Pennsylvania may finally sell its state liquor stores

The current system dates to Prohibition, but today's shaky finances could prompt a privatization effort that has stalled previously.

By Jonathan Berr Mar 19, 2013 9:20AM
Credit: Matt Rourke/AP file photo
Caption: Customers shop state wine and liquor store in New Hope, PaPennsylvania's state-owned system of liquor stores, long derided by residents of the Keystone State as being woefully inefficient, is moving closer to the scrap heap.

Voting along party lines, the House Liquor Control Committee agreed to back Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to sell the locations. The proposal, opposed by Democrats and unions representing state store workers, now heads to the full House where it's scheduled for a vote on Thursday. If passed, it would then go to the full Senate.

The Philadelphia Inquirer quotes a statement from Corbett as describing the committee vote as a "momentous first step to bring Pennsylvania into the 21st century and provide Pennsylvanians with the convenience and choice that Americans in 48 other states enjoy."

One issue yet to be worked out is what will happen to the money from the sale, estimated at between $800 million and $1 billion.

The idea of selling the state store system, which dates back to the Prohibition era, has been discussed for decades but is being pushed again by Corbett as a way for Pennsylvania to address its fiscal woes. About 60% of Pennsylvanians back the plan.

"I think the odds are good that liquor privatization will happen -- there is real momentum behind the effort this year," says Nathan Benefield of the conservative Commonwealth Foundation think tank in an email to MSN Money. "The House committee just advanced legislation that includes real privatization today, that is the first time that has ever happened."

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.

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Mar 19, 2013 1:21PM
As a resident of Pennsylvania, it's amazing that our liquor stores may be sold! We have lived so long with this state sanctioned monopoly and now to join the rest of the world, well we're cautiously happy!

Every few years the drums beat in favor of privatization, but the Democrats and their union puppet masters have managed to cling to the powerful single seller system - Der Staat!

Their stores are run by the Liquor Control Board and control they did.

Once the legislation passes the Liquor Control Board will be able to to their jobs and actually enforce liquor laws instead of their old corrupt monopoly.

Mar 19, 2013 11:51AM
I lived in Pa. and it truly was a pain to have to run to a liquor store every time you wanted a wine or whatever was your taste.  It was very inconvenient to say the least.  Living now in Ca. I can walk into any grocery store or pharmacy and get what I discounted prices.  I know Pa. will lose money on selling these liquor stores but more people will buy liquor at their local convenience store thus making up for the loss.  So I think.
Mar 19, 2013 1:09PM
Mar 19, 2013 1:28PM

Nice now I can buy shots of 151 for the young gals at the Sproul Rd. Wawa

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