Saturday, February 13, 2016

The LCB's new chair wants to privatize

Joseph E. "Skip" Brion, the new chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, thinks privatizing the love-to-hate state agency is the way to go in the future.

The LCB's new chair wants to privatize

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Joseph A. "Skip" Brion resigned from his position as head of Chester County´s Republican Party to join the Liquor Control Board.
Joseph A. "Skip" Brion resigned from his position as head of Chester County's Republican Party to join the Liquor Control Board.

Joseph E. "Skip" Brion, the new chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, thinks privatizing the love-to-hate state agency is the way to go in the future.

So said Brion after his swearing-in ceremony this morning in Gov. Corbett's reception room in the Capitol.

Brion, an attorney and onetime chair of the Chester County Republicans, said he will do whatever the legislature ultimately decides, but he made no bones of his preference for getting Pennsylvania out of the liquor business.

"I am a personal supporter of privatization," he said.

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In the interim -- and that could be a long interim, since lawmakers never do much fast, let alone something as politically charged as liquor privatization -- Brion said he would seek to make the agency more profitable. He said that will include supporting the LCB's push to modernize its stores and operations.

Corbett has thrown his support behind privatizing the retail and wholesale operations of the LCB, and a recent report commissioned by his office found that auctioning off those parts would reap the state up to $1.6 billion.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R., Allegheny) has introduced legislation to privatize, but the bill has gotten lost among more the pressing issues of this fall's session, including imposing a fee on natural gas extraction.

Even if the bill does get through the House, it faces an uphill battle in the Senate, where the top Republican has said he thinks liquor's status quo is just fine. Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson) has said he doesn't think it's a good idea to yank away booze sales from state control, and all the taxes and income it brings in.

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Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.



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