The debate over privatizing liquor in Pennsylvania has been very vocal and very public for years, but is Governor Tom Corbett working behind the scenes to hinder liquor sales? His critics say yes, he is.
It was a strong comment in the Senate hearing on liquor control: board member Bob Marcus said there are more than 200 unfilled vacancies in the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.
"These are necessary positions and I believe our agency is at risk by not filling them," Marcus said. "We have been attempting to fill them and we can't."
Why can't the PLCB hire more workers? Marcus told senators it's because the governor's office won't approve them.
The liquor store union pounced.
"It's very clear that the Corbett administration is trying to destroy the agency from within because they can't get their way and see it privatized," said Wendall Young, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776.
The accusation is that by keeping vacancies unfilled and stores understaffed, service will suffer, the PLCB will look bad and privatizing the system will be easier.
"We've been hearing that," said Sen. John Rafferty (R-Berks/Chester/Montgomery) "We've heard it from some of the people within the LCB as well. That's unfair to use that kind of tactic."
"We have heard that," Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) said. "We hope that's not the case because it's very insidious to bleed the entity dry, if you will, and then set it up for failure."
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley insists the administration is not controlling LCB hires. When asked if they're trying to sandbag the LCB to make it look bad, Harley said, "we don't have to sandbag the LCB to make it look bad. It does a good job of that by itself."
LCB chairman Skip Brion, a Corbett appointee, said the agency doesn't need to fill the vacancies.
"We've been asked at times to tighten our belt and to make sure we can do more with less employees, as every other agency in the commonwealth has been asked to do," Brion said.