Monday, March 30, 2015

The difference is....

Pictures are worth a thousand words.

You will buy what we allow you to buy
The Pennsylvania State Store System. Broken beyond repair.


Come see 10,000+ choices actually on the shelves!
















What most of the country considers normal. We could have substituted any number of stores for Total Wine here: Spec's, Binny's, K&L, Federal, Liquor Barn, and on and on.

Something we read in a recent letter about the State Store System in a Pennsylvania newspaper really resonates. The writer pointed out the problems with the system, the proposed "modernization" non-solutions, and wound up with something brilliant.

End it, don't mend it.

We couldn't agree more.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fact Check, what the UFCW says, What Rep Turzai says

Below is the list that the UFCW 1776 calls "Twenty of Turzai's Lies" You can read the list here.  Not anywhere near as many as I've documented from Wendell Young IV (which nobody has refuted as of yet) but enough to see who is spinning more. I'll take them one at a time

Who is spinning more?
 01: Turzai: The PLCB has been operating in the red for the past 10 years.
      UFCW: The PLCB’s net profit for the past 10 years is almost $1 billion total


There are three ways to look at this.. The first is if everything the PLCB collects is a tax because tax is defined as "a sum of money demanded by a government for its support or for specific facilities or services, levied upon incomes, property, sales, etc." so what ever isn't specified as the Johnstown Flood Tax or Sales tax can be thought of as a use tax and not profit.

The second is that to have a profit a business has to list all liabilities and since the PLCB doesn't (not listing the over $600+ million in pension liability or $50+ million in medical for just two examples) it is questionable if a profit is made.

The third is that the PLCB as a business that is not responsible for any liabilities because the taxpayer, not the PLCB will cover them and therefore does make a profit. I'll call this one a tie

02:Turzai: The Fiscal Note for House Bill 790 said it would bring over $1 billion in upfront revenue.
    UFCW: Turzai’s own Fiscal Note says there would be at most $137.5 million in upfront revenue.

OK, there is one fiscal note listed by for HB 790 PN 1291. and it specifically says "A total of $1,123,000,000 is estimated to be generated from one-time license fees" The Rep. Turzai fiscal note does say $137.5 million. so the question is - what time period is "upfront" ?  Upfront is usually thought of as before something happens so does the money start counting before the beginning of privatization or before the end of the state stores?  This one is a tie.


03: Turzai:There is going to be an auctioning off of 1,200 wine and spirits licenses.
      UFCW: There is not one mention of auctioning licenses in House Bill 790 or his current legislation House Bill 466

This one goes to the UFCW, there is no mention of auctions in HB 466


04: Tuzai : When West Virginia went to the private sector they saw an increase in revenue.
      UFCW: West Virginia lost millions and has never financially recovered since privatizing.

Try as I might I could not find anything on line from the state of West Virgina that listed revenues from over 30 years ago when they privatized retail sales. Without verifiable information I can't make a call on this one. However, as a side note, Iowa which also privatized retail a few years later reported making more money. (1)  I have to toss this out for lack of information.


05:
Turzai: There will be no increase in unemployment compensation and all PLCB jobs will be absorbed in the private sector. 
      UFCW: The Public Financial Management study states 2,302 full-time equivalent employees will lose their jobs and cost more than $64 million in unemployment costs over four years.

Since everyplace that has fully privatized has tripled employment in the industry jobs will be created, far more than are lost. If the offset is enough to make a zero balance after some of those new jobs will be filled by people already supposedly trained is a question I don't have enough information to answer. This one is a tie also.

06:
Turzai: There will be open dialogue and everyone will be at the table to discuss issues.
     UFCW: There hasn’t been a House hearing on liquor privatization since 2011.

This one is tough because it is an opinion.  If you are a citizen of the state and don't know anything about the issue already I question your ability to govern the rest of us.  If you are a legislator then there is no excuse what so ever not to educate yourself. More hearings will not bring anything new to the table. THe UFCW is still using documents and statistics from as far back as 2006 so that isn't going to change. The question is if the state should sell a retail product or not.  Once you have decided that then questions like "should we have pretty stores" or "add 1,000 more "R" licenses" come into play but not before. I know that both caucuses will be meeting on this issue so I'm in agreement that everyone can discuss the issues. Rep Turzai gets this one.


