With a liquor privatization plan expected to come before the Pennsylvania House soon, lawmakers are trying to pinpoint the cost of convenience.


Legislators and State Police agree that replacing the roughly 600 state liquor stores with twice as many private wine and liquor retailers will require more enforcement of the liquor laws.

 

State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan starts with the assumption there would be 1,200 new liquor licensees.

"We’re thinking that we probably would be looking at maybe a $5 million ... increase in our enforcement," he said.

That estimate is too modest, contends state Rep. Scott Petri, and it turns a blind eye to the proposal to create an untold number of licenses to sell wine and beer.

"Every grocery store, every convenience store, every big-box retailer, and every pharmacy store could be a licensee," says Petri, R-Bucks. "So that could be at least 12,000. Maybe it's 20,000."

Legislation to privatize liquor sales isn't in writing yet.

The most lawmakers have is a memo saying a bill is coming in early March.

State Police may be hesitant to put a cost figure on a hypothetical change, but Petri says it has to be taken into consideration, and soon.

He's a member of the Liquor Control Committee which will have to decide whether to advance the privatization proposal.