Thursday, July 5, 2012

How to 'save' the State Stores and make privatization go away

All this time we've been talking about privatizing, and the union and the social conservatives and the beer retailers have been railing about it, and yet the talk continues...wanna know a secret?

It would be really easy to get Pennsylvanians to accept the State Store System forever.

Really. Here's all you have to do.
  1. Change the name of the Johnstown Flood Emergency Tax. Just change the name. Call it the Pennsylvania Alcohol Excise Tax, and most people will never say another word about it. It's the idea that the tax was for the Johnstown Flood and we're still paying it that drives them crazy.
  2. Get rid of Joe Conti and the CEO position. The man's a disaster: the wine kiosks alone would prove that, but the constant ethics investigations are a drag as well. The CEO position is such an obvious patronage job that it's painful.
  3. End the police-enforced monopoly. Just give up. It's rarely enforced, and it's galling to Pennsylvanians. Accept you're going to have to compete with businesses over the border...just like every other retailer does (and consider lowering the PA Alcohol Excise Tax to be more competitive...and watch sales go up, and overall revenues go up as people have fewer reasons to buy booze -- and food, and gas, and everything else -- outside of PA).
  4. Kill the case law. It's not part of the State Store embroglio, but it's a thorn in our sides, and taking it away will calm us down. 
  5. Link advancement of product knowledge to retention and promotion in the work force. If the union wants to keep their jobs, have them make this major concession: their retail jobs will actually depend on them selling products. 
  6. Double the number of stores, kill the stock requirements, and allow local control of stocking. Do we really need 2500 SKUs in Clarks Summit, when you can -- supposedly -- easily order something through the stores? Cut the operational costs of running State Stores. Allow local control of ordering, not one plan put in place in all stores by a committee in Harrisburg.
  7. Put the BLCE back under the PLCB. The PLCB and their enforcement arm don't work together. The BLCE used to be part of the PLCB; put them back together.
  8. Make the PLCB answerable to the State Government. A lot of the arrogance and crap we've seen out of the PLCB over the past five years stems directly from the agency's independence. There's no reason it should be so independent. The easiest way would be to make it part of the Department of Revenue.
Do those things, and Pennsylvanians will be satisfied enough that privatization will never pass. Not in my lifetime.

Why do I lay this out, when I dearly want privatization to pass? Simple. I know the Legislature and the PLCB will never get their shit together enough to do any of this, even though none of it would hurt state revenues.