Will PA Senate Save Liquor Privatization? Will Liquor Bill Save Tom Corbett’s Career?

Is the day at last at hand? That sweet, glorious day when you’ll be able to walk into a local liquor store and be able to buy the kind of liquor you want at  reasonable prices? That sweet, sweet day known as the privatization of Pennsylvania’s state-owned liquor stores?

Maybe. CBS Philly says the Pennsylvania Senate will begin consideration of privatization this morning, more than a month after the House passed its own bill.

The man on the hot seat today is Bucks County Republican Senator Chuck McIlhinney, chairman of the Senate committee that will vet the House Liquor bill. McIlhinney has already been targeted with TV ads by a conservative group that wants him to take a hard line on privatization.

But, McIlhinney is vowing to hear out all proposals and says he will not be pressured into rubber stamping the House bill.

Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, says that passing a bill is a priority. But there are other issues that might be more important.

Scarnati said while access to liquor is important to his constituents, what’s more important is a plan that works.

“The last thing I want to be part of is creating another system that doesn’t work,” he said. “Let’s get it right.”

Pennsylvanians should be concerned about the impact on a shaky state budget, Scarnati added:

He warned that if some form of liquor privatization does make it into law this year, it will come at some cost to the commonwealth.

“You cannot go in and shut the (Liquor Control Board) off like a light switch and it’s not going to cost the state budget something in this year and the following years. And we have to account for that,” he said Monday. “I’m fine to account for it, but we’ve got to start talking about the budget.”

The budget is due in two months — and it may require some more tough calls, since state tax revenue is coming in below expectations. It’s about $200 million below estimate through the end of March; April collections aren’t looking strong either.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Weekly comments, liquor privatization may be Tom Corbett’s best chance to gain re-election as governor.

According to whendidyoujointwitter.com, Governor Corbett joined Twitter on March 8, 2011—784 days ago. And he’s tweeted a total of 3,122 times in those two-plus years, an average of about 120 times per month. Which means more than half the governor’s average tweets per month are now about liquor.

So we’re going to assume that the governor thinks this idea is a winner. And why shouldn’t he? TheNational Journal wrote in March that booze in Pennsylvania “could save a political career”(Corbett’s).