The big issue of whether to privatize Pennsylvania's liquor stores will take center stage today as Gov. Tom Corbett announces plans to sell them off.
Corbett will call for liquor store licenses to be auctioned off, according to multiple sources. Sales of beer and wine could be opened up to various retailers including drug stores and big-box department stores.
Related story: Pa.'s Prohibition Era May Finally End
The Republican governor is expected to announce his plan at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Pittsburgh. This move comes on the heels of plans to privatize the PA Lottery -- another controversial move.
Pennsylvania has about 620 state stores.
Union groups have argued that more than 4,500 jobs will be lost if the state system is privatized, but Republicans have countered by saying that the 1,600 private sector stores will create additional opportunities for jobs — including union jobs.
Liquor store unions gave $140,000 in campaign donations to state-level candidates last year, according to a Pa. Independent report.
Corbett has supported privatization since he took office in 2011.
Polls have consistently shown a majority of Pennsylvanians are in favor of privatizing the liquor system, but the state monopoly set up in the wake of Prohibition has remained stubborn despite numerous attempts to end it, including efforts by the past two Republican administrations in Harrisburg during the 1980s and 1990s, accoring to a Pa. Independent report.
Gene Barr, president of the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, was one of several people invited to the governor’s office recently to weigh in on the liquor plan. He said Pennsylvania needs rethink how alcohol is sold.
The final plan should include more retail locations, including grocery stores and convenience stores, he said.
“Our view is that simply changing the person behind the counter isn’t good enough,” Barr told the Pa. Independent.