Yes, we’ve heard a million times before that the Pennsylvania Legislature is mulling a liquor privatization bill. A million times before, it’s gone nowhere. So why highlight the latest bill from Sen. Scott Wagner, a York County Republican?
Answer: Precisely because it’s originating in the Senate, where previous House attempts at privatization have long gone to die. Read more »
As a matter of fact, issues surrounding the PLCB (and efforts to curtail, privatize or simply abolish it) can get so weird and so confusing that the folks over at Lucky Peach recently brought in local food writer and man-about-town Drew Lazor to explain some things–including why Pennsylvanians were so excited when we were told that we could finally buy beer in 12-packs, which is something that most other Americans can do whenever and wherever they damn well please.
The Philadelphia Daily News described it as “stunning.” An attorney specializing in liquor law lauded it as “revolutionary.” “This is the biggest thing to happen to beer since 1933,” a Pittsburgh beer distributor told the Associated Press.
What are these Pennsylvanians describing with such exultant glee?
In March 2015, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), the omnipotent governing body for booze in the Keystone State, decreed that beer distributors, for the first time since the repeal of the 18th Amendment, were allowed to sell twelve-packs.
Scott Wagner, who last year won a special election to the Pennsylvania Senate as a write-in candidate, is attempting to do what many politicians have tried to do before and failed: Privatize the state’s liquor system.
House Majority Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, announced Tuesday a privatization bill will be voted in the last week in February, nearly two years after a passing similar measure that subsequently died in the Senate.
Reed said the legislation could generate about $1 billion to help balance the 2015-16 state budget. The final product, he said, will need to be something that compares favorably with consumer convenience available in other states.
“We view this as a starting point,” Reed said. “We understand it’s not an ending point.”
The agency that controls liquor and wine sales in Pennsylvania has transferred a record $526 million to the state government’s main bank account.
A report issued Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board says the total for the year ending June 30 is $13 million, or 2.5 percent, higher than the previous year’s transfer.
Most of that revenue comes from state liquor and sales taxes, but it also includes profits of $80 million that was transferred early at Gov. Tom Corbett’s request while this year’s state budget plan was being assembled.
In addition to $526 million in contributions to the General Fund, the agency also remitted $8.3 million in local taxes to Philadelphia and Allegheny counties, $25 million to the Pennsylvania State Police, $2.5 million to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and $4.5 million in licensing fees returned to local municipalities.
Some of that money would surely be lost if the system were privatized. That deosn’t mean the system shouldn’t be privatized, but the difficulty of replacing that revenue is the best argument that defenders of the status quo have to make.
Arthur Goldman may get a bit of redemption after all.
You remember Goldman: He’s the Chester County attorney who was accused of bootlegging after he had rare fine wines shipped to his home from out of state — in violation of Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board rules — and selling some bottles to friends. Authorities say the nearly 2,500 bottles of wine seized from Goldman will be destroyed, per state law.
Now there’s a move afoot in the Pennsylvania House to decriminalize the importation of liquor and spirits from across state lines.
Looks like no RIP for the PLCB this year. PennLive reports that House majority whip Stan Saylor, formerly a staunch supporter of the full privatization of Pennsylvania liquor sales, has expressed a new willingness to compromise with his Republican colleagues in the Senate and move forward with a plan to bring wine and beer sales only to grocery and convenience stores: