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January 30, 2013 | By | Posted in WatchBlog

WATCHBLOG: Details of Corbett’s liquor privatization plan announced

By Melissa Daniels| PA Independent

NEW CHAPTER FOR ALCOHOL IN PENNSYLVANIA? Gov. Corbett announced his plans to privatize the state-run wine and spirit system, which has existed since Prohibition ended.

HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett is looking to make history by getting Pennsylvania out of the liquor business.

The bottom line, Corbett said, is bringing more convenience and choice to consumers.

“I want a system that gives people greater flexibility and control over their purchases,” Corbett said.

The transition would change where Pennsylvania consumers can purchase alcohol, and from who, by closing existing state-run liquor stores, auctioning off new licenses and expanding what types of stores can sell beer, wine or liquor.

Corbett announced the plan at a press conference Wednesday, surrounded by a contingent of Republican state lawmakers and administration officials.

Here’s what preliminary outlines of Corbett’s plan include:

  • The plan allows for up to twice as many wine and liquor stores than exist in the system, up to 1,200 as opposed to about 620. Grocery stores, beer distributors and other retailers could bid on the new licenses.  It is not clear at this time how many licenses one bidder could receive.
  • Big-box stores, like Wal-Mart, supermarkets, convenience stores and drug stores could also apply for licenses to sell beer and wine.
  • Existing beer distributors would have the option to apply for an “enhanced license” to sell wine as well as six-packs of beer instead of only cases. They could also apply for a wine and spirits license to add those products to their inventory.
  • Restaurants and bars, which currently have the option of selling six packs of beer, would be able to sell beer and up to six bottles of wine.

Under Corbett’s plan, the state’s 18 percent Johnstown flood tax on alcohol would still apply.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, which operates the state-run stores, would still exist in a licensing capacity.

The proposal would also increase penalties for public drunkenness or selling alcohol to minors. Fine ranges would increase from $1,000 – $5,000  to $5,000 – $10,000.

Selling off the state system would bring in more than $1 billion over, according to the administration. That would come from auctioning off wholesale and retail licenses, and the applications for wine and beer or enhanced beer distributor licenses.

These funds would be redirected towards a “Passport to Learning Block Grant for public schools. The four-year grant program would provide funds for school safety, early education, individual learning programs and development of technology, math, science and engineering programs.

Before any of Corbett’s plan get realized, though, the General Assembly must enact legislation where plans could change in any number of ways.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, said the House Liquor Control Committee will begin working on legislation to “build upon the framework offered by the governor.”

Contact Melissa Daniels at melissa@paindependent.com

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Melissa Daniels is a reporter for PA Independent. She can be reached at 717-350-0962 or Melissa@PAIndependent.com

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