Several Lehigh Valley lawmakers look favorably upon Gov. Tom Corbett's plan to privatize the state's approximately 620 wine and liquor stores.
Under Corbett's plan, announced Wednesday afternoon in Pittsburgh, state liquor stores would be eliminated. That, it is hoped, would increase availability of beer, wine and liquor sales.
In a press release, Corbett committed $1 billion in proceeds from the process to education funding.
Corbett said that the $1 billion will be used to create the Passport for Learning Block Grant, which will provide flexibility to schools.
“Our plan gives consumers what they want by increasing choice and convenience, and helps to secure our future by adding $1 billion in funding toward the education of our children, without raising any taxes," Corbett said in the press release.
State Sen. Bob Mensch, R-24th District, said the idea of privatizing state liquor sales is popular within his district.
"Divesting is not a bad idea to me," said Mensch. "To me, it's an economically-driven decision. It could be handled by the private sector."
Mensch said he supported a bill introduced by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny. That bill, however, died before making it into the state Senate.
In Turzai’s plan, beer distributors would have the first shot at buying 1,600 new liquor licenses — finally allowing Pennsylvanians to purchase beer and liquor in the same location.
Steve DeFrank, a spokesman for State Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-18th District, said the senator would have no statement on the matter at this time.
"We'll need at least a couple of days," DeFrank said. "The devil is always in the details. We'll have our Law and Justice committee as well as appropriations committee look at the details."
State Rep. Ryan McKenzie, R-134th District, said he supports efforts to remove government competition from industries that can be adequately operated by the private sector.
"Privatizing the liquor system in Pennsylvania provides the opportunity to reduce the size of government and allows the private sector to take over," he said.
McKenzie said he is reviewing the financial details of the proposal, along with the safety precautions that will be implemented alongside the private sale of wine and spirits.
State Rep. Marcia Hahn, R-138th District, said she was in favor of privatization during the last legislative session and stated 65 percent of her constituents agreed.
"I'm in favor of the concept," Hahn said. "There are just a few more things that I need to look at."
State Rep. Joe Emrick, R-137th District, said he's "generally a free market guy," but didn't have a position on the legislation yet since he hadn't thoroughly vetted it.
Meanwhile, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce weighed in with the following statement:
"The Chamber doesn’t have a formal stance. We commend the Governor for putting this entrepreneurial proposal on the table. The Chamber is built on the spirit of enterprise and there are certainly a number of members who have interest in buying into an opportunity like this. As always, jobs are a concern but we look forward to learning more details as the plan is debated in Harrisburg."
Corbett said the $1 billion in revenue will come from the three- to four-year process of selling the Liquor Control Board. A total of $575 million will come from the wholesale license process, $224 million from the wine and spirits retail auction process, $107 million from the wine/beer license application process and $112.5 million in the enhanced beer distributor application process.