By Chris Bowman, Staff Writer
Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-23) is planning to reintroduce a bill next week that would abolish the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and privatize the sale of wine and spirits in Pennsylvania.
Turzai’s legislation would close 609 state-operated stores, allowing for up to 750 licenses to be auctioned for new, privately-owned stores, create separate licenses for smaller and larger stores, and impose a “gallonage” tax on the sale of wine and spirits, a policy already found in 33 states. Pennsylvania is one of two states (the other is Utah) to have state-owned and operated stores.
States imposing the “gallonage” tax average $4.50 to $5 per gallon though they range widely from $1.80 to $12.80. Turzai also estimates the initial auction of licenses could garner up to $2 billion in state revenue. This new tax policy supplants the Commonwealth’s current 18% tax on booze which generated $271 million in state revenue.
Governor Corbett has commissioned a report studying the economics of privatizing.
Deregulating liquor stores has been a favorite of Turzai, who unsuccessfully introduced a nearly identical measure last year. The Republican leader hasn’t updated the issue’s page on his website since.
A union state, some Commonwealth legislators are skeptical the legislation will gain traction. Representative Dwight Evans (D-203) stated he didn’t think the bill would be able to pass the House, despite the Republican majority. Corbett has also supported privatization measures.
State Legislators will have time to think on the subject, as they are currently on their summer vacation. The earliest possible vote will occur in September.