Bizzarro: Liquor privatization plan robs state of valuable revenue

HARRISBURG, Feb. 26 – Citing the potential for consumer inconvenience and significant revenue losses, state Rep. Ryan A. Bizzarro, D-Erie, today voted against House Bill 466, which would privatize the state’s wine and spirits stores.

Bizzarro said the state’s 605 liquor stores contribute $80 million each year to Pennsylvania’s General Fund. He noted such a reliable revenue stream should not be cast aside, especially when the state currently faces a budget deficit of more than $2 billion.

"Dismantling such a lucrative system will not generate significant revenue in the short term, so claims that privatization would help close the budget gap are misleading," Bizzarro said. "What’s worse, Pennsylvania stands to lose nearly $3 billion over the next 20 years if privatization is enacted. We need to make sound fiscal decisions to begin to repair the economic damage from the last four years, and not focus our efforts on trying to push through a faulty plan to sell a reliable asset."

Bizzarro also pointed to H.B. 466’s additional costs to the state and the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), which would include separation costs for 4,000 displaced state workers and fees for breaking leases.

In addition, Bizzarro noted the legislation would make it more difficult for consumers to obtain the alcohol they want at a stable price.

"Consumers may not know where they would be able to purchase certain types or brands of alcohol, and may have to travel from store to store to get everything on their shopping list," Bizzarro said. "The wide range of license fees would also lead to price differences from county to county, which would be incredibly frustrating for consumers."

Bizzarro said he would rather consider a proposal to improve consumer convenience through increasing store operating hours, opening more stores on Sundays, and giving the PLCB more flexibility in determining prices, among other changes.