by AmyJo Brown
Gov. Tom Corbett announced Wednesday a proposal to privatize the state's liquor system and send the $1 billion in expected revenue into public schools.
"It is time for Pennsylvania to lift the rules that have been in place for 75 years," Corbett said. "Our plan gets the state out of the liquor business."
At the press conference, which was held Downtown, Corbett said the plan will include auctioning 1,200 licenses to sell wine and spirits. The state operates 600 such state stores now. Beer distributors would be able to apply for the wine and spirits license as well, under an "enhanced beer distributor" category. Licenses to sell beer and wine would be uncapped.
If privatization is approved by the legislature, the transition process is expected to take three to four years. The sate Liquor Control Board will remain for regulation and enforcement. The Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement will get a 22 percent increase in funding under the Governor's proposal.
Privatization is expected to generate $1 billion in revenue: $575 million from the wholesale license process, $224 million from the wine and spirits retail auction process, $107 million from wine and beer license applications and $112.5 million from the enhanced beer distributor application process.
Corbett says the $1 billion will be earmarked for education via the Passport for Learning Block Grant. The grant can be used by schools in four areas: school safety, enhanced early education programs, individualized learning and science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses and programs.
Corbett was joined at the press conference by several Republican representatives, including: Mike Turzai, Rick Saccone, Mike Regan, Jeff Pyle, Dan Moul, Warren Kampf, Seth Grove, Eli Evankovich, Harold English, George Dunbar, and John Lawrence. A bill to be introduced into the House of Representatives outlining the proposal is expected to be announced next week.
Corbett says he expects some pushback on the idea of privatizing the system from labor, but that the unions won't be united. While some will want to protect the current state employees of the PLCB, others are customers who will want the change, he said.
The proposal includes tax credits for businesses that employ former PLCB employees, as well as a committee to help any displaced employees find new employment.
"I think we're going to have a spirited discussion," he said. But, "We've been nipping and tucking at this. This is the time to go in and do it."
The proposal also increases funding for alcohol treatment and prevention and increased penalties for those who sell to minors and visibly intoxicated people.