Pennsylvania’s top fiscal watchdog says those who want to sell off the state’s liquor stores are barking up the wrong tree.
Auditor General Jack Wagner said he’s not in favor of the State House proposal to privatize liquor and wine sales because the Liquor Control Board is among the few profit-making ventures in state government.
“I am not convinced that the proposal of privatization that has been put forth is in the best interest of Pennsylvania for a multitude of reasons,” Wagner said Tuesday. “First and foremost, it takes away a profit-making venture from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.”
LCB profits were up more than $30 million last year, but still too low for the agency to make its required contribution to the state general fund without dipping into savings.
Wagner said lifting certain laws on wine and liquor sales could help the LCB increase its revenues.
“They’ve been talking about privatization of the liquor system. Well, you don’t need privatization to open the liquor stores seven days a week. You don’t need privatization to have longer hours within the liquor system. You don’t need privatization for the public to buy specialty wines in other states,” Wagner said. “You simply need to change the law.”
A current proposal estimates the state can make $2 billion by selling off the liquor stores. Wagner said if the state were to sell about 1,000 licenses, each one will cost $2 million.
“The cost of a license for the tavern or a beer distributor today is $50,000 or $100,000 and that proposal is saying that a license will cost $2 million dollars? Well, as auditor general, I see those numbers and those numbers simply don’t wash,” he said.