HARRISBURG — Gov. Tom Corbett reiterated his demand Wednesday that a wine and liquor privatization bill gets to his desk before July, but he sidestepped a question about what it must contain, saying he could be flexible about details.
The Republican governor held a brief news conference on the topic in the Capitol, surrounded by those who support his proposal to sell the state’s wine and liquor store system to private concerns.
“My ears are open,” Corbett said. “We will listen to everything.”
Liquor privatization has been at the top of Corbett’s agenda this year, along with public pension system changes and boosting funding for the state’s roads, bridges and mass transit systems.
The House has passed a privatization bill, and an alternate approach by a leading state senator is expected to be proposed next week. Corbett said he wants a Senate bill that would be “close enough” that he can then engage in final negotiations with the two chambers, both controlled by Republicans.
The privatization push has drawn union opposition, and the state Democratic Party warned Wednesday that thousands would lose their jobs as a result.
“Instead of focusing on creating jobs to boost Pennsylvania’s economy, he is trying to push through a liquor privatization scheme that continues to lose support,” said party spokesman Marc Eisenstein.
“Tom Corbett’s priorities are misguided.”
A sticking point with the Senate could be whether the state will also sell its wholesale wine and liquor operations.
“It’s in the best interests of Pennsylvania to sell the wholesale,” Corbett said.
With his three major agenda items still unresolved, and just 18 days until the state’s fiscal year ends, it’s unclear whether the governor will have a budget deal in place before the new fiscal year starts July 1.
His first two budgets were enacted by that deadline, in contrast to the late-budget record of his Democratic predecessor, Gov. Ed Rendell.
On Wednesday, Corbett said he was keeping his schedule open for the first two weeks in July.