Joe Scarnati threw cold water all over Mike Turzai's liquor privatization bill today, questioning the need for it, and whether it should be a top legislative priority as Turzai has said.
HARRISBURG -- Plans to privatize the state-run liquor stores hit a major roadblock today, with a top state Senate Republican saying that the state first should "take the handcuffs off" the current system.
Talking to reporters this afternoon, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati was critical of the current plan from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai to auction off licenses for the stores.
Mr. Scarnati, of Jefferson, questioned whether the state would be getting the most profit possible in that sale, given what he sees as constraints on the profitability of those stores.
"I don't think that we have allowed the Liquor Control Board to run like a business," he said. "We're the ones with the handcuffs on them, and then we're out there saying, 'Well, this is an archaic, terrible system and doesn't work.' Well, take the handcuffs off of them, get the bottom line better, and you'll get a better price."
He suggested allowing those stores more flexibility in pricing, based on the product and geography, as initial reforms.
Privatization of the state stores is a top fall priority for Mr. Turzai, a Bradford Woods Republican. He introduced a measure last week that would auction off 1,250 licenses to private retailers, replacing the current 621 state stores.
Mr. Turzai and Gov. Tom Corbett both have said repeatedly that they do not think the state should be in the business of alcohol sales and should instead focus on regulating those businesses.