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Corbett Warns Senate: Finish Liquor by July

The liquor privatization bill that passed the state House is complex.

It has been years in the making. Its bouquet contains elements of many differing retail interests.

But unlike a fine wine, Gov. Tom Corbett isn’t asking the state Senate to let it breathe or drink it in slowly.

The governor’s message here is: Get it down quickly.

At a press conference near Reading on Wednesday, he turned to the lone state senator in the room with a warning:

“Expect some phone calls, because I’ve asked the House to talk to their members of the Senate to convince them that we need to move this bill forward," Corbett said. “And I hope that they will do so in a quick and expeditious manner. I’d like to see this bill by the time we finish the budget.”

Getting a liquor bill done by the end of June (the deadline for the state budget) will likely be an uphill battle. The Republican chairman of the relevant Senate committee is promising a fight.

Senate Democrats, who on other issues might lend some votes to the majority caucus’s cause, are firmly in favor of efforts to change the way state wine and spirits stores operate, rather than shutting them down.

Sen. Mike Brubaker, who was on the receiving end of Corbett’s tip about phone call diplomacy, said there are “a lot” of senators who support privatization.

What will make the process tough, he said, is buttonholing them into supporting an actual bill.

“Some members do have these absolute requirements in exchange for their vote and what they want inside of privatization, and if they don’t get it, they are likely to flip from a yes to a no,” said the Lancaster County Republican.

Brubaker said his constituents overwhelmingly support getting rid of the government-run state wine and spirits stores, but he knows his colleagues in the Senate have different constituent and interest groups to consider.

“If each member could write their own bill would it be different to a one small degree or another? Very likely, yes," Brubaker said. “But let’s not take down privatization because we’re arguing over what ought to be in this bill.”

When asked if he thinks signing a liquor privatization bill into law would boost his chances of being re-elected, Corbett said he would leave such speculation to the pundits.

"It certainly doesn't hurt," he said. "It certainly doesn't hurt — how's that?"