Republicans toast, Democrats pan Corbett's idea to change alcohol sales

| Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Reaction to Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to sell the state liquor store system and expand beer and wine sales fell mostly along party lines among lawmakers.

“To me the issue is we're losing control of something we make money on in the state,” said Rep. Ted Harhai, D-Monessen. “The whole thing is not broken. You don't need to fix it.”

Harhai said it's “totally incorrect that you're going to get (booze) cheaper.”

“I like it top to bottom,” said Rep. Jeff Pyle, R-Ford City.

Corbett did not attempt to sell the plan on better prices. Convenience was his main theme when he outlined the proposal on Wednesday.

“I think it's a terrible idea,” said Chrissy Sullivan, 45, a banquet server from Lawrenceville. “It will take away a lot of jobs.”

Her co-worker, Connie Davenport, 61, of the Hill District said it “sounds like a good idea. We see a lot of people trying to go to the state store, and it's closed.”

Chris Reid, 49, of Verona said he favors privatizing wine and liquor sales because it would provide “more availability and more convenience for everybody” while allowing more people to become store owners.

“Different shops could offer you specials and bargains,” Reid said. Government-owned stores are “like Big Brother watching you anyway.”

Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, said the state should not tear down a system that provides jobs and makes money for the state.

“We need to improve that system to the benefit of consumers while continuing to take advantage of the important resources and public health protections the system provides today,” he said.

Charlie Gerow, spokesman for the Coalition to End the Liquor Monopoly, called the move overdue.

“Polls consistently show that getting the state out of the liquor business is immensely popular,” he said. “Privatization makes good financial sense. It's a true benefit to consumers. It's sensible public policy. It's time for it to be a reality.”

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