Saturday, December 20, 2014

Another Booze Tease

State lawmakers are again working on legislation to sell off State Stores; don't celebrate yet, it's an election year.

Another Booze Tease

The Harrisburg Patriot-News reports Friday that a new effort is underway to sell off the State Store system, this time with more licenses for sale and more freedom for beer distributors.

Specifics include expanding the original plan to sell 1,250 retail licenses and offer instead 1,600.

Also, beer distributors would be able to sell six packs instead of just cases and be able to buy retail licenses to sell liquor and wine.

The price of retail licenses would vary from county to county, ranging from about $60,000 in rural areas to more than $700,000 in the Philly burbs.

The new plan also would allow direct wine sales and shipment from outside the state to consumers' doors, incorporating legislation that earlier this year passed the Senate.

House GOP Majority Leader Mike Turzai told a group of Capitol reporters Thursday that his plan for State Store sales introduced last summer remains "a priority" and a work in progress.

"I'm very serious about it," Turzai said, noting that expected revenue gains ranging from $750 million to $1 billion-plus represents "outside the box" thinking for long-term sustainability of the budget.

Problem, of course, is we've heard all this before, dating back to Govs. Thornburgh and Ridge in the `80's and `90's.

But there remains an odd-bedfellows coalition of conservative lawmakers unhappy with the prospect of increased alcohol sales and consumption, and union workers unhappy with the prospects of losing well-paid state jobs with good benefits.

Plus, it's an election year in which all 203 House seats and half of the 50 Senate seats are on the ballot. This means nothing approaching controversy gets done for fear of upsetting incumbent re-election odds which, as you know, are staggeringly high.

So enjoy the fantasy that you'll soon be able to buy what you want, where you want, when you want -- or have it shipped conveniently to your doorstep -- but understand, like most fantasies, this is just another tease.

Oh, and make sure you keep electing enough of the same lawmakers whose sole objective in public life is to keep Pennsylvania policies reflective of the prohibition era.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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