HARRISBURG -- With the battle over privatizing state wine and spirits stores on a summer hiatus, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board on Monday announced revenues of $2.17 billion and net income of $128.4 million for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
The PLCB paid $512 million in sales tax, liquor tax and transfers to the state's general fund, according to a statement from the agency, which regulates the distribution of beverage alcohol and also runs 600-plus Wine & Spirits stores statewide.
The agency is at the center of a battle over privatizing those stores; the state House voted in March in a mostly partly-line vote to allow private liquor sales and phase out state-run stores. The plan stalled in the Senate and legislators have adjourned for the summer months.
Gov. Tom Corbett has said he sees liquor privatization as one of his top legislative priorities. But Democrats have argued the push to privatize is driven by ideology, and that selling the stores would put employees out of work, make alcohol more accessible to would-be underage drinkers and would generally lead to an increase in alcohol-related social ills.
A spokesman for House Democrats said the figures show the folly of trying to get rid of the stores.
"It's another example of a truly valuable asset setting new records thanks to the hard work of state employees," said Bill Patton.
Steve Miskin, a spokesman for the House GOP caucus, disagreed.
"It's a monopoly. It's the only show in town," Mr. Miskin said. "So of course they're making sales. The private sector would do a better job and bring in more taxes through sales to the state coffers."
The liquor board should focus on issues such as enforcement, regulation and education, and not on trying to boost sales, Mr. Miskin said.
A spokesman for Mr. Corbett said Monday privatization is still a priority for the governor.
The governor's plan -- different than what was approved by the House -- would have been revenue-neutral, said Eric Shirk, a spokesman for Mr. Corbett. His plan would have continued to allow the state to collect taxes on liquor, and was projected to have recovered more sales from border areas of Pennsylvania, he said.
The Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative think tank, issued a statement saying the bulk of the agency's profit was generated by taxes, and privately owned liquor stores would produce the same revenue or more.
Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, a staunch opponent of privatization who instead put forth a "modernization" bill to allow the PLCB more leeway in pricing and store operations, said he was pleased with the report issued Monday by the agency.
"I don't think that people fully appreciate how much revenue is collected by the LCB and forwarded to state government," he said.
Retail wine sales showed the strongest growth in the last 12 months, according to the agency, a 6 percent increase, driven by the Chairman's Selection program. Retail spirit sales at Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores increased by 3.7 percent.
Agency operating expenses remained essentially flat, at $387.5 million, the PLCB said.
In addition to the $512 million to the general fund, the agency also provided $8.1 million in local taxes to Philadelphia and Allegheny counties, $24 million to the Pennsylvania State Police, $2.6 million to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs and $4.4 million in licensing fees to local municipalities, the agency said.
Kate Giammarise: firstname.lastname@example.org, 717-787-4254 and on Twitter: @KateGiammarise.