Thursday, October 2, 2014

What does it take to wake up the PA Senate?

Something for all the Democratic and RINO senators to think about as they prepare once again to avoid voting for what the plurality if not majority of people want: privatization and de-monopolization of the sales of spirits, wine, and beer.

Privatization does not increase underage drinking.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 29 percent of those ages 12-20 consumed alcohol in Pennsylvania. Compare this to states that have far less government control such as West Virginia (which is also a control state for wholesale) and the number decreases to 24 percent. In fact, the United States average is 27 percent. If government controlled liquor is effective in curbing underage drinking, why are we 2 percentage points higher than the national average and higher than almost all our neighboring states? Why is our underage DUI fatality rate higher than all but one border state?

Privatization does not cause more drunk driving, cause more alcohol related accidents or more alcohol related fatalities. Pennsylvania is once again barely average or worse. In alcohol related traffic fatalities in 2012, Pennsylvania was at the national average of 3.3 per 100,000. If the current government monopoly is better suited for curbing drunk driving, why are we not ahead of the national curve? Furthermore, MADD ranks the states in order of DUI-related accidents per capita. Pennsylvania ranked 35th best – lower than New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Virginia, and Ohio. Obviously the median here is 25; Pennsylvania being 10 states away. In 2010 overall alcohol related deaths, Pennsylvania is also surpasses neighboring states. Pennsylvania reported 26 per 100,000 residents. Compare this to 24 in Delaware, 22 in Maryland, 20 in New Jersey, 20 in New Work, and 25 in Ohio.

In the 2 years since Washington privatized DUI fatalities have decreased at a far faster than in Pennsylvania even though they started at a lower rate. You now have a 36% less chance of being killed due to an alcohol related accident in Washington compared to Pennsylvania.

Privatization increases employment. As President Ronald Reagan used to say, “The best social program is a job.” The labor union UFCW 1776 will tell you that privatization kills jobs, but they are wrong. More than doubling or even tripling the amount of outlets for wine and spirits can only mean more jobs. It’s common sense. If anything, the UFCW saying there won’t be jobs for their members is tantamount to saying they don’t believe their members are employable in the private sector. Every locale that has privatized has seen an increase in employment. New warehouse jobs, new delivery jobs, new store jobs. Places that fully privatized tripled employment in the industry. The ability for these employees to use their previous knowledge to specialize in this new industry could actually increase their earning power.

Privatization will increase revenue. A 2010 study commissioned by the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America found that 23.6 percent of the wine purchased by consumers in Pennsylvania comes from out of state, resulting in the loss of $17.3 million in excise taxes. A more recent study conducted for the PLCB showed that 45 percent of residents in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties purchase some or all of their alcohol outside of Pennsylvania. The PLCB's own numbers showed that consumers purchased approximately a quarter of their wine and spirits in other states. This border bleed equals more than $180 million in lost sales, and more than $40 million in lost state tax revenue annually from just a handful of counties. These are lost dollars that could fund programs that are essential to our Commonwealth, but that are instead funding Delaware, Maryland, New York, and other border states with lower prices and increased selection.

Decreasing border bleed through price competition, increased convenience, one-stop shopping and increased selection will increase taxes collected. Increased sales will increase taxes collected. Business will pay taxes the current system doesn’t.  More people working will pay taxes. More people working means more sales across the Commonwealth for everything which also means more total taxes collected.

Privatization will remove the inherent conflicting interests of PLCB sales and enforcement. Quite simply, our current system is a house divided. The same entity charged with licensing vendors and enforcing liquor laws is marketing, selling, and producing direct competition with the private companies it regulates (with a surprising lack of consistency). Under privatization, penalties and fines could become much stricter as the PLCB’s conflicted mission would be resolved. In the new, fully privatized system, the PLCB would license, enforce, and educate; which is the appropriate role of government. The troika of party hacks who make the arbitrary and often inconsistent rulings on licensees' questions about application of the Liquor Code could be replaced by experienced regulators, lawyers who do nothing but apply the Code, full-time. The agency would then be run by a director, not a jumped-up "CEO".

Privatization can renew the people’s faith in their government. Distributing and selling liquor should not be in the hands of a state-run monopoly, which is clearly not a core function of government. There has never been a poll that has been in favor of the state run system. Historically, 40 years of polling show the citizens want a change and that change is to a free market system they see working far better in neighboring states. The lack of reform in the face of overwhelming public support leads citizens to conclude that state government is distant, unresponsive to their wishes, and captive to selfish interests. By responding to the will of citizens and consumers, lawmakers can show that Pennsylvania state government listens and responds to the will of the people they are elected to serve.

(Taken, updated and modified from an April  2013 letter sent by the PA Manufactures Association to the Senate)

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