Turzai Legislation Gets Pennsylvania Out of the Alcohol Business
HARRISBURG – To move Pennsylvania out of the post-Prohibition era by allowing the private sector to sell wine and spirits, House Majority Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny County) will unveil legislation to privatize wine and liquor sales in the Commonwealth.
“Should Pennsylvania be in the business of selling alcohol? Is this a core government function? I don’t think so, and the large majority of Pennsylvanians agree,” Turzai said. “The current system is antiquated and out of touch. It’s time to end the statewide monopoly and give consumers better selection and more convenience.”
Currently only two states, Pennsylvania and Utah, have complete control over wholesale and retail operations. Turzai’s legislation would privatize the wholesale and retail operations of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB).
House Bill 11 will continue to generate annual revenues through a reformed tax structure, which includes elimination of the 18 percent Johnstown Flood tax and the 30 percent markup by the PLCB. These taxes and charges would be replaced with a fairer gallonage tax. The state will also receive tax revenues from the new retail and wholesale businesses that would be created.
In addition this legislation also strengthens law enforcement supervision of alcohol sales and enhances alcohol safety and awareness programs. The proposal enhances enforcement of liquor laws by providing concurrent jurisdiction for state and local police; requiring retail managers and employees to attend R.A.M.P. (Responsible Alcohol Management Program) training; mandating the use of I.D. scanners with age verification software; requiring retail operations to be maintained in a separate area dedicated to the sale of liquor and all retail store employees to be at least 21 years old; and subjecting retail licensees to “age compliance checks” to ensure against selling to minors. Licensees who fail to adhere to these standards will face heavy penalties and possible suspension or revocation of their licenses.
Under this proposal, the PLCB’s role will focus solely on regulation, enforcement and education, removing the conflict of interest that currently exists by having the same entity promote and regulate alcohol sales.
Current PLCB employees displaced by privatization will receive the following opportunites: hiring preference in other state jobs; tax credits for employers who would hire them full-time; and education grants to help retrain employees to perform other jobs.
The current monopoly system was created in 1933 by then-Gov. Gifford Pinchot, who said the PLCB’s mission was to make liquor sales “as inconvenient and expensive as possible.” Over the past few years, the PLCB has attempted to improve customer service with miserable results. In 2009, the PLCB paid $173,000 for an outside company to provide its employees with courtesy training. The organization also spent more than $4 million a year on advertising and millions of dollars on a “rebranding effort” – even though the PLCB has a monopoly on the market in Pennsylvania. Also, the wine kiosk program has fallen short of projected sales. As a result, Wegman’s has recently decided to decommission 10 wine kiosks in its Pennsylvania stores.
A June 14 Quinnipiac University statewide poll shows 69 percent of Pennsylvanians polled are in favor of selling the state liquor stores. Numerous newspapers from across the Commonwealth have also called for privatization of the PLCB.
“This is a proposal whose time has come,” Turzai said. “It’s time to put Pennsylvania in step with the rest of the country.”
State Representative Mike Turzai
28th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives