Corbett study recommends privatizing liquor stores

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania would benefit financially from privatizing the state-run system of selling wine and liquor, a new study commissioned by Gov. Corbett found.

The report, conducted by Public Financial Management Inc., found that the state could take in up to $1.6 billion if it auctions off both the retail and wholesale operations of the state Liquor Control Board (LCB).

Asked about the nearly 300-page study earlier Tuesday, Corbett said it only reinforced his belief that the state should shed its role of selling liquor.

“We should not be in the business of selling alcohol,” Corbett said, noting what he called the “inherent conflict” of having the same agency – the LCB – be in charge of both regulating the sale of liquor, and pushing to sell as much as it can.

Over the summer, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) introduced a bill calling for privatizing both the retail and wholesale operations of the LCB. With so many other big-ticket items on the agenda this fall, including school vouchers and a proposed drilling impact fee, it is questionable whether the legislature will have enough time to tackle the liquor issue this fall.

There is also one other problem: the Senate.

Over the summer, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) said he believes the state should stay in the liquor business for now, knocking some of the wind out of the momentum for privatizing. And privatizing is fiercely opposed by unions and many Democrats.

But Turzai has a friend in the administration.

Corbett on Tuesday called Turzai’s proposal “the place to start.”

The next step: the governor and his top staff will the study and evaluate the options contained in the report and decide how to best disburse revenue from license sales. One area that could benefit from privatization revenue: the state’s roads and bridges, the administration said.

“Our system of state stores harkens back to a time government thought it knew best what was good for us,” Corbett said, noting that the Liquor Control Board was formed nearly 80 years ago following the end of Prohibition. “History has shown – as it always will – that the people, not government bureaucrats, know best how to live their lives.”



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