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Pro-liquor Privatization Ad Homes in on Key Senator

A conservative group is turning up the heat on a key state Republican senator who’s voiced skepticism about the liquor privatization plan approved by the House.

A television ad launched by the conservative group Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania, which doesn’t disclose its funders, paints Bucks County state Sen. Chuck McIlhinney as being against selling off the state stores.

The 30-second spot accuses the lawmaker as “siding with union bosses who want to keep taxpayers footing the bill for Pennsylvania’s broken government-run liquor store system.”

The ad comes at a key time. McIlhinney chairs the Senate committee that’s holding the first of three hearings on liquor privatization next week. He insists he’s for privatization, but not the way House lawmakers have envisioned it.

“I intend to put forth some changes and push for a privatization effort," McIlhinney said. "I believe that we should be having the ability to buy our wine and spirits the same way our beer, which is in a private system. So to that end, I’m going to advance the issue and come up with a proposal.”

He’s already proposed legislation that would create a license for retailers to sell wine and liquor, and allow beer distributors as well as other outlets to buy such a license.

“You’re going to start to phase out the liquor stores, and you’re going to be buying wine and spirits in private institutions, like Wegman’s, like the taverns, like the beer distributors," McIlhinney said. “That is privatization.”

The Commonwealth Foundation, another conservative group that’s been pushing the liquor issue, said it’s optimistic McIlhinney is being sincere.

But CAP’s director says the Republican has so far been too vague, and that the group has the resources to keep up the pro-privatization campaign.

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