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Corbett, pollster, educators push for liquor privatization - abc27 WHTM

Dauphin County

Corbett, pollster, educators push for liquor privatization

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Governor Corbett and his pro-privatization pals were in good spirits Tuesday.

A poll released by the Conservative Commonwealth Foundation—but conducted by Democrat-friendly FM3—showed 61 percent of Pennsylvanians support selling off liquor stores, and only 35 percent oppose.

It's being called the most comprehensive survey ever conducted on the topic, and it found that a majority of those who oppose privatization never go into liquor stores.

"The consumers who actually use the state stores are more likely to support a change in the current system," said Paul Maslin of FM3 in a morning press conference as he unveiled the results.

An hour later, Corbett continued the booze blitz in his packed reception room. The governor was surrounded by supportive lawmakers, business types, and many from the education community.

"It is time to change the system so we're gonna have a good spirited discussion on this," the governor proclaimed.

The really new part of the story was the education forces who joined in support of Corbett's privatization plan because it would steer cash to classrooms. That included Harrisburg Superintendent Sybil Knight-Burney who grew up in Florida, a state with privatized liquor.

"I'm hopeful that whatever we can do in order to secure the funding for education, be it privatization or whatever, that it will happen," Knight-Burney said.

Corbett is promising a billion dollars over four years. Schools could apply for that extra cash in certain categories like early childhood education or school safety.

Former Cumberland Valley teacher and current school board member Barbara Geistwhite is on board with Corbett's plan.

"It's very important that we are allowed, as different school districts, to use these funds without a lot of strings to meet the needs of the children in each of our districts."

But the unions will battle to bottle up the plan.

"I think it's a cruel joke," said John Meyerson of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which represents state store employees.

Meyerson says unions are taking this latest challenge seriously, and they seem determined to block any alliance between the governor and educators.

"It's interesting that now he wants to put more money into education," said Meyerson with disdain. "It's speculative dollars. It's not real dollars."

What is real, and new, is Corbett's determination to push a plan across the finish line.

"The main thing is Governor Corbett's taken the bull by the horns," said Senator Mike Waugh (R-York). "We need his leadership and I think he's opened the discussion today."

But Waugh also agrees with the characterization that while liquor privatization has the best chance of passing this time, it still has a long, long way to go to get the necessary votes in the legislature.

Corbett said he'd like it to pass by this summer, "but definitely by next summer when you're heading to the shore you don't have to buy your beer down there, you can buy it here and take it with you."

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