Private group to advocate for privatizing Pennsylvania liquor stores
By Brad Bumsted
Published: Friday, January 18, 2013, 11:54 a.m.
Updated: Friday, January 18, 2013
HARRISBURG — A new coalition of citizens, businesses and groups supporting liquor privatization will announce next week a push for the state store divestiture plan Republican Gov. Tom Corbett soon will announce, a leading advocate said Friday.
What's been missing in the debate is the public's voice — reflected in poll after poll — showing support for getting rid of the state stores, said Charlie Gerow, a Harrisburg-based Republican consultant. Lawmakers only hear from special interests opposed to selling the state stores — primarily unions supporting store clerks, he said.
A Philadelphia Inquirer poll in October showed 61 percent of Pennsylvanians favor selling the stores.
“You will see something on liquor stores and on transportation (funding) before the (Feb. 5) budget address,” Corbett told reporters Thursday after an event promoting his contract to privatize state lottery management. It appears Corbett's plan will be released the last week of January.
“They can put together all the coalitions they want. The facts have never been on their side,” said Wendell W. Young IV, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, whose members include state store workers. What the effort really is about is “businesses trying to get their hands on the asset,” Young added.
“This (coalition) is to give the issue the citizens' push it's been lacking,” Gerow said. He declined to name people who will be part of the coalition. Gerow is not under government contract on the issue.
Legislation to allow the state to sell the liquor stores failed to get through the House last year despite support from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods.
“The public wants real convenience, selection and more competitive prices,” Turzai said.
Gerow said Corbett‘s leadership is essential to changing the system.
But, Young said, “I don't think the governor getting involved changes that much.” He cited Corbett's “lackluster” record and poll numbers. “I think the PLCB (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board) is doing a lot better (with the public) than the governor,” Young said.
“Wendell Young is a leader of one of the most powerful special interest groups in Harrisburg,” said Corbett's spokesman Kevin Harley. “He is trying to protect the status quo and prevent Pennsylvanians from consumer choice available in 48 other states.”
Pennsylvania is one of only two states, the other being Utah, that controls wholesale and retail liquor sales.
Jay Ostrich, spokesman for the Commonwealth Foundation, who attended a meeting with Corbett's aides this week on privatization, said with the governor's backing, “We think this measure will be unstoppable.”
Changing how beer is sold in Pennsylvania is expected to be part of the proposal. Ostrich predicted Pennsylvanians will be able to buy “bread, beer and Bordeaux” together in certain privately run businesses. Customers now buy cases from beer distributors and six-packs from bars.
Three stops are required for many Pennsylvanians to buy food, beer and wine.
Brad Bumsted is state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 and email@example.com.
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Pennsylvania is one of 17 states that sell alcohol, and in fiscal 2012 showed a 5% gain, which was the most profitable of any state in the liquor business. This translates into close to $500 million in annual tax revenue transferred to Harrisburg on a daily basis as it was earned, $83 million in net profits, not to mention $25 million to the state police. The LCB also does an excellent job of forbidding sales to minors, with only two violations out of 620 stores over the last four years. Cannot imagine why the governor ignores these facts. Just last year, Washington had a system just like ours, with virtually identical cash flow. Washington earned only $30 million in the sale of its stores, and $150 million for wholesale rights - which is very far from the windfall trumpeted by the privateers. Washington's product selection in small towns vanished. Prices sharply rose for everyone. Theft by minors and shoplifting is now rampant. Washington now has a huge border bleed problem with Oregon and Idaho, both state-run systems. The small stores are struggling, being forced out by the big boxes. The pro-private polls simply reflect Pittsburgh/Philly, where the big box stores will be located, versus rural PA were all the well-stock, good-selection, tightly-controlled state stores will vanish. Looking at Washington, we have a unique opportunity to see into the future. All the speculative reports and fanciful projections mean little compared to this real-world comparable example.
Submitted by: John on Saturday, January 19, 2013
When traveling to Florida, I pay more for beer in the supermarket or convenience store, I pay more for Liquor. I buy it from minimum wage clerks who our tax money pays for their hosp. There is a lot of things that need reveled before this takes place. Like who gets the stores. I have no connection to the LCB