Source: The Morning Call

Gov. Tom Corbett served up a liquor privatization plan in Pittsburgh that would eliminate state liquor stores and dramatically expand the availability of wine, beer and liquor, while dumping the licensing proceeds into a $1 billion, four-year education grant program.

Under the plan the state would auction off enough wine and liquor retail licenses to roughly double the number of locations selling wine and spirits.

On top of that, the plan would offer an unlimited number of licenses to sell small quantities of beer and wine to convenience stores, supermarkets, drug stores and big-box retailers.

“If we are to gain the advantage of greater consumer choice and greater consumer convenience, we should not do it halfway,” Corbett said.

License fee proceeds would produce $1 billion over four years to fund grants that would fund programs for early learning, science and technology education, individualized education and school safety.

Despite listing privatization as one of his priorities, it was the first time the governor has offered his own plan to extract the state from the wine and spirits business. The plan is expected to be tied to Corbett’s 2013-2014 budget.

Recent efforts to end the state monopoly have been led by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, an Allegheny County Republican, but have bogged down in disputes among the various interest groups involved in the wine, beer and liquor trade, from grocery and convenience stores, to beer distributors and taverns.

Corbett has been briefing some of those groups over the last week or two. Representatives of the groups said the governor’s plan will go beyond the version of liquor privatization that was considered by lawmakers last year, to make wine, beer and liquor available at a broad variety of outlets in the state.

In 2011, Turzai offered a fairly broad plan that would have sold for selling the state’s wholesale wine and liquor operations and auctioned off some 1,250 retail liquor licenses to the highest bidders. The state operates 621 wine and liquor stores. Proceeds were estimated at between $1.5 million and $2 million.

It got bogged down in the House Liquor Control Committee, where it was amended to allow state stores to remain open.

Turzai offered a new plan in May 2012 to create 1,600 wine and liquor retail licenses, with the state’s 1,100 beer distributors getting the first crack to purchase them for an up-front fee. The rest would be auctioned off, but grocery stores currently selling beer would have to wait ten years to apply to add wine and liquor. It also went nowhere.


Source: The Morning Call,0,1273955.story


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