ShareThis Page

Corbett open to all state store bills to privatize liquor sales

| Saturday, March 9, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

GETTYSBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett said on Friday that he would not rule out alternative plans to privatize the state liquor system, boosting the prospects for passage in the General Assembly.

“I'll look at everything that comes across my desk,” said Corbett, a Shaler Republican. “I'd be foolish to say no.”

Asked whether he would consider a plan that has no date certain for closing state stores, Corbett said: “I would have an open ear to something like that, yes.”

In January, Corbett proposed selling the state's 619 liquor stores. He would allow beer and wine to be sold by 1,200 retailers in grocery markets, pharmacies and box stores. Beer distributors could purchase “enhanced licenses” to sell liquor and wine and beer by the six-pack, rather than only by the case.

Pennsylvanians should enjoy the convenience that 48 other state liquor systems provide, Corbett said. Utah and Pennsylvania state governments control retail and wholesale purchases.

Some lawmakers, including members of Corbett's party, are more interested in passing a “hybrid” plan that would keep state stores open but allow wine and beer sales in grocery stores. Philadelphia Republican Rep. John Taylor, chairman of the House Liquor Committee, floated such a plan recently. The committee will vote on privatization March 18.

Jack Treadway, former chairman of the political science department at Kutztown University, said Corbett's message may mean he is willing to compromise because he does not have enough votes for his full-privatization plan, which House Majority Leader Mike Turzai introduced as a bill.

It increases chances for passage, “but that doesn't mean it will pass,” Treadway said.

The Republican Party is not unified on the issue, Treadway said, noting a “watered-down plan” might have a shot in the Senate.

Corbett made it clear he wants his plan enacted, saying the state would use the revenue to provide block grants of $1 billion to Pennsylvania school districts over four years.

Corbett released a breakdown of the four-year total slated for school districts, including: city of Pittsburgh, $13.2 million; North Hills, $1.7 million; McKeesport, $3.5 million; Kiski, $2.6 million; Hempfield, $2.9 million; and Greensburg Salem, $1.8 million. The formula is based on enrollment, population and district wealth.

Questioned by reporters, Corbett on several occasions did not rule out alternative or hybrid privatization plans.

Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, said this week that he expects lawmakers to modify the legislation he introduced.

“I think (Corbett) is being realistic,” said G. Terry Madonna, political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College. “If anything passes — and it is still an if — it is likely to be a hybrid.”

Turzai's bill faces staunch opposition from the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 3,500 state store clerks. That union opposition kept former Republican Govs. Tom Ridge and Dick Thornburgh from getting lawmakers to pass similar privatization proposals.

The bill includes tax credits and civil service preferences for people who would be laid off from state stores.

Madonna said if a bill passes that allows even limited private retail sales, “it opens the door and provides for greater expansion down the road.”

Turzai has said he thinks selling liquor in the private market eventually would put state-owned stores out of business.

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media'sstate Capitol reporter. Reach him at 717-787-1405 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.