With a public hearing on liquor privatization now scheduled in the state Senate, a group of state House members is calling for the upfront windfall from the sale of private wine and liquor licenses to be invested in transportation infrastructure.
“It takes each and every dollar from privatization of the wine & spirits shops, and those dollars would be spent on roads and bridges,” state Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Schuylkill) said of the legislation he sponsored.
The governor wants to see liquor privatization revenue used for education block grants, but the bill that passed the House never designated a specific use for the revenue; it simply created a restricted account to hold the money.
“I would like to see it be a billion, but it doesn’t matter if it’s $750-million, it doesn’t matter if it’s half a billion,” Knowles said at a capitol news conference. “That’s still big money where I come from.”
Knowles and his supporters are wary of being blamed for school funding cuts when the four-year block grant program, envisioned by the governor, expires. “I want to make it perfectly clear,” Knowles said, “the governor has a good idea, it’s just that I have a better idea.”
Rep. Knowles recognizes that his plan would not raise enough revenue to solve PA’s near $3-billion dollar annual transportation funding shortfall, but he suggests that any legislative solution should start with HB 220.
Meanwhile Senate Transportation Chair John Rafferty is scheduled to unveil a new funding plan on Tuesday, and the as-of-yet unrelated liquor privatization bill faces an uncertain fate in the chamber.