(WHTM) — Vodka cranberries in grocery stores and casinos in convenience stores are just a couple of the proposals being pushed in the State Senate weeks before Pennsylvania’s budget is due.
State Senator Mike Regan’s bill would allow ready-to-drink cocktails to be sold in grocery stores, convenience stores, and any place with a liquor license.
“It’s the fastest growing segment of the alcohol industry in America,” Regan added.
Currently, only state-owned liquor stores can sell RTD beverages, and Regan says they can’t keep up because they don’t have the shelf space or refrigeration to exploit the booming market.
“Pennsylvania stands to make between $150 and $200 million in tax revenues from this by year three,” Regan said.
Under Regan’s bill, Pennsylvania would tax RTDs at the same rate as booze.
Some Democrats worry it could cost state stores jobs, including State Senator James Dillon of Philadelphia.
“We must give careful consideration to the LCB employees and families and sustaining jobs of that nature,” Dillon added.
Another concern for Democrats is siphoning money from what they consider a state-owned goose that is laying golden eggs.
“When we privatize some facets of the LCB, we still maintain the ability to get tax revenue, but we lose the profit. We lose the profit. The profit goes to the folks who sell the product,” said Senator Jim Brewster (D), Chair of the Law and Justice Committee.
Regan’s bill passed in the Law and Justice Committee 6-5 on Wednesday. The same day Republican Senator Gene Yaw introduced his bill to legalize, tax, and regulate games of skill that have sprouted up across the Commonwealth.
“And they’re not being taxed. Why not tax them?” asked Yaw. “The state can probably generate in excess of $300 million a year in tax revenue.”
Taxes on things like gambling and drinking are known as “sin taxes” and Regan says as far as Pennsylvania’s bottom line goes, these vices are too lucrative to pass up.
“I think that we can reach a point on this where we can find a good compromise, a sweet spot for everyone,” Regan said.
It might seem difficult for skills games and RTD beverages to make it into this year’s budget, which is due June 30. But as a long-time staffer told abc27, this time of year anything is possible.