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Pennsylvania Pols Eye Scaled-Down Privatization, Modernization Plans

March 24, 2014

With recent efforts to privatize Pennsylvania’s wine and spirits retail business foundering in the state legislature, governor Tom Corbett and some lawmakers are now exploring new plans that would either partially privatize or simply modernize the current system.

One new proposal, reported by Allentown’s Morning Call newspaper, would keep spirits sales under state control while offering grocery and convenience outlets the ability to sell up to four bottles of wine at a time via $10,000 per annum retail licenses. Existing beer retailers—referred to as beer distributors in Pennsylvania—could also extend into wine. Despite being a watered-down version of the full privatization plan passed last year in the Pennsylvania House, this new effort is already taking fire, notably from the United Food and Commercial Workers union, representing the state’s retail employees, and DISCUS, which says it would cost $20 million in state revenue due to new retail competition.

A second plan, introduced by Rep. Gene DiGirolomo of Bucks County, would allow state-owned retail wine and spirits stores to expand Sunday hours, offer the Liquor Control Board (PLCB) more pricing flexibility (rather than the current uniform markup), and encourage more “store within a store” programs in which the state retails wine and spirits in separate shops within existing grocery stores. DiGirolomo claims the plan could add $185 million to state coffers in the first year.

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