Legislators talk liquor store issue
iocals making quick stops into Big Top Beverages on Easton ooad for cases of their favorite brews may have been surprised to see more than beer cases gathered at the front of the store Wednesday.
Beverage purveyors, employees, community members and state legislators met at Big Top for a House Democratic Committee Hearing to discuss Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration’s plans to privatize the Pennsylvania liquor stores.
March 2M, the Pennsylvania House of oepresentatives approved House Bill TVM, which aims to transfer the business of selling alcohol from the state to the private sector.
fn order to implement this, around N,2MM liquor licenses will be available to existing beer distributors and then to the public. rnder the bill, distributors will be able to sell growlers, sixpacks or N2-packs in addition to cases. Grocery store wine licenses and wineto-go permits will also be available.
ff the beer distributors want to purchase a license, the state will loan them funds, and they will have about four years to pay it back, said state oep. Paul Costa, D-34.
Privatizing the liquor stores is estimated to generate millions of dollars in revenue.
The bill is scheduled to go before the senate this year for further action.
When the House approved the bill, many state representatives spoke in support of the decision.
“lur current system for selling alcohol in Pennsylvania is an anachronism, it’s old-fashioned and it needs change,” said state oep. hate Harper, o-SN, in a press release. “Ask anybody what they want, and they will tell you they don’t think they should have to go to a government store to buy a bottle of wine. They don’t think the state should be the exclusive purveyor of beer, wine and spirits. iet’s stop putting another coat of shellac on a shed that’s falling down. ft’s time to move on.” lthers shared Harper’s views. “Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly agree that state government shouldn’t be in the business of selling alcohol,” said state oep. Becky Corbin, o-NRR, in a separate news release. “House Bill TVM offers consumers great choice and flH[LELOLWy wKLOH JHWWLnJ JRYHUnPHnW back to core functions of education, transportation and public safety.”
However, during the hearing, some representatives shared their concerns about state liquor privatization, espeFLDOOy Ln UHJDUGs WR finDnFH.
The liquor industry produces about $100 PLOOLRn GROODUs RI SURfiW DnnuDOOy for the state, said state oep. Madeleine Dean, D-NR3.
The state could lose ANTR million each year if this bill becomes law, Costa said.
The state could also lose around 3,RMM employees that are working for the liquor industry and some small beer distributors could be put out of business by the bigger stores, he said.
fn addition, the state plans to phase out SMM liquor stores if the privatization law passes.
David Bender, executive director of Compass Mark, a youth services and training provider in iancaster, testifiHG WKDW Ln DERuW 10 yHDUs WKH SULYDtized system would generate an estimated A444 million less per year than the current system.
“According to my rough calculations, the only way to balance the books with privatization under this bill is to increase the liquor tax from NU percent to 32 percent,” he said.
There were also concerns raised about the social impacts privatization could have.
Washington state, which switched to a privatized system last gune, has seen robberies increase by 42 percent, burglaries by 4M percent, juvenile arrests by 2N percent and Drfs have seen a NM percent increase in some of the towns, said President of the rnited cood and Commercial Workers iocal NTTS Wendell voung.
“Pennsylvania has amongst the lowest per capita rate of wine and spirits consumption in the nation,” voung said. “We have amongst the highest revenue that comes back to taxpayers per gallon of wine and spirits sold. We also have the lowest death rate associated with the consumption of alcohol in the nation. f think we have a good thing going [the way things are].”
lthers at the hearing agreed that the state “has a good thing going” and did not want to see privatization, because that could potentially put them out of a job.
Nancy Dillet, an employee at the genkintown Wine and Spirits store, WHsWLfiHG WKDW KHU MRE KDs KHOSHG KHU provide a comfortable living for her family and losing it would have “immediate and lasting impacts.”
“As [my children] grow older and enter new stages in their life, they look to me for support,” she said. “Working at PiCB enables me to provide for my family … ft’s nothing fancy, but we get by.”
Christine May, who has been a clerk at the Horsham Wine and Spirits for two years, said she works there parttime to help pay for her grandchildren’s day care fees.
“Working at the PiCB gives me peace of mind, knowing if need be, f can go full-time and provide the wagHs DnG EHnHfiWs nHFHssDUy IRU NHHSLnJ [Py KusEDnG DnG ,@ DflRDW Ln WURuEOHG times,” she said.