Monday, October 8, 2012

Next year - why we need to get this right

Privatization is over for 2012. The unions shouted and chanted and wore their matching t-shirts while their president for life, Wendell W. Young, fourth of his line, told scary tales of "the possibility of liquor stores on every corner" if privatization went through, deliberately ignoring the ridiculously inadequate license caps legislators carefully included in every proposal. The social conservatives quietly pressed for more regulation on alcohol. And the fearful legislators, mindful of the campaign contributions of these two groups -- especially those of organized labor -- gutted the privatization proposal that was before them. Then majority leader Turzai's hamhanded politicking ruined any chance that it would go anywhere. So once again, the clear will of the majority of the Commonwealth's citizens was thwarted by a gutless government.

Well, maybe not so bad. After all, the voters of Washington went for a privatization scheme that raised their already high liquor taxes, which should be a caution to all Pennsylvanians who want privatization. That caution, of course, is to be very, very careful about the privatization you get. Because all we've been offered recently is a bill -- HB11 -- that obviously was written with large corporate interests very much in mind, and an amendment to it that was clearly designed to be impossible to pass, in a nod to the power of organized labor. These were not the privatization we wanted, and I'm glad they didn't pass.

I've already made some suggestions in that direction, and you can see them here. To sum up briefly:

1. Let supermarkets sell beer, wine and liquor, purchased from private wholesalers. This competition will likely kill the State Stores anyway.

2. Charge a flat fee to any business that wants to sell booze – no cap on licenses. This will actually make more money for the State, and make it easier for non-nuisance bars to thrive.

3. Tax volume, not value. The Johnstown Flood Emergency Tax makes cheap booze even cheaper, while making better booze even more expensive. Go to a gallonage tax, like almost every other state.

4. Allow Pennsylvanians to buy wine, spirits, or beer in other states, or through the mail/Internet from anywhere, without penalty. -- End the police-enforced monopoly.

5. Allow any authorized retailer to sell beer in any volume they desire, without fake restrictions. -- End the case law. Now. The Legislature has fiddled around for years over this simple change. Shut up and do it.

6. Open up the wholesale market to more competition. -- More wholesalers means more competition, which means better prices and service.

Start planning for next year. Ask your legislator now where they stand on privatization. Tell them that you're in favor of privatization, that you're in favor of doing away with all vestiges of the case law, and that you need to know if they're in favor of those two things...and if not, you want real good reasons why not. We need to be clear with the Legislature that this is an important issue for us, and that it will affect how we vote next month.

The PLCB has shown abundantