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Gov. Corbett still pushing Senate to move liquor privatization bill

| Wednesday, June 12, 2013, 12:51 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett urged the state Senate on Wednesday to act on liquor privatization before the end of the fiscal year June 30.

The Republican governor remained optimistic the General Assembly can approve a bill to sell the state stores and allow grocery stores to sell wine. The House sent a liquor bill to the Senate in March. “I believe we can” get it done, Corbett said.

The Senate plans to move a privatization bill of some sort next week, Capitolwire.com reported. Details were not available.

“I don't think it's any surprise that we're pressing forward on liquor sales reform,” said Senate Republican spokesman Erik Arneson. “I can't predict a specific time frame at this point, but seeing action in the Senate next week is not out of the question.”

Pennsylvania and Utah are the only two states that control wholesale and retail liquor and wine sales. “Government has no business selling alcohol. We don't do it in 48 other states,” Corbett said at a new conference backed by about 100 supporters of privatization.

It was part of an effort by privatization supporters to ramp up pressure on the Senate to act.

Corbett said he wants the budget, liquor privatization and legislation for new transportation revenue approved before lawmakers recess for the summer. A budget must be approved by June 30 by law.

There are 17 days left, Corbett noted. “In Harrisburg, in June, that's a lifetime,” Corbett said.

Corbett, however, did not rule out withholding a signature on a budget to force lawmakers to hammer out a deal on liquor and transportation. That would mean going past the deadline. Corbett has often touted getting the past two budgets done on time after eight years of late budgets under Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

Corbett said, ”I always keep the first two weeks of July open on my calendar.”

The Republican-controlled House on Wednesday planned to approve a $28.3 billion budget that Democrats say contains about 85 percent of the budget Corbett proposed in March. Democrats attacked the budget as shortchanging education.

It is not likely to be a final budget. The Senate may not approve a budget until the week of June 24. There's hope among Senate leaders that it will be a negotiated agreement.

Still outstanding is that the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is not included in the House budget. It would provide health insurance to about 500,000 low-income citizens, but Corbett says that long-term the state may not be able to afford it.

A House hearing is scheduled this afternoon on a Senate-approved $2.5 billion transportation plan.

Brad Bumsted is state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 717-787-1405 and bbumsted@tribweb.com.

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