New report estimates selling Pa. liquor licenses could net $1.6 billion

    Gov. Tom Corbett says the private study he commissioned to size up Pennsylvania’s liquor system calls for a privatization plan similar to one being pushed by the state House majority leader.

    The study released Tuesday by the governor says the state could make up to $1.6 billion from the sale of wholesale and retail licenses.

    House Majority Leader Mike Turzai has estimated a return of as much as $2 billion according to his own privatization plan.

    There’s a range of possible sums the state could make if it sells off its liquor stores, said Steve Miskin, spokesman for the House GOP.

    “That to us, and I believe to the governor, is basically icing on the cake. It’s about should government be in the business of selling alcohol? Should it be in the business of promoting and selling alcohol?” he said. “And, to us, it’s a resounding no, no, no.”

    Revenue estimates are based on inflated numbers, countered Bill Patton, spokesman for the House Democrats. He said liquor licenses won’t sell for as much as supporters of privatization say.

    “Privatization is a bad idea whose time has not come. It’s going to cost thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania,” he said. “It does not raise the kind of money its proponents claim.”

    Rep. John Taylor, the Republican chair of the House Liquor Control Committee, has said although he supports Turzai’s privatization measure, it’s not going to be politically easy to pass.

    “If we were devising a system from scratch, we would not devise a system that the state controlled. However, that’s not the case. We’re dealing with the situation we have,” Taylor said. “The ripple effects of any legislation that involves liquor is something that we have to consider.”

    In a statement, Corbett said he would sign a viable proposal for privatizing the liquor stores. He said he’s still considering how the state would spend revenue made from the sale of licenses.

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