PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The debate is heating up over whether or not to privatize Pennsylvania’s state liquor store system.
The lawmaker who is the latest to put a proposal on the table, and another lawmaker who is absolutely opposed, squared off during a taping of the KD-PG Sunday Edition.
On one side is State House Majority Leader Republican Mike Turzai, and on the other is Democrat Jim Ferlo. Both have very different views on how wine and spirits should be sold in Pennsylvania.
“Pennsylvania shouldn’t be in that business,” said Turzai. “Pennsylvania should be like the vast majority of states – out of the business of pushing on a wholesale and retail basis alcohol sales.”
“But the fact of the matter is that we have an enviable system that produces hundreds of millions of dollars and has for decades back to the state government,” said Ferlo. “We have well-paying, family-sustaining middle class jobs.”
Under Turzai’s plan, the state will auction off 1,250 licenses to private retailers, replacing the current 621 state liquor stores, basically doubling the number of retail wine and spirits outlets.
The way Turzai envisions it, some would be specialty wine stores catering to connoisseurs, others would be supermarkets and big box stores like Walmart, where shoppers would value the convenience.
Ferlo doesn’t buy it.
“If you take a poll and ask if the consumer would like to go to the supermarket and pick up a bottle of wine or a six pack, they’re going to say yes; but when you actually delve into what the benefits are that accrue back to state government and the quality of life of our communities, people begin to change their view,” he said.
“It is not an ideological issue. My wife would like to be able to pick up a bottle of wine at the grocery store,” added Turzai. “Sorry Jim, that’s not ideological, it’s about convenience; it’s about selection, it’s about price.”
The governor, a supporter of privatization, says he plans to appoint a commission to study the issue.