Senate Democrats Friday outlined their liquor modernization plan-- Senate Bill 15-- a day after the House passed a liquor privatization plan.
"No banker would back it and no business would implement it," Sen. Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) sponsor of the Senate Democratic proposal said about the House plan (House Bill 466 (Turzai-R-Allegheny)). "The plan that passed the House takes the wrong approach at precisely the wrong time -- it makes zero business sense and there are better alternatives.
"Under valuing a profitable asset and selling it off at fire-sale prices is no way to proceed."
Sen. Brewster was vice-president of operations at Mellon Bank and has decades of experience in private business.
He said the modernization plan produced by Senate Democrats, introduced as Senate Bill 15, has the potential to produce an extra $150 million annually. The state's liquor system generated $320 million in liquor taxes, $124 million in sales taxes and $80 million in net profits last year on more than $2.24 billion in sales.
The lawmaker said the Senate Democratic modernization plan would:
— Remove the cap on the number of stores that can operate on Sunday and extend the permitted hours of operation from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.;
— Improve opportunities to partner with grocery stores to increase the number of stores-within-a-store;
— Offer customer-service programs to improve customer experiences in stores;
— Sell lottery tickets within wine & spirits stores;
— Require final determinations on store lease arrangements within 90 days;
— Join with other states on purchasing arrangements to help secure the very best price;
— Fashion demand reforms such as allowing beer distributors to sell smaller quantities than cases, and permits for direct wine shipments to homes.
"We have a valued asset in our wine-and-spirits stores and they can be a tremendous resource for our taxpayers for years to come if we modernize and adapt," Sen. Brewster said. "The last thing we should do is sell off an asset for a below-market price in an attempt to serve an ideological impulse.
"The Senate Democratic plan would improve convenience, create better access, provide service and delivery options while preserving thousands of jobs."
The House-passed privatization plan, which involves selling 1,200 licenses, has been sold as a way of plugging the $2.3 billion budget hole created by the Republicans and former Gov. Tom Corbett. However, according to a Republican fiscal analysis, the plan will only raise a small portion of $2.3 billion in one-time revenue in 2015-16.
A sponsor summary of the bill is available.Sen. Brewster is Minority Chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee which oversees liquor regulation.