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Patch Poll: Should Pennsylvania Privatize the Sale of Wine and Spirits?

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, who represents much of the North Hills, is pushing to get government out of the liquor business. What do you think?

Since July, Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai has pushed to get government out of the liquor business.

In a news conference, the legislator from Western Pennsylvania introduced House Bill 11, which calls for the privatization of wine and spirits sales on the wholesale and retail levels.

"We need to move Pennsylvania into the 21st century," said Turzai, whose 28th Legislative District comprises Pine, Richland, Marshall and McCandless townships and Bradford Woods and Franklin Park boroughs.

"House Bill 11 is about divestiture. House Bill 11 is about the consumer. It is about reasonable prices and better selection and more convenience. It is about upgrading law enforcement," said the Republican from Bradford Woods. "It is about moving from a public sector dinosaur into the modern 21st century."

Only two states, Pennsylvania and Utah, have complete control of all aspects of wine and spirits distribution, according to a report that the governor's budget office commissioned. 

"Public Financial Management Inc. was retained by the Pennsylvania Governor’s Budget Office to conduct an analysis of the current operations of thePennsylvania Liquor Control Board and assess the potential for privatization of its wine and liquor wholesale and retail operations," the executive summary from the report states.

"In the end, the decision to privatize should, at its core, come down to a consideration of what is best for all citizens of the state and the consumers the system serves," the study concluded.

"A privatized system affords the state the best opportunity to improve on the current system and optimize the financial benefits for its citizens," according to the study.

Not everyone agrees that House Bill 11 is the way to go.

"The House Liquor Control Committee passed a version of HB 11, which would leave the Liquor Control Board intact, a major turnaround from Turzai’s original proposal to completely privatize liquor sales," states a story from 90.5 FM Pittsburgh Essential Public Radio.

The union that represents state liquor store managers has lobbied against the bill; two Pennsylvania chapters of the United Food Commercial Workers, representing state store employees, also oppose the bill, the 90.5 radio story states.

"The Independent State Store Union says that the bill’s provision to allow beer distributors to begin selling wine will cause the state store system to slowly diminish," according to the story.

The ISSU also opposes the bill.

In a December news release, Rep. Dante Santoni, D-Berks, said Democrats on the House Liquor Control Committee "remain opposed to the proposal and voted against its release from committee, but we were able to temper some of the extreme provisions included in the original bill." 

"I remain concerned about the direction of this bill," said Santoni, the Democratic chairman of the House Liquor Control Committee. "I believe my amendment in committee will provide modernization initiatives not included in the original legislation."

House Bill 11 originally called for the state to close and sell its wine and spirits shops and auction 1,250 retail licenses to private operators, allocated by county, according to population, Santoni's news release stated.

Taxes on liquor would be restructured, and a limited number of wholesale licenses would be issued to distributors who sign contracts with producers.

"The current version of H.B. 11 does not divest the state store system of either the wholesale or retail sales of wine and spirits but does allow for competition in the sale of wine by allowing private businesses to obtain both wholesale and retail licenses to compete with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, or PLCB. There would be no limit on the number of licenses available," according to Santoni's statement.

What do you think of privatization efforts? Please tell us in the comments. Thank you!


seen2mch February 22, 2012 at 11:59 PM
Our "will of the people"governor,Turzai and their Republican buddies ran their mouths about privatization....then they ran the numbers and guess what? The rhetoric quickly changed from privatize to modernize!! What does that tell you? Haven`t we had enough of this Tea Party/Grover Nerdquist, brain dead,starve/defund everything we don`t like mentality? Is the LCB the problem or has it been the greedy idiots(Democrat & Republican) we have in our legislature and governor`s mansion ? Veon,DeWeese,the Ories...I could go on and on...WHO keeps voting these idiots back into office? Insanity= to keep trying the same thing again and again and expect a different result. C`mon man!!
Cathy P February 23, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Privatizing the liquor stores is a bad idea. Prices will go up and efforts to keep it out of the hands of our children will go down. The state will never make that money up and in turn taxes will go up. If it isn't broke don't fix it!!!
Kevin V February 23, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Oh yeah let's take 5000 decent paying jobs away during a recession and replace with 7.00$ per hour jobs. This makes alot of sense.
Ben February 23, 2012 at 02:08 PM
Sorry Todd, your assumptions are wrong. Prices will go up if the system is privatized. What independent owner could make a living on only 2.5% profit? They would have to increase prices. There wouldn't be a net increase of jobs either. The chains would have no need to hire additional people and the 'mom & pop' stores couldn't afford to hire additional people. I'd also like to see the statistic that shows that only state employees and PLCB employees are opposed to privatization.
Todd Nuttall February 23, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Ben, the only reason the margin is 2.5% is because the PLCB is a horrendously inefficient bureaucracy (as with all government agencies). I'm certain that independent shops would be able to make far more than 2.5% profit from sales. Currently the tax on alcohol in Pennsylvania is about 24% - 18% of which comes from the "Johnstown Flood Tax of 1936". This tax was supposed to be a temporary levy to help Johnstown rebuild after the flood, and should have been repealed over 60 years ago (different discussion but it was increased twice, from 10% to 15% and then to 18% in 1968, where it stands today). The vast majority of this tax "income" goes to the state discretionary fund, and would not be eliminated (as some misinformed people in this discussion seem to believe). Whether there would be an increase in jobs or not is debatable, but when it is privatized, there is no doubt there would have to be some gain in jobs in the private sector to support the sales. Plus, the state would save additional $$ by not paying PLCB employees from state tax receipts. I don't have any statistic regarding who is for/against privatization, but I've discussed this issue with literally dozens and dozens of people, and I have not talked to a single person who believes privatization is a bad idea. But it's clear to me that the majority of people who are opposed seem to be either associated with a union, are opposed to alcohol for religious or moral reasons, or advocate for publicly funded jobs.
Sally February 23, 2012 at 08:59 PM
No to privatization!
JohnRz February 23, 2012 at 10:01 PM
I still respect teachers in spite of Jo Beth's comments.
Robert February 23, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Todd we are against privatization because it would just bring more minimum wage no benefit jobs while eliminating good paying jobs with benefits which is what we ALL need. If that is supporting unions....so be it. You don't seem to care if people lose good jobs at no expense to you. You seem to have problems with unions.....why don't you move to wisconsin or south carolina? You will fit right in here.
John February 24, 2012 at 01:07 AM
Wow, what a great debate! If this wasn't so serious this would be fun, but with $500 million in state revenues and 5000 decent jobs at stake we can't take this issue lightly. By the way the National Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends against privatization to protect the public health. Isn't that more important tha be able to buy a box of wine at WalMart?
Sue February 24, 2012 at 01:24 AM
No to privitization, And Mary Beth, next they'll come for the teachers and as they say, their overpaid jobs. How you can make a statement that the workers are overpaid is astounding. This governor has cut education to the bone, so look out, you'll be next. And just a little info for you, the PLCB workers wages are self sustaining, in other words, it does't cost you anything. Before you post, make sure you know what you're talking about.
Patlou February 25, 2012 at 12:40 AM
No No No to privatizing of wine and spirits. This governor is part of a whole group of politicians and a party that has an agenda and will do anything and everything to push this agenda through. Just look at all of the changes he is trying to make in education and what about the loss of adult basic health care since he came into office.
Jeremy L.W. Burton February 25, 2012 at 08:44 AM
No to privatization. An important question is exactly what does privatization mean? Who will B able to purchase existing state liquor stores?? ----politically connected friends of senators and governors? How will sales of these assets be conducted???---
MaryAnn McMahon February 25, 2012 at 12:57 PM
Sounds like this guy has a drinkinking problem? What do you mean it's not readily available. I was born and raised in Pennsylvania and I've never had a problem finding the state store! Why would we vote to even take away 1 sustainable job let alone 5000?
Eric February 25, 2012 at 01:41 PM
This is a steady income and job provider,for the state. If you get rid of our income producing properties, we will have to make the difference up after the money they received has been spent. The reason there is so much interest in these properties, is that the are such great investments. You can't give away colateralized morgages, but they are lined up for our State stores, Turnpike, and parking meters and garages. It is just another way for the goverment to transfer wealth to their friends. Money we can count on to finance our state budgets is more important than ever.
Art Wegweiser February 25, 2012 at 02:22 PM
I think Turzai and his GOP should move into the 21st Century. I find the present system quite satisfactory and improving. The prices are decent, the selection is fine, the employees are knowledgeable and the hours are good now that PA has moved even further from its once absurd Blue Laws. What does need to be fixed is the "Beer Distributor" nonsense. It is slowly improving but I lived for decades in a University town with ONE single source of beer - and that by the full case only. It was not a gold mine - it was a diamond mine with over 8000 contributors.
Walt Weidman February 25, 2012 at 02:27 PM
NO! To Privatzation! Don't fix what is not broken! Think long term people! A quick fix is short lived. Wake up!
Art Wegweiser February 25, 2012 at 02:31 PM
I think Turzai and his GOP buddies, especially our chubby Governor, should move into the 21st Century. Too late for our much beloved Santorum, mired in the 13th. I find the present system quite satisfactory and improving. The prices are decent, the selection is fine, the employees are knowledgeable and the hours are good now that PA has moved even further from its once absurd Blue Laws. What does need to be fixed is the "Beer Distributor" nonsense. It is slowly improving but I lived for decades in a University town with ONE single source of beer - and that by the full case only. It was not a gold mine - it was a diamond mine with over 8000 contributors.
Gino Renne February 26, 2012 at 02:12 AM
Gino No to privatization . We need to maintain the income and jobs that the current system generates.
Sam Pope February 26, 2012 at 02:21 PM
I'll make it simple, NO! Are you insane, yea lets lose more jobs...not! Lets put more drunk drivers on the road!
Bob Rosa February 26, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Why try to fix something that is not broken the system works great Taxes are collected immediately the money that's made for the state saves us the taxpayers so much more money in this state. If it goes private and that's a big if this is how it will be the liquor industry will get what they want in their right pocket the local government who's pushing this will get what they want in their back pocket and all of us working class people will pay for it all out of our pockets. Wake up America.
Doug Menapace February 26, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Absolutely NO to privatization.
MaryKay Canarte February 27, 2012 at 01:06 PM
No to Privatization and YES to jobs and the support of working families.
Steel_Town February 27, 2012 at 03:58 PM
To be able to respond to this poll, I would like to see a few examples of what the public sector does well - that is, better than the private. Manufacturing: No Contracting: No The list goes on...
Jon Wain February 28, 2012 at 01:05 AM
The state stores should remain in business.They make the state millions.They are always fully stocked and the prices are affordable.Not to mention there is a lot of people that work in them. Put the spirits in the grocery stores and now you get more empty store fronts. Look at the big picture ,not your whats better for me picture. You will end up paying more ,you watch
Allen Nuccio February 28, 2012 at 05:21 PM
A big no to privatization!
Jon Wain February 28, 2012 at 06:17 PM
simply put ,don't debate with some one dumber than you. Bill your an 93uhfgtjhg0
Jon Wain February 28, 2012 at 06:19 PM
the name truman doesn't fit histoey
Jon Wain February 28, 2012 at 06:21 PM
santorum want to be
Jessica Sinichak February 28, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Folks, again, we appreciate and value your opinions, but please refrain from name calling. Comments that do so will be deleted. Thanks!
Laura March 21, 2012 at 04:13 PM
A big yes to privatization!

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