn't be in the business of pushing vodka sales. It's just not right," said Representative Mike Turzai, (R- Allegheny County).
Turzai is pushing a bill that would require the Pennsylvania liquor control board to sell its 600 plus stores to the private sector. Turzai estimates the sale of the licenses would net the state about a billion dollars in profit. He says besides the sales windfall, the state would still benefit from the sales taxes on items without being in the booze business.
"I think Pennsylvania will benefit from it with the upfront revenues and the continuing stream of revenues that will come from the taxes," he said.
Privatization proponents believe customers would benefit from the change. Many think the private sector could provide a bigger selection for cheaper prices and better hours.
"Almost 4 to 1 all Pennsylvania citizens want it and it is in all corners of the state and it is people from a variety of backgrounds," said Turzai.
Opponents of privatization worry the state will sell one of its most profitable entities. The PLCB makes the state millions of dollars a year besides the taxes collected on booze. Along with the money, some think that by having the state run booze sales, it can regulate the sale to underage drinkers making everyone safer.
Speaking of opponents, Auditor General Jack Wagner, who is against privatization, will hold a news conference to discuss his findings of a financial analysis of liquor sales under the proposed privatization bill (House Bill 11). At the same time, Representative Turzai will hold the first of two public hearings in Philadelphia.
House Bill 11 is scheduled for a vote in the House Liquor Control Committee on December 13.