07:Turzai:The PLCB produces no profit.
     UFCW: The PLCB’s net profit was $123 million alone in the last fiscal year.

This is just a rewording of #1 and the result is the same- a tie.

08:
Turzai:There will not be any lost revenue.
      UFCW: Both the Fiscal Note to HB 790 and PFM show revenue gaps that need to be made up.

The fiscal note to HB 790 does say that because of the increased discount to licensees, going from 10 to 14% will reduce income it is the same proposal mentioned in some modernization plans so what is good for the goose is good for the gander.

The PFM report also shows revenue gaps but self admittedly accounts for a zero balance of the over $200 million in inventory, the sales jump as private stores ramp up before divestiture and the $200 million in other assets which can be sold although for not anywhere near the inventory value. Add to that, the complete lack of accounting for economic churn increased employment and peripheral employees will bring and the increase in sales greater access will bring it does raise questions if there will be any lost revenue in total. Since neither side can provide concrete evidence either way this one is a tie.

09:
Turzai: There will not be a complete proliferation of alcohol.
      UFCW: Under Rep. Turzai’s proposal, spirits outlets will triple, including in urban areas.

Even after tripling the amount of liquor stores the state will still be well below the average for a population of 12 million - about 33% less. Since the beer distributors will get first call on licenses and they already sell alcohol where ever they are - urban or rural that aspect is a red herring.  Community zoning should take care of the additional licenses past the initial 1200. Who knows better about what the needs of the community are - Harrisburg or the people who live there? Rep Turzai takes this one.

10:
Turzai:No other state taxes liquor like Pennsylvania. 
     UFCW: Almost every state has a liquor tax, as well as retail and wholesale markups.

This one will go on a technicality. No other state does tax like Pennsylvania,  We don't have a liquor tax, we have a temporary tax that is to be used to help people from a 1936 flood.  Now what it turned into and what it is used for may be like a liquor tax that other states have - it isn't. The Johnstown Flood Tax is not part of the Liquor Code. Rep Turzai wins this one too.

11:
Turzai: There will be new business taxes.
      UFCW: Turzai’s proposal heavily favors existing retailers, meaning no new business tax.

Another iffy one. Obviously if a business increases sales volume there is new business tax but if there physically aren't any or many new businesses then the number of businesses being taxed doesn't increase. Pure semantics.
A tie at best or completely rejected at worst

12:
Turzai:There is significant border bleed.
      UFCW: Turzai cites an unknown statistic, but in reality border bleed is minimal and there is reverse border bleed into Pennsylvania.

I'm sorry, but when the PLCB itself commissions a study on border bleed and shows that there is hundreds of millions of dollars leaving the state that indicates a significant problem Rep Turzai gets this one hands down.


Wendell Young IV star of Say Anything



13:Turzai: The public supports privatization at a 70-75% approval rating and there is widespread support for his plan.
     UFCW: No poll shows this claim. Instead, recent polls show support going the other way. Also, dozens of groups oppose House Bill 790 from last session.

This gets a bit tricky. The primary question is if the state should sell a retail product.  Given that there are 40 years of scientific polls that say the citizens do not want the state store system and some of them are in the 70% range and there has never been a poll saying they want to keep the state store system over a private system that indicates there is widespread approval for privatization.  Later polls give a third option of modernization which is a dependent option and not a primary option. You have to agree that the state should sell a retail product before you can choose how they sell it.

What dozens of groups believe or not has no bearing on what scientific polls say. To believe otherwise is to succumb to "We know better than you what is good for you"  The majority of citizens want a private system as Rep Turzai says.

14:
Turzai:Beer distributors will do well under his proposal.
     UFCW: The Malt Beverage Distributors Association opposes Turzai’s plan.

It is true that the MBDA opposes this plan it is also true that they represent less than half of all beer distributors. Their disapproval does not negate if some beer distributors will do well or if most will do well or if any do well.  It has no real bearing since how well an individual distributor will do is dependent on how hard he works at his business and not his membership in the MBDA. Another that is a tie at best

15:
Turzai:There are only 3,500 employees at the PLCB we need to worry about. 
     UFCW: There are more than 5,000 employees at the PLCB and mostly all will lose their job

According to the state itself there are 3,074 full time employees and 1,519 part time employees as of 1/15/15.  This doesn't count any seasonal employees which may push the total over 5,000 but would also be stretching the truth a bit. Since the UFCW continually uses the PFM report I'll use it too and it says that between 2,436 - 2,678 Full Time Equivalents or 3,210 total employees  would be unemployed depending how the PLCB retail and wholesale was disassembled.

Now you can make a case for people won't be working in the same state job but a number will still be working for the state. Rep Turzai has the facts on his side for this one but semantics are with the UFCW - they get it.

16: Turzai:
Operational costs have increased by 70% at the PLCB over the past decade.
      UFCW: Operational expenses have only grown at a 1.7% compound annual growth rate in the last five years.

I've a mind to throw this one out.  Answering a question with a statement that doesn't match the question is just not being honest.  According to the FY 2005 Audit by the Auditor General operational costs were $289,810,000 and in 2014 were $424,478,913 which is a 45.6% growth so Rep Turzai is wrong.  However. the 2010 Operational costs were $381,801,000 which comes out to a 2.15% compound annual growth rate to 2014 so the UFCW is wrong too.I didn't include COGS in my operation computations because the PLCB has no real control over that but if I did then operation costs from 2005-2014 would have gone up 56%  and the compounded annualized rate would be 2.79% I'm not counting this for either side.

17: 
Turzai: Private wholesalers sell to the PLCB wholesale system currently. There is a duplicate system in PA.
      UFCW: Producers sell to the PLCB wholesale. There is no duplicate system.

There is a duplicate system.  While for major items the PLCB may go directly to the producer, for the vast majority of items available in the system they go through a private distributor. This is easy to see because every SLO item has a vendor code and that code is not the Wild Turkey Distillery or the Conundrum winery, it is a distributor. and since SLO items outnumber in stock items by at least 4 to 1 there is a duplicate system. Rep Turzai is correct

That is the end of the list, why they called it 20 lies and then only listed 17 is a question you'll have to ask the UFCW.  I've always said they weren't very good with math.

The totals are
Rep Turzai - 6
UFCW - 2
Tie - 6
Tossed out - 3

Who do YOU believe?


(1)Privatization was deemed successful from a revenue standpoint, with profits increasing by $125 million over the first 11 years of privatization compared to estimates under State control of the stores. At the time of the 10-year review, the conclusion was that most of the increase in profits was the result of eliminating the state stores and the costs associated with them. PFM report pg 111



Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What I Like about the PLCB

...
??
Hmmm....
No, not that.
Err, maybe...
Nope.
??
Ah, I got it!

It always reminds me why I shop out of state: for price, selection, and service.
Hop across the river and save.
You're not in your state store anymore

Yep, that is a real New Jersey Liquor store. 10,000 wines, over 4,000 spirits and 1,500 beers. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Oh no! More failed PLCB math

Yahoo! Modernization will make so much money!
The Governor seems to think that if putting new "Modernization" brand lipstick on the PLCB pig will improve things, smearing it all over the pig will make things even better.

Really, Tom? Better for whom is the question. Certainly not the citizens, who will now have to cover any shortfalls in bond payments if there is a glitch in the revenue stream.  Remember that PLCB Operating Income went down 8 of the last 15 years on a year to year basis, even though every year had "record sales."

The plan is for the PLCB to make an additional $185 million more than they do now in only two and a half years, with all sorts of unproven ideas. We've talked about them before, but they're worth revisiting...for the Governor's benefit.

Oh. Well, maybe not, but still...
The "consortium" buying arrangement with other states is one of those. Does that sound like something that's going to be quick to come together: state legislatures getting together to pass the exact same law on something that will potentially limit their "sovereignty"? So far there has been no word from any of these other states that they would want to join with PA, nor has anything been presented to explain how our 1930's-thinking PLCB would get around the laws and contracts already in place in those other yet-to-be-named states. Not to mention...the other states aren't interested in buying wine with us; they're only "controlling" spirits, so how much are we going to "save" on this boondoggle?

Then there is the pie in the sky idea about shipping product bought at the State Stores to people in other states (which we can only believe is about screwing PA citizens out of our Pappy Van Winkle allocation, once the margins are unleashed). You know how well that goes over in reverse, if you try that in PA; call the BLCE! Do you think New York would take more kindly to it? They're going after their own stores for shipping out of state! I can't come up with a single reason any state would agree. They may now turn a blind eye to their citizens bringing in wine from elsewhere, but that isn't the same as a state-sponsored evasion of their liquor excise tax, which is what the "modernization" folks are really proposing here.

Wait...What? That shit don't make any kind of sense.
Then there are the perennially-failing One Stop Shops, the "store-in-store" idea. This program has been authorized for over 40 years and in place since 1981. How many businesses actually want a State Store in their store after 34 years of trying? Fifteen, by my count. The wine kiosks did better than that! Another PLCB success story that will somehow magically change with a good coating of "modernization."

Last year the state stores had an unspent tax collection margin ("profit") of 6.62% before kicking in for the BLCE's budget, or about $148.6 million on sales of $2.24 billion. How much will sales have to increase to get to the $333.6 million Wolf needs? The answer newspapers are finding is huge: at over $5 billion, and that still isn't enough: it doesn't take into account the inevitable increase in the State Store System's operating expenses. The Stores' Operations and Supervision expenses went up by 8.75% just in the last year, even though only nine stores were added. How many stores would be needed to reach $5 Billion in sales, even if all the other schemes worked out? How much would all the extra workers add to the already over $600 million in PLCB pension debt? And exactly how much booze is Wolf planning to force down our throats? Who knows...and the "modernization" folks aren't saying.

Even to reach the minimum expected "profit" increase of $46 million on expanded Sunday sales would require selling $700 million more annually on Sundays, or over 33% of the entire year's sales on a day that is, let's see, 14.3% of the week - something no other retailer does. To get to the upper estimated figure of $69 million in additional profit from Sunday sales, they would have to sell over $1 Billion more worth of product just on Sundays. Get on down to the State Store, Reverend, they got some serious "modernization" going on. It's a miracle!

Tell Costa to get a bucket...I think I'm gonna be sick.
The PLCB can and has taken two years to outfit one store. The transfer to "Fine Wine and Good Spirits" is on a 50 year schedule now. Why will the PLCB not be as incompetent as it always has been under any state-run plan?

With the PLCB now responsible for paying off the pension debt bond the Governor proposes, any shortfall will result in higher prices. They have no choice: there is nowhere else to get it (unless the State Stores start selling recreational weed, as some control-crazed supporters suggest). It will be this generation's version of the Johnstown Flood Tax...only the Flood Tax will still be with us, 18% on every single bottle, plus bottle fees, plus the "adjustable margin," plus sales tax (that's going up as well, of course). Hello, New Jersey! Hi there, Delaware!

During the last round of normalization hearings, one of the key points made against the idea was that according to a CDC "task force" report, the end of control would bring a 40% increase in alcohol consumption, bringing the end of civilization as we know it to the Commonwealth. Yet the same Control Crazies are lining up behind a "modernization" plan that requires consumption to increase at least 100% — to DOUBLE — to reach the numbers they need. Every argument about safety, external costs, health, and control goes out the window when it comes down to the brass tacks of keeping these unpopular, unwanted, unbelievable retail fossils. This is Control in its naked, ugly truth: it's really about keeping union jobs, and union campaign contributions.

Tell your Representatives and Senators to reject this insanity and to bring Pennsylvania as close to what is normal for the majority of the other states as we can get. We deserve it. God knows we've waited long enough. Tell the Governor, too. He's clearly confused.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Why can't PLCB supporters do math? Or research? Or think for themselves?

I've made a number of posts on problems the PLCB supporters have with math: the "Why Johnny can't read or do math" series parts 1-3 and the "Wanna talk about Washington" along with the last week "The UFCW 1776 thinks that PLCB profit is less than minimal - We knew it all along."
The comments in some of the posts or the information provided by the supporters themselves proves that they still can't do math, or research their position with any degree of accuracy.

Let's take the main point in the comments that a newspaper story reports that the Washington State Office of Financial Management says that revenue collection was nearly $369 million in revenue for the incomplete (at that time it was written) FY 2014. Thus proving that privatization didn't work because it was less than the $448.7 million the state got in the last year of state run operation in 2012.

The only problem is that whoever fed our poster his info didn't look into the numbers at all. The $448 million also included $103 million in Wine and Beer taxes that aren't included in the newspaper's OFM story.  Also, the 2012 numbers include the one time input of $31 million received for about 160 state state stores that were sold. Lastly the story doesn't mention the change in the high beer tax rate which took place on July 1st 2013 which makes sense since they weren't part of the $369 million revenue collected.  The tax rate was lowered from $23.58 per barrel to $8.08 per barrel, a 291% reduction, decreasing the beer tax collected by over $47 million.  That beer tax reduction was not part of privatization. 

If you want to compare apples to apples then lets look at the last year of state run operation, use the total contribution to the state and local governments take out the wine and beer taxes and compare it to FY 2014 totals minus beer and wine taxes.  The 2012 total comes out to $448.7 million minus $103.1 million gives us $345.6 million and the 2014 total comes to $201.7 million minus $54 million in the wine and beer taxes (1) plus $267.4 million in liquor taxes  (2) which then totals $415.1 million and is still more liquor taxes collected than the last year of state run stores.  Remember that the 2012 total had an extra $31 million from selling the state stores.

I know, it is hard to imagine the Pennsylvania Legislature lowering taxes of any sort, but Washington is not Pennsylvania. I pointed this out in my posting "Washington is not equal to Pa"  In short, the continued lack of veracity by those who continually post in favor of the PLCB needs to be questioned at every turn, as they have proven they will twist and turn and outright lie when give a chance

Can there be any doubt that Washington is making more money without their state stores?

We deserve better than new "modernization" lipstick on the state store pig. Privatize and get the government out of retail and back into regulation where it belongs.

Let the free market rule, not the PLCB.


(1) WALCB annual report 2014 page 17
(2) the OFM report on I-1183 gives a slightly different number of $268.6 million due to ending on a different day.
Original post was updated; the Legislature changes taxes, not the PLCB. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

What's So Modern About "Modernization"?

The main alternatives to liquor normalization*, as proposed by HB466, are doing nothing...and "modernization." The Senate GOP got their chance at "doing nothing" two years ago when they torpedoed the House's last normalization bill. Now the other one's getting an outing; but just how modern is "modernization"? Let's find out:

The Democrats are in a full court press against liquor normalization, from Governor Wolf -- "I will veto the bill if it reaches my desk in its current form." -- to Representative Costa -- who puts his faith in the Governor's veto and one nebulous "modernization" plan -- down to little Democrat wanna-be Gene DiGirolamo, the Republican representative from lower Bucks County, who's been pathetically peddling his own "modernization" bill for two years, with no serious takers.

It's too little too late for the House: HB466 swiftly passed with a 114-87 vote on party lines (with four spineless Republicans deserting their party). The Democrats and their union foot-soldiers see the writing on the wall, the writing that says "30-20 Republican Senate majority," and they're nervous. They're talking tough, but they're relying completely on two things at this point: the past (and unexplained) reluctance of Senator Chuck McIlhinney (R-Bucks) to let a normalization bill out of his Law and Justice Committee, and the Governor's stated readiness to veto a bill..."in its current form" (emphasis added to a word that gives him some wiggle room).

If the governor full-out vetoes a passed bill, the Republicans on their own don't have the votes for an override, and they won't get any Democrats to go with them. That just won't happen. So it's possible the Governor offers a deal to get what he wants, and part of that deal may involve either open debate of the "modernization plan, wherever that may go, or incorporation of some of the modernization ideas into a watered-down normalization bill.

That begs the question: what do the Democrats (and little Gene) mean by "modernization"?

As you might expect from the crew backing the State Store System, it's a retro kind of "modernization." Here's what the plans offer.

Sunday sales -- Expand Sunday sales to all State Stores, and extend the Sunday closing time from 5:00 to 10:00 although the majority of stores close at 9:00 other days. Hmmm, let's see...so what? First, there are already over 150 stores open on Sunday, and they're in the most heavily populated areas, so not a huge impact. Second, and just to be petty: does this include the stores in places like Snow Shoe, and Clymer, and Knox that are only open three days a week now? The sad thing about this? It's the most directly consumer-friendly part of the whole "modernization" proposal.

Direct shipment of wine -- Kinda depends on what you mean. Do you mean that wineries and importers would be able to ship directly to you? Or directly to the State Store of your choice? (Wow, so convenient!) Because it depends on which Democrat you talk to. And keep in mind that they want the wineries to pay a hefty fee and do a ton of paperwork to support it and to tell them who bought what and how much; there's a limit of 9 liters/12 bottles a year (one case and you're done). Then you'll have to pay shipping, and...this really only affects a small number of high-end wine buyers. This one sounds good, but it's going to be bait-and-switch.


Wine and beer sales in grocery stores; cafe licenses and "store-in-store" -- A proposal to expand wine sales to grocery stores that have bought an R license to sell beer (with the stipulations that they must open a 30 seat cafe and ring up the booze separately from any food purchases...and limits on how many bottles they can sell at one time). This is not modernization, it's something the stores thought up, and are paying through the nose for because the state won't adjust the Almighty Liquor Code to allow it to happen without buying up an expensive bar license. (No one's said whether regular taverns will be able to sell wine, either.) If they DO expand the Code to allow wine sales by the bottle, they will make sure that the price isn't competitive with the State Stores. Count on that.
Then there's the bright idea to expand the "store-in-store" program, which puts a State Store under the same roof as the grocery store. Well, hooray. Fact is, "store-in-store" has been available since 1981, and since the big co-location push began in 2003 most supermarkets just aren't interested (read the sad story here). Bringing it up only sounds new because very few Pennsylvanians have ever seen one of these sorry things, or realized that it was particularly convenient when they did; after all, it's just a State Store that has a door that opens into a supermarket. Then there's DiGirolamo's idea, which is to put a free-standing 400 square foot "mini-State Store" with a limited selection of wine in grocery stores. It sounds like a wine kiosk, only there's always a clerk there, not just when it breaks down...well, okay, you're right, that was pretty much always. This isn't modernization, this isn't even a new idea. It's an old idea that already hasn't worked.

Extended hours -- First they tell us when private stores come in, people can buy booze at all hours of the night, and that leads to crime. Now they tell us they want to stay open later. You figure it out.

Sen. Costa illustrates how much prices could be increased
(or maybe he's ordering a Subway foot-long)
Price flexibility -- This is beautiful. Currently, the State Stores work on a regulated markup: every price is set to go up by 30% of the wholesale price (plus taxes and fees). They want to change this to allow the State Stores to set the margins as they see fit, "up or down," on different products. Given that the System's operating costs just keep increasing as a percentage of total revenue, how long will it be before all the margins are going up? (Keep in mind, increasing the overall margin was suggested to the Board as a way to "counter higher expenses" just last year by the PLCB's finance director.) Consumer-friendly? This is PLCB-friendly, it does nothing for you.

"Upgraded procurement guidelines" -- What does this even mean? Do you think it will be good for you? Do you think it's modern?

Personnel hiring outside the Civil Service system -- Yeah, that's modernization: the Civil Service rules are the only thing keeping the PLCB from being a complete patronage pit. They say they need it to hire people who know wines and spirits and promote people for product knowledge (then on another day, they'll insist that all of their employees are already wine experts and highly trained).

Increased licensing fees -- Charge bars and restaurants and beer distributors more to sell booze on the license they already have; charge them more to sell six-packs, charge them more to be open on Sunday, charge them more to sell both wine and beer. This isn't any kind of 'modernization,' this is charging everyone more for drinks in order to cover the PLCB's steadily increasing operating expenses.

Customer loyalty programs -- Because everyone has been asking for coupons and a PLCB "shoppers card." Haven't you asked for that? Isn't that modern?

Expedited review of leases -- Right. So they can move the stores around more without any input from the local community. More top-down Soviet-style planned economy crap. That's not "modern," that's 1950s-era thinking.

Enter into a buying consortium with other control states -- To lower prices. Really? If they get this and the price flexibility, they'll pay less to producers, they'll charge us the same amount as before or more, and -- you got it -- their operating costs will keep going up. And will selection improve? Never.

Self-service lottery ticket sales in State Stores -- This isn't "modernization." This is simply taking lottery sales and fees away from actual businesses, supermarkets and convenience stores. Next they'll want to sell snacks and cigarettes. The State Store bureaucracy apparently just doesn't like independent businesses. (They don't really like you, either; State Store employees refer to you as a "chronic alcohol user." Did you know that?)

That's it? That's "modernization"? Yup. Does it address the real concerns? No. There is:
  • Nothing about more stores than the current bizarrely low number of about 610, when the average for a state our size and population would be, at the least, over 2,400 (but those increased operating costs mean more stores would utterly bankrupt the system)
  • nothing about better selection in the stores (because they don't even know how to sell what they already have)
  • nothing about taking down the insulting police-enforced monopoly that makes buying a bottle of wine in New Jersey a crime (there's been talk recently, sure, but the Legislature's been talking about getting rid of the case law for over 20 years)
  • nothing about delivery to licensees (did you know that? Bars and restaurants have to go to the PLCB to pick up their booze, because the state agency can't be bothered to deliver it. Good thing, probably, because the increased operating costs would be huge! Forget the fact that private beer wholesalers somehow manage to do it...)
  • nothing about breaking the case law (because they don't want to upset the beer business, which has been such a friend to them by killing normalization in 2012 UPDATE: Senator Brewster's latest modernization plan DOES contain language about lowering the case limit. You'll have to buy his whole bill to get it...)
  • nothing about allowing any supermarket to sell wine and beer (without buying a scarce tavern license and adding a "cafe", something small family-owned stores simply can't afford to do)
  • nothing about beer sales at convenience stores, drug stores, gas stations (that's so scary)
  • nothing about how to even get this crappy system up to the level of New Hampshire's control stores
  • nothing about fixing our crappy booze tax system (which currently makes cheap booze cheaper and expensive booze more so; just the thing to "control" consumption)
  • nothing about improving service, which continues to elude them; at least, it does in all the stores we've gone into recently.
Nothing, in short, of any real value to the consumer. Modernization is a lie, a shiny glittering lie, just like a fishing lure, and the hook hidden inside is that it's an excuse to keep this creaking relic alive for ten more years without threat of normalization while we 'give modernization a chance to work.' But it won't. They don't even know what's really wrong with this horrible mistake of a retail system, which is why they can't fix it. They want to "modernize" it? They've had 80 years! How many more chances do they deserve? Governor Wolf says he's a businessman? MAKE IT A BUSINESS, many private businesses. It's not even radical; it's normal, just look at any and everything else you buy.

Normalization is modernization. Accept no substitutes.



*We're considering a change here. Changing the state's current monopoly on wholesale/retail liquor and wine sales is something both liberals and conservatives are in favor of, but calling it "privatization" gives its opponents a wedge to split off liberals who don't like the idea of privatizing more legitimate functions of government, like roads, schools, prisons. We'd use 'modernization,' but... We're going to try the word "normalization," given the fact that selling wine and liquor in privately-owned stores IS normal in the majority of the U.S. (yes, even in most of the "control states") and the world. We offer this idea for the supporters of real change to use.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Citizens Urge PLCB to Quit Liquor Business To Improve Customer Convenience and Generate Revenue

Pennsylvania, Feb. 28, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Commonwealth Citizens - the people forced to shop at State Stores,  issued the following statement today after the House vote passing House Bill 466:

"We look forward to working with Gov. Wolf and the Senate to pass a common-sense free market system that we have been telling our Legislators about for over four decades. The free market will allow entrepreneurs to grow and expand their businesses, hiring more people, paying taxes, and being part of their communities all over Pennsylvania."

The Citizens added, "The PLCB is a pain in the asset that continues to set records in total sales by limiting choice, preventing us from going anywhere else, and withholding a use tax while calling it "profits." Last year alone, the agency took more than $565 million in "profits," transfers and taxes from the Citizens and gave almost nothing in return to this Commonwealth. It makes perfect sense to sell it off so that people have a choice in what to buy, not limited to what somebody in Harrisburg thinks they should buy. This will put triple the number of people to work in the industry."

The Citizens urged Senate lawmakers to support House Bill 466, and reject  State Rep. Gene DiGirolamo's outdated proposal to modernize the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), saying that it will never improve customer convenience like the free market can.

HB 466 would remove antiquated caps like the paltry 600 state stores, increasing store totals to 1,800. Allow Sunday hours of operations to any who wanted to buy the license; allow 825 grocery stores to to open their own wine stores inside or adjacent to themselves, and allow family-owned beer distributors to become not only one stop shops but to also arrange direct shipment of wine to consumer's homes along with delivery services of their entire order!

These changes, among others, would generate untold consumer satisfaction, bring the state into the 21st century, provide more tax revenue through greater sales and less border bleed, and would grow annually as people got used to the freedoms denied them for so long.

- The Citizens represent most of the 12 million people in the Commonwealth who work in the southeast, northeast and central, western and all parts of  Pennsylvania in supermarkets, drug stores, food processing plants, government services, manufacturing facilities, nursing homes, professional offices, and all businesses, except Pennsylvania's Wine and Spirits Stores.