Pa. auditor: Private liquor, wine sales will cost state millions

Amid Pa. Gov. Tom Corbett's push to sell and privatize Pennsylvania's state liquor and wine stores, elected state Auditor General Jack Wagner says he'll tell the state House Liquor Control Committee, at a 1 pm hearing at the Pa Convention Center today, that an analysis by his office shows the plan "would lead to higher prices" and would likely "fall short" of continuing the current $470 million/year in Pa. Liquor Control Board payments to the state's general fund. 

Wagner also doubts a sale of liquor sale license can generate the estimated  one-time $2 billion in revenues that privatization backers estimate, given depressed real estate and business values in the current market. 

State liquor and wine revenues can only be maintained at current levels by boosting taxes that would make Pennsylvania wine retailers the nation's most expensive, Wagner added.

As an alternative way to boost sales and state liquor revenues, Wagner called for Sunday sales and longer hours at state stores. But selling stores outright is 'a bad idea for taxpayers and consumers."

Wagner is a Democrat, Corbett a Republican. Traditionally Pa. Democrats have closer ties to unionized State Store workers; Republicans like Corbett are closer to restaurant and store owners who could profit from private liquor and wine sales. But socially conservative Republicans, who historically favored prohibition, have long resisted privatized alcohol sales.