Liquor plan in neutral

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Back to the Future

Gov. Tom Corbett's time machine may not get out of the garage.

Gov. Tom Corbett is set to lay out his liquor privatization plan -- which he says could generate $1 billion in revenues for the state -- at an early afternoon Pittsburgh press conference today, arguing the state needs to modernize.

Fellow Republican leaders in the legislature are signaling they're not ready to fully jump on board.

From Laura Olson and Karen Langley in Harrisburg:

[Senate President Pro Tem Joe] Scarnati reiterated his support for pursuing plans to "modernize" those sales either before or alongside efforts to move alcohol sales into private hands. [House Majority Leader Sam] Smith said an approach in which some but not all aspects of liquor sales are privatized may gain more legislative support.

"In looking at what happened over the last two years in particular in the House and Senate" regarding failed liquor privatization efforts, "it seems to me logically that where we might end up is with a hybrid where we're providing private opportunities but not exactly abolishing the system," Mr. Smith said.

The AP's Marc Levy has a sneak peek at the governor's plans and union reaction:

According to information from people briefed by the governor's office, the plan involves shutting down the more than 600 state-owned wine and liquor stores as a prelude to auctioning 1,200 wine and liquor store licenses. The information was provided by people on condition of anonymity because they did not want to be named providing details before the governor announces them.

Owners of supermarkets, drugstores, restaurants and big-box stores would be able to buy separate licenses to sell beer and wine. Convenience store owners would be eligible to sell beer while the state's approximately 1,200 licensed beer distributorships would be able to bid for licenses to sell wine and liquor.

Harley said a bill reflecting Corbett's plan will be introduced in the near future.

Wendell W. Young IV, the president of the union that represents about 3,000 unionized state store clerks, said Tuesday that privatization of wine and liquor sales would diminish consumer choice and state tax revenue while raising liquor consumption rates and the crime and health problems that follow.

"Why would we want to be like the 48 other states when we're already so much better than them?" Young questioned.

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