PA House Passes Liquor Privatization, 114-87

But it's not a slam dunk in the Senate.


The Pennsylvania House passed a bill Thursday to privatize the state-run liquor system by a vote of 114-87. Here’s how the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board would be deconstructed, according to a statement from House Republicans:

The bill allows beer distributers to expand their businesses to sell liquor and wine, as well as beer. The bill also allows private wine wholesalers to sell products to Commonwealth customers. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) would still operate state stores until retail outlets are double the numbers of current state-operated outlets.

Supporters and critics of the plan immediately came out with statements of, well, support and criticism. Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Rep. Mike Turzai, chief architect of the privatization plan, cheered its passage:

“The House of Representatives once again voted to end an antiquated, unnecessary and burdensome system,” Turzai said. “Pennsylvanians demand change and have been voting on this issue with their wallets by leaving their money in other states that can provide what they want at a fair price. The current system is not based on what is best for the consumer, but on protecting a myriad of special interests who have a stake in this monopolistic system.

“It is time to get government out of the alcohol business once and for all and move Pennsylvania into the 21st century.” … “Only a business can act like a business and be successful,” Turzai said. “Government has many responsibilities, such as providing an education, safe communities and clean air and water, but selling wine and liquor is not one of them. We need to get the state out of the business of buying and selling alcohol.”

Democrats, meanwhile, slammed the bill. Here’s a statement from Philadelphia state Rep. Michelle Brownlee:

“The plan to privatize liquor sales in Pennsylvania is nothing more than a quick cash grab that will put thousands on the unemployment rolls and cost taxpayers millions in the very near future. I cannot see the value, or even business sense, in divesting from income that the state can never get back.

“To dismantle this structure now, when thousands of Pennsylvanians are gainfully employed by a service that we have provided for nearly a century and has helped offset billions in personal income taxes, property taxes and taxes on food and clothing, is equivalent to pulling the rug out from under good, hard-working Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board employees and all Pennsylvanians.

“As documented by a study during the Corbett administration, this fire sale could cost taxpayers $64 million in unemployment costs up front, and hundreds of millions per year in recurring revenue.”

The legislation’s fate in the Senate is uncertain. After the House passed a similar bill to move the industry to the private sector in 2013, the Senate debated the proposal, but did not pass it. Gov. Tom Wolf is against privatization.

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