Liquor privatization all but disappeared from the legislative scene last year. Now the issue is back as state lawmakers discuss top priorities for the new legislative session. Two years ago, a bill to phase out state wine and spirit stores made history: it passed the House. A few months later, it died unceremoniously in the Senate.
But the new legislative session holds promise for House supporters, who say liquor privatization should be part of any policy compromise.
Republican House Majority Leader Dave Reed said it’s too early to tell if the issue will be a dealmaker or deal-breaker, but he noted it’s certainly farther along the legislative process than other major proposals.
“I think just by nature of it having passed the House almost two years ago, it just gets a little step forward.”
Reed said liquor privatization has been vetted more than other proposals.
“I think liquor privatization is probably, is at the forefront right now solely based upon the fact that if you look at the major public policy items out there, it’s the only one that’s actually passed one of the chambers. So from a House perspective, it’s already teed up. We’ve had the discussion, we’ve just got to have a little bit more discussion to put it back on the table.”
Neither the Senate GOP nor Governor Tom Wolf’s administration is warm to liquor privatization. But some say their competing priorities may necessitate a big, package deal.
Lawmakers are bracing for a multi-billion-dollar budget gap, and selling off some portion of the state system could be a money-maker.