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Corbett pushes privatization of Pennsylvania liquor stores

HARRISBURG -- Gov. Tom Corbett said yesterday that he wants lawmakers to pass legislation this year authorizing the sale of state liquor stores to private operators because they're not a core function of government.

Hours after Corbett spoke to the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, a leader of the union that represents most employees of 620 state stores argued that they do a better job of collecting taxes and preventing underage drinking than private businesses would.

Wendell Young IV of Local 1776 of the United Food and Commercial Workers told a Pennsylvania Press Club audience in Harrisburg that privatization would result in a reduction in tax collections from liquor and wine sales that would require increasing prices by 25 percent.

Corbett told the commissioners Pennsylvania already privatizes about half of its alcohol sales with beer sold in bars, distributorships and some supermarkets.

Selling liquor and wine through state-run retail stores is a "conflict of interest" because the state enforces liquor violations, Corbett said.

"Should you, as commissioners, be selling gasoline• No. Should you, as commissioners, be selling pharmaceuticals• No," he said.

Corbett did not include anticipated money from the sale of the stores in his budget proposal.

He said policy makers need to focus on budget matters and on the $4.2 billion deficit for 2011-12. Lawmakers must pass a budget by June 30.

Stephen Miskin, a spokesman for House Republicans, said he's not surprised Corbett wants the Legislature to move ahead with privatization.

"We always sort of figured it would be this year. It would take awhile to implement it," he said.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, is expected to introduce his privatization bill in mid-May, Miskin said.

Corbett said that a study will be done of Pennsylvania's liquor system. It's expected to analyze the revenue that would be brought in by selling the stores.

The study by Pennsylvania Financial Management will be completed in mid-July, said Corbett's press secretary Kevin Harley.

PFM, which had ties to former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, was still under contract from the Rendell administration. Harley confirmed Corbett is using PFM under that contract.

The cost of the contract wasn't available.

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