HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said Monday it enjoyed record profits in the last fiscal year, a time when special interests were spending millions to advance or derail efforts to privatize liquor and wines sales after 80 years of state control.
Robust sales and cost controls generated net income of $128.4 million in the year that ended June 30 — an increase of $24.9 million, or 24 percent, over the previous year, the board said.
Revenue from the more than 600 state stores — the board is gradually "rebranding" them as Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores — reached nearly $2.2 billion for the year, a 4.5 increase that the board said is also a record. Retail wine sales showed the strongest growth, a 6 percent increase, thanks in part to the Chairman's Selection program.
The positive figures were released in the aftermath of a major but so far unsuccessful effort by Gov. Tom Corbett and fellow Republicans who control the Legislature to privatize liquor and wine sales that the state has controlled since 1933.
Interest groups involved in both sides of the debate spent roughly $2.5 million to influence lawmakers before they broke for their summer recess, according to a recent analysis by PennLive.com.
Corbett spokesman Eric Shirk said getting the state out of the liquor business remains an administration priority as the governor prepares to seek a second term in 2014. Lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene in September.
A spokesman for House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, a leading proponent of privatization, shrugged at the board's rising revenue and said private operators would generate even more state tax revenue.
House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, said the figures showed the state stores are profitable.
"Gov. Corbett and House Republicans should scrap their ideological crusade to sell off valuable state assets to special interests and instead focus on unmet needs like transportation, education and health care," Dermody said.
More than half of the board's revenue, $1.2 billion last year, was spent on liquor, wine and related federal taxes. Of the rest, $512 million was returned to the state treasury in taxes and transfers, $24 million went to state police for enforcement of state liquor laws and $8 million was paid in local taxes to Philadelphia and Allegheny counties.