Despite the lack of communication in advance, Yaw said he believes lawmakers will judge the governor’s plan on its merits.
Sen. John Gordner, R-27, of Columbia County, said that he had seen no specific information about the privatization plan, but noted that there a variety of concerns that would need to be addressed, including how the sale would impact the state budget over time.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle expressed concern that any plan that would award licenses through bidding might create situations where rural areas could be shut out, unless there are specific protections in place.
“For instance, in Northumberland, Union and Snyder counties there are currently state store locations in Mount Carmel, Coal Township, Sunbury and Milton; Lewisburg and Mifflinburg; and Selinsgrove,” Gordner said. “It is possible that if licenses are sold to the highest bidder and those bidders can take their licenses wherever they wanted that you may end up with a license in the college towns of Lewisburg and Selinsgrove and nowhere else.”
Lawmakers also expressed concern that privatization would force many well-established family businesses to close.
“He’s going to wipe out 6,000 family businesses with the stroke of a pen,” Wozniak said. “That’s not good public policy.”
Rep. Jaret Gibbons, D-10, of Lawrence County, said that the interests of the people already involved in the sale of liquor and beer cannot be ignored.
“There are families with hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars invested in their businesses,” he said. “The increased competition is going to have an impact on them.”
Democrats pointed to privatization efforts in other states to argue that ending a state monopoly will not lead to better selection and price for consumers. Rep. Mark Longietti, D-7, of Mercer County said that when the liquor system was privatized in West Virginia, there were a number of more rural counties that ended up with no liquor licenses.