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Corbett: Privatize Booze, Fund Pennsylvania Schools

Renewing efforts to privatize Pennsylvania’s state-owned liquor stores, Gov. Tom Corbett announced a plan to dismantle the system and raise $1 billion for schools.

The state would use revenue from the three-to-four year process of selling the Liquor Control Board to create the Passport for Learning Block Grant, Corbett said at a news conference in downtown Pittsburgh.

The grant, according to Corbett, will focus on school safety, enhanced early education programs, individualized learning and science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses and programs.

Only Pennsylvania and Utah have fully state-controlled liquor systems.

The state legislature must approve Corbett’s proposal. Unions representing state store clerks expect to fight it.

“We think we have a great deal of support out there,” Corbett told reporters. “My plan gets the state completely out of the liquor business. The state will no longer be a marketer of alcohol; instead, it will now focus on its role as a regulator.

“It also creates an unprecedented opportunity for economic expansion for private sector employers while remaining revenue neutral for the state.”

Every dollar not returned to the state due to the divestiture of the Liquor Control Board would be returned to the state through restructured fees, he said. Corbett added that history in other states shows that many of the private-sector jobs created will have comparable compensation. 

His plan would double the number of wine and spirits stores in the state to 1,200.

Corbett’s announcement piggy-backs on his initiative to privatize the Pennsylvania Lottery. On Jan. 17, he awarded a 20-year, $34.6 billion contract to Britain’s Camelot Global Services LLC, which operates Britain’s national lottery. Camelot’s owner is Its owner is the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, one of Canada’s largest pension funds.

Attorney General Kathleen Kane is reviewing that contract, while state Treasurer Rob McCord has questioned its legality. Union employees and some lawmakers have sued the state in the Commonwealth Court, saying the Lottery Act of 1971 prohibits a governor from privatizing the lottery without state legislature approval.

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