GOP's wine-to-go plan blasted GOP's wine-to-go plan blasted
HARRISBURG — Democrats on Tuesday criticized a day-old plan being circulated by Republican senators to liberalize Pennsylvania's sale of alcoholic beverages and loosen state control by allowing thousands of private retailers to sell bottles of wine to go.
Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, said the plan would sap $50 million from the state treasury at a time when the government's finances are facing a $1 billion-plus deficit. He also warned that it would hurt small businesses to benefit big businesses.
“The latest Republican liquor plan will result in suffering for numerous entrepreneurs and their businesses,” Ferlo said in a statement.
Lobbyists for retail chains, transporters and distillers were in the Pennsylvania Capitol this week in hopes of influencing any eventual outcome. As of Tuesday, no vote was scheduled, and Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, acknowledged the plan did not immediately have enough support to pass the chamber.
The plan was circulated as a draft, not as legislation that had been introduced.
Senate Republicans, who control the chamber by a margin of 27-23, say they have crafted their plan to provide more consumer convenience. Wednesday is the last day for a vote on the plan before June 2, when lawmakers return to Harrisburg for five weeks of voting sessions leading up to the June 30 end of the fiscal year.
The Senate Republican plan would be a significant change from a bill that won House approval last year, but it is similar to a plan that stalled in the Senate last June.
The Senate plan would not shut down the state-controlled wine and liquor system, as Gov. Tom Corbett has sought. Instead, it would keep a state-controlled wholesale and retail system. While the plan would end the state's control over the sale of wine, it would keep the state's stores as the only retailer of hard liquor.
It would not issue new retail liquor licenses, as Corbett had sought.
Under the plan, thousands of holders of existing liquor licenses that allow the sale of takeout beer, such as beer distributorships, bars and restaurants, could begin selling wine bottles to go. Meanwhile, the plan would relax restrictions on convenience stores, grocery stores, big-box stores and supermarkets that want to begin selling alcohol by buying an existing liquor license.