Former LCB chief comes out in favor of privatization
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Jonathan Newman has seen the state's liquor monopoly from the inside, an now he's ready to see it smashed.
The ex-chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board is the latest to add his voice to a chorus calling for a new, private system of selling wine and spirits in Pennsylvania.
This morning he stumped for a privatization plan put forth by House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods. Mr. Turzai wants to auction off liquor licenses, allowing wine and spirits to be sold by private entrepreneurs who run grocery chains, specialty stores and beer distributorships.
"I am intimately familiar with the story and operations of the PLCB as well as with modern retailing practices," Mr. Newman said during an appearance with Mr. Turzai at the Pennsylvania Wine School in Philadelphia. "It's time to stop burdening Pennsylvanians with this backwater system that dates back to the Prohibition."
Critics of the Turzai plan say current system works fine and fear the state would lose revenue.
Mr. Turzai said revenue under his system would be comparable. His plan eliminates the 18 percent Johnstown Flood Tax and the state's 30 percent mark-up on sales. Meanwhile, it adds a gallonage tax based on volume and alcohol content.
Mr. Turzai has been trying to amass support for his plan, but Senate Majority Leader Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, has said privatization isn't a priority.
Mr. Turzai sees Mr. Newman's support as a coup.
"Jonathan Newman knows the [Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board] inside and out," he said. "The fact that he favors privatization speaks volumes. Government has no business selling alcohol."
Privatization critics are quick to point out that Mr. Newman could have a financial stake in the Turzai plan, as he now runs a business that supplies out-of-state wine retailers with discounted products.
But the former PLCB chairman says such "attacks" are baseless and are typical of those who have no real argument for keeping the system intact.
Mr. Newman left the job in 2007 after a very public flap with then-Gov. Ed Rendell over the governor's push to appoint Joe Conti, a former state senator, as CEO of the liquor board.
First Published August 2, 2011 12:18 pm