Simmons calls for support for Turzai's alcohol reform plan

Pennsylvania state Rep. Justin Simmons recently called on legislators to push ahead with alcohol reform to address the state's budget deficit.

The state currently faces a revenue shortfall of more than $1 billion for the coming fiscal year. Simmons said a comprehensive alcohol reform plan would privatize wine and spirits, as well as wholesale, thereby ridding itself of expenses related to the beverage alcohol distribution system. Alcohol reform is supported by 60 percent of voters, according to the Commonwealth Foundation.

Simmons lauded legislation introduced by Rep. Mike Turzai that would shift the operating responsibility and the cost of selling alcohol to private operators, with the state only responsible for collecting tax receipts.

Simmons pointed to a fiscal note that indicated implementing the law could generate one-time fees of $573 million, and leasing wholesale rights for five percent of gross revenues would generate between $85 million and $103 million annually.

Additionally, he said the convenience of the proposed new system would match the $250 million in taxes and profits returned by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) to the state, plus as much as $105 million in additional revenue every year.

Simmons said that until a complete privatization plan is proposed, the state should modernize PLCB operations to allow liquor stores to stay open on Sundays and to allow direct shipping of wine to consumers.

"No doubt the state is facing daunting budget problems," Simmons said. "Getting alcohol reform right can painlessly help fill some of the holes."