Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai is touting a new plan to sell off state-run liquor stores as a way to more than double the number of places where alcohol can be sold.
If passed, the measure will mean it’s bidding time for more than 1,200 liquor sale licenses. Five-hundred would be reserved for independent liquor and wine stores and the rest for larger grocery stores.
Turzai said the plan would make it more convenient for people to buy alcohol, as well as make prices competitive. The proposal would also mean significantly fewer people will be employed by the state’s Liquor Control Board.
Wendell Young, head of the United Federation of Commercial Workers’ Pennsylvania chapter, says alcohol sales don’t need an overhaul.
“This system works for all Pennsylvanians, and we shouldn’t turn it over to a few well-placed deep-pocketed special interests just because Mike Turzai wants to go trolling for contributions this summer,” Young said Wednesday.
Turzai says selling off liquor licenses could net up to $2 billion, which could then be invested in transportation and used to reduce the commonwealth’s pension debt.
The measure would keep the current 6 percent tax on alcohol sales between wholesalers and retailers.
The measure would also result in layoffs of about 5,000 employees who currently work at state-run liquor stores. That’s another aspect of the plan Young finds objectionable.
“We’re not going to take for granted 5,000 Pennsylvanians who work for the state of Pennsylvania, do a good job everyday, work for an agency that’s profitable and are not a burden on taxpayers,” he said. “In fact, they’re one of the few parts of Pennsylvania that produces a good bottom line for the taxpayers of Pennsylvania.”
Gov. Tom Corbett says liquor store privatization among his top legislative priorities for the fall.