The slow, painful death of the LCB

Last call for the state Liquor Control Board?

It may be, if House Majority Leader Mike Turzai has his way.

The Republican from Allegheny County unveiled his much-anticipated bill today to get the state out of the business of selling alcohol. His legislation calls for auctioning off both retail and wholesale licenses and changing the tax structure to try and match the revenue that the Liquor Control Board currently kicks in to state coffers.

Turzai’s bill would sell off a total of 1,250 retail licenses – 750 so-called “class A” licenses (for retail outlets with 15,000 or more square feet) and 500 “class B” licenses (for retailers with less than 15,000 square feet). The top House Republican would also wipe out the current automatic 30 percent markup that the Liquor Control Board places on its products, as well as the additional 18 percent tax, known as the Johnstown flood tax, that gets slapped on the sale of wine and hard liquor in Pennsylvania. Turzai would replace those taxes with a gallonage tax based on the type of liquor and alcohol content.

"We think this is a win, win, win opportunity for everyone,” said Turzai. “But especially for the state of Pennsylvania.”

Wendell W. Young IV, who heads the union that represents the majority of Liquor Control Board employees, said Turzai’s bill shows “he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know.”

The current system, he argued, not only provides substantial taxes and profits for Pennsylvania, but also convenience, great selection and competitive prices - and it does so responsibly, not with an eye at maximizing profits at the sake of public safety.

“We deliver amongst the highest dollar amount per gallon of alcohol sold and we have the absolute lowest death rate related to alcohol consumption,” said Young. “These are the stats that are where we want to be. Why would we change it to benefit a few private retailers who will make a lot of money and who are friends of the current party leadership.”


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