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Administration Says Troopers Would Get More Money Under Liquor Plan

Law enforcement groups are asking state lawmakers to consider the impact liquor privatization would have on their efforts and adjust budgets accordingly.

The Pennsylvania State Troopers Association (PSTA) and the state’s Liquor Enforcement Association didn’t come down on either side of the liquor privatization issue. But they did chime in with their hope for more money if a plan goes to the governor’s desk that would result in a proliferation of alcohol retailers.

The measure passed by the state House would put more state police on the task of liquor code enforcement, thereby depleting the already low stock of troopers dealing with the rest of the crime spectrum, said PSTA president Jim Kovel during testimony to the state Senate Law and Justice Committee.

“An additional 70 to 75 troopers is what we would need to go out there and… investigate these additional venues and do undercover investigations,” Kovel said.

Undercover investigations are prohibited in state wine and spirits stores, but they are allowed in private retailers.

But others suggest money is a non-issue. Kovel asked for an additional $5 million every year for state troopers and asked that it be written into whatever legislation makes it to the governor’s desk. Lingering outside the Senate hearing room, State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said that request has been granted.

“Gov. Corbett and I have sat down," he said. "He’s dedicated $5 million for increased enforcement and I think that’s an adequate sum for us to deal with the issues that are coming up."

House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said the plan sent to the Senate would theoretically allow the state’s Liquor Control Board to focus more on regulation enforcement and less on sales as state stores are phased out. But he added the Legislature would work to ensure additional enforcement requirements don’t get short shrift.

“They will be funded,” Miskin said.

Law enforcement groups took the mic first at the Senate Law and Justice panel hearing – the first of three hearings planned on the liquor privatization issue.