HARRISBURG - A new poll suggests a majority of Pennsylvanians may be ready to have the state sell its oft-criticized liquor stores and privatize alcohol sales, if that will help stanch the flow of red ink in the state's budget.

And a narrower majority wouldn't mind if the state government has to lay off some workers to balance its books.

According to a survey conducted by Quinnipiac University and released Wednesday, nine out of 10 registered Pennsylvania voters think the state's budget problems are serious, and a majority favors selling the stores to help avert an estimated $4 billion shortfall next year.

The Quinnipiac survey found that two-thirds of the state's registered voters want the state to get out of the liquor and wine business - an approach advocated by Republican Gov.-elect Tom Corbett.

Supporters of privatizing say closing the state's 620 stores and selling wholesale and retail liquor licenses to private operators could generate at least $2 billion in revenue.

It won't be easy. Other GOP governors have failed to persuade the legislature to change the system - though Corbett may have an advantage. Thanks to November's election results, his party now holds a firm majority in both the state House and Senate.

Union leaders who oppose privatizing the system contend Pennsylvania would lose hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue by selling off the stores.

According to the Quinnipiac poll, another budget-balancing option - laying off state employees - was supported by 51 percent, while leasing the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private operator was opposed by 52 percent of those surveyed.

The poll of 1,584 voters was conducted in the week that ended Monday, the college said. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

Contact staff writer Angela Couloumbis at 717-787-5934 or acouloumbis@phillynews.com.