GOP leaders in the Pennsylvania Senate have presented a counter-offer to the state House’s liquor privatization plan, though they admit they don’t yet have the votes to pass it out of their chamber.
The measure could expand the sale of alcohol to some 14,000 additional retailers without setting a hard line on the closing of state stores.
It would allow beer distributors, hotels and restaurants to sell wine and liquor and allow certain grocery stores to sell wine.
It would also include a number of so-called modernization measures — for instance, allowing state stores to extend their hours and letting beer distributors sell alcohol in smaller quantities.
Sen. Chuck McIlhinney, R-Bucks, said his measure would not sell off the state’s wholesale operation for wine and liquor, but set up a study of such divestment in two years.
“What we’re doing is increasing the value of our wholesale system,” he said. “So when we take the time to evaluate in a couple of years, it’s going to be worth considerably more as a privatized system than it is right now with an artificially controlled 600 or so stores that we currently have.”
Republican House leaders and the Corbett administration have said privatization of the state’s wholesale operation is important to an acceptable bill.
The plan would also eliminate the 18 percent tax on wine and liquor.
Republicans say even without the tax, the plan would mean an increase in state revenue by as much as $170 million in the first year.
Union members and Democrats scoff at the estimate.