Black Clergy of Philadelphia opposes Pa. liquor privatization plan

    Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity has come out in opposition to Gov. Tom Corbett’s plan to privatize Pennsylvania state liquor stores.

    Group president, the Rev. Terrence Griffith, said Thursday the measure would make it easier to obtain alcohol. That, he said, would cause a spike in underage drinking and drunken driving.

    “We do not want to see liquor sold on every corner in the city of Philadelphia,” Griffith said in a phone interview. “We don’t want to see more deaths in our community. We don’t want to see more alcoholics in our community.”

    Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity also is concerned about the loss of jobs at the state-owned stores. The group joins Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Pennsylvania NAACP, and others in opposing the plan.

    The group’s announcement comes as the state House and Senate begin outlining their 2014 budget proposals.Corbett initially urged legislators to send him a bill for liquor liberalization in time for the new fiscal year, but the initiative is conspicuously absent from early fiscal blueprints.

    Majority House Republicans Wednesday outlined a $28.3 billion budget plan that boosts K-12 education funding, restores several public health programs, hires 300 new state troopers, and increases funding for some state offices.

    House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, has said that should the governor’s proposed privatization of state liquor stores pass, revenues from the auction of new licenses will not affect the 2013-14 state budget.

    In February, Corbett unveiled a plan to dismantle the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and give up control of all state liquor stores as part of his initial budgeting agenda.

    The governor and his allies said it would raise between $800 million and $1.2 billion by selling state liquor stores and auctioning off new private liquor licenses. Corbett suggested that the $1 billion yield would go toward funding education.

    A compromise bill in the House passed in March, but debate has stalled in the Senate.

    The House bill would create 1,200 new private wine and liquor store licenses, but would set competitive standards that state stores must meet in order to remain open, rather than explicitly shut down all state-controlled outfits.

    The Senate opens a third and final public hearing Tuesday to debate the governor’s plan on liquor privatization.

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