HARRISBURG - Nine out of 10 Pennsylvania voters regard the state's budget problems as serious, and a majority favor selling the state liquor stores to help avert a multibillion-dollar shortfall next year, according to a poll released yesterday.
The survey by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut found 60 percent of voters viewed the fiscal situation as very serious and 33 percent thought it is somewhat serious. Only five percent said they felt it is not serious.
Among several budget-balancing options floated in the poll, getting the state out of the liquor and wine business - an approach advocated by Republican Gov.-elect Tom Corbett - was the most popular. It was supported by two-thirds of the respondents, while one-quarter opposed the move.
Supporters say Corbett's plan to close the more than 600 state stores and sell wholesale and retail liquor licenses to private operators could generate at least $2 billion, but history suggests it faces an uphill path.
Other GOP governors as far back as Dick Thornburgh in the late '70s and '80s offered similar privatization proposals, but they died in the legislature.
If forced to choose between raising taxes or cutting state services, 56 percent of the respondents said they would cut services. Thirty percent chose higher taxes and 14 percent did not make a choice.
Another budget-balancing option - laying off state workers - was supported by 51 percent, while leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private operator was opposed by 52 percent.
The poll of 1,584 voters was conducted in the week that ended Monday. It had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.