HARRISBURG, Pa.—Franklin County, Pa., lawmakers say they need more information about how the state would privatize its liquor stores before they decide if they could support the effort.
Gov. Tom Corbett this week released a consultant’s report that found ridding Pennsylvania of state-owned liquor stores could generate $1.6 billion through licensing.
Corbett called a proposal from House Majority Leader Mike Turzai a “place to start” in an initiative that the consultant estimated would take several years to achieve.
In interviews Wednesday, state Rep. Todd Rock, R-Franklin, state Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland, and state Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Franklin/Adams/York, said much remains to be decided if the General Assembly authorizes privatizing liquor sales.
“I just need to know more about it, and how we’re going to do it,” Rock said.
“I am open to looking at other ways to do this, but I don’t want to see alcohol at every corner convenience store,” Alloway said.
“I’m very open to the idea. If there’s ever a time to look at a privatization deal, the time is now,” Kauffman said, saying it could provide a one-time infusion into state coffers.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board sells wine and liquor in about 610 stores statewide. Beer is sold separately in Pennsylvania in a system of private sales that is also under fire and facing changes.
Alloway said he has concerns about the possible proliferation of alcohol if Pennsylvania privatizes its system.
“I fully understand the argument that government should not be in the business of selling alcohol. However, for me, I don’t think it’s good public policy to have alcohol on every corner and in every convenience store,” he said.
Turzai has suggested limiting the number of retail and wholesale licenses.
Businesses seeking licenses need to prove they are responsible and don’t sell to underage patrons, Alloway said.
The number of licenses needs to be limited, and stores selling liquor need to have separate register areas, Kauffman said.
“You wouldn’t be walking into Sheetz or walking into Giant and grabbing your milk and your liquor” at one time, he said.
Rock said rank-and-file legislators have had little input or insight into how liquor stores could be privatized.
“We have not had any real serious discussion here,” he said.
Kauffman said privatization does not seem to have a majority vote in the House or overwhelming support in the Senate.
“It’s certainly going to be a hard sell overall,” Kauffman said. “It really doesn’t look probable.”
If the changeover generated revenue, Rock would want that money spent on roads and bridges.