Republicans Restart Liquor Privatization Efforts

Officials say selling system could reap $1 billion.

Republicans in Harrisburg have restarted their efforts to privatize the state’s liquor system.

AP reports:

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.”

But it’ll be a battle. Tribune-Review:

House Democrats remain firmly opposed, according to their spokesman Bill Patton.

“With the state facing a large structural budget deficit, it would be foolish to forfeit a valuable, revenue-producing asset like the wine and spirit shops just to get an uncertain amount of one-time revenue,” Patton said. “It’s a bad deal for taxpayers, and the track record in other states that privatized liquor sales in recent years shows that it’s also a bad deal for consumers. Prices go up and selection goes down.”

PennLive adds:

A spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf reiterated Tuesday that the new Democrat governor’s preference is to “modernize” the existing state store system through expansion of Sunday openings, permitting more flexibility on product pricing and allowing to-the-door delivery of on-line purchases.

“Governor Wolf does not support the privatization of the state’s liquor system,” Wolf’s press secretary Jeff Sheridan said.

“However, the governor looks forward to working with members of the legislature to vastly improve the system to give consumers more options and make sales more convenient.”