Rep. Mike Turzai Has New Plan To Privatize State Liquor Stores

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Months after a committee watered down his proposal for dismantling the state liquor system, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai intends to bring a new plan to a vote next week.

And he has the backing of Gov. Tom Corbett, who said on a radio talk show Friday that he told Mr. Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, he would support only full privatization of the liquor stores.

“I said if we’re going to do it, let’s do the whole thing,” Mr. Corbett said.

The plan calls for allocating 1,600 wine and spirits retail licenses to counties on the basis of sales, population and household income. The approximately 1,100 beer distributors in the state would have the option of buying a license to expand their business, and the remaining licenses would be auctioned to the highest bidders.

The legislation also would allow beer distributors to sell six-packs and other licensees to sell packages of up to 30 beers. A description provided by Mr. Turzai’s office says taxes and fees will be assessed to assure the state does not lose revenue.

The United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 3,500 workers in the state liquor system, has criticized any efforts to privatize the system. Wendell Young IV, chairman of the union’s PA Wine and Spirits Council, said the move would eliminate jobs while hurting the quality of liquor sales.

A spokesman for Mr. Turzai said turning liquor and wine sales over to businesses would increase the number of jobs.

“Not a single job disappears,” said spokesman Steve Miskin. “In fact it should grow jobs because you have about 600 state stores — you’ll now have 1,600 entrepreneurs starting their own business or expanding their business.”

Mr. Young has held that a new contract guarantees the liquor store employees jobs through July 2015, but the Corbett administration says the agreement holds only as long as the state operates the stores.

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