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June 19, 2012 | By | Posted in Legislature

Liquor privatization to hold off until fall

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

HARRISBURG — The last drop of hope for privatizing liquor sales before the summer evaporated Tuesday, with leading lawmakers saying the discussion will continue over the next few months.

State Rep. Mike Turzai

House Majority Leader Rep. Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, who is championing legislative steps to privatize liquor, said support doesn’t exist to see the change through at this time.

“It’s clear that people are supportive of privatization. It’s common sense,” Turzai said. “Consumers are expecting it. But to get to the sweet spot, to be able to garner the support in the House, is going to take additional work. We need to talk to additional folks, and hopefully we’ll be able to do that over the summer.”

Turzai’s recent amendment to privatization legislation House Bill 11 would replace state-run liquor stores with 1,600 private licenses, which would be offered first to existing beer distributors.

Last week, House representatives debated the proposal on the floor, but a vote wasn’t taken. Still, Turzai said there’s “broad consensus” among legislators that something needs to be done.

Gov. Tom Corbett

Gov. Tom Corbett also supports privatization, but he said finalizing next year’s budget is the immediate priority.

“I commend (Turzai) for everything that he has been doing to get this pushed through further and further probably than it’s ever been at this point in time. I think the fall is a better time to complete this; it allows us to work on it,” Corbett said.

More than one poll shows the majority of Pennsylvanians support the idea, but union workers in the liquor industry have had visible opposition, maintaining a presence in the Capitol building as negotiations continue. Members of the United Food and Commercial Workers say privatization would eliminate around 4,500 jobs.

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Eric Boehm is a reporter for PA Independent. He can be reached at Eric@PAIndependent.com or at (717) 350-0963.

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