A plan to sell Pennsylvania’s liquor stores has picked up support among some state Senate Republicans.
Senate Majority Whip Patrick Browne of Lehigh County said he’s backing the plan to put sales of wine and liquor in the hands of the private sector. He’s joined by Sen. Bob Mensch, another Republican from the Lehigh Valley.
Support for the proposal has been iffy in the chamber for several months.
Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati has insisted a Marcellus Shale local impact fee is a higher priority.
But in the House, Majority Leader Mike Turzai said he doesn’t foresee one issue eclipsing the other.
Scarnati “has made it clear that privatization is something that he thinks needs to get done too. But he wants to make sure that certain of his initiatives, particularly the impact fee, and you know, appropriate regulations with respect to the Marcellus industry, are also going to get done,” Turzai said. “And we understand the importance of all these issues. “
House and Senate Republicans say they’ll take their cue from Gov. Tom Corbett, who is reviewing a private firm’s report sizing up how much Pennsylvania can make by selling the state stores.
Whatever the state makes in the sale should go toward funding transportation infrastructure, said several House Republicans.
Representative Jerry Knowles of Berks County proposes taking the one-time profit and using “each and every penny” to improve roads and bridges.
Turzai said he likes the idea.
“I’m very open to it. Very, very open to it. I think it’s a good jump-start, particularly for roads and bridges,” he said.
Turzai has said the auction of liquor licenses could net the state as much as $2 billion, an estimate that critics have disputed. Meanwhile there is a $3.5 billion annual gap in funding for the state’s transportation infrastructure.