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Plan To Privatize State Stores Gets New Life

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(Credit: CBS)

(Credit: CBS)

Election Returns

Control of the Pennsylvania governor’s mansion switched parties Tuesday night, just as it has every eight years since World War II.

One place where you may see the impact of Tom Corbett’s election is at the state store.

This new governor has a lengthy agenda — and a lot of problems to deal with.

The looming budget deficit has prompted some to bring up a popular idea — sell the liquor stores — because the sale could raise billions of dollars in cash for the state.

But it’s only one of many reforms that Tom Corbett hopes a new Republican-controlled legislature will address.

Buoyed by a big win on Tuesday, Governor-elect Tom Corbett laid low on Wednesday — holding staff meetings — knowing that he has a major challenges ahead.

“The first official act will be to introduce our reform package that we’d promise the first thing that we would do in office,” says Corbett.

That includes reducing the size and cost of government by 10 percent, eliminating so-called walking around money handed out by legislators, reducing the state auto fleet and ending taxpayer-paid per diems for legislators.

Corbett will be the first governor in nearly a decade whose party also controls both chambers of the state legislature, but will Republicans pass his proposals when it affects them?

“It’s definitely possible. Look, families and small businesses are making those decisions every single day. They’re living within their means. State government has got to do the same,” says McCandless State Rep. Mike Turzai.

Turzai, who hopes to be majority leader in the Republican-controlled House, says the reforms Corbett wants will pass, including an end to per diems and wams.

“When your people are demanding mean and lean government, the discretionary money has to go,” says Turzai.

But one proposal, selling off the state liquor stores, has been attempted by many governors in the past — will Republican control of the legislature now finally guarantee its passage?

Turzai, who will introduce the privatization bill, says, “I was honored that Tom Corbett endorsed my proposal, and yes we are going to run that bill, and I believe it is going to become law.”

Turzai may be optimistic that a Republican legislature will approve the sale of the state liquor system next year.

But it’s hardly a done deal.

Most government privatization plans run into roadblocks — just ask Mayor Ravenstahl on the parking garages or Governor Rendell on the turnpike.

But with one party control in Harrisburg, the prospect of selling the liquor stores is a whole lot more possible today than it was 48 hours ago.

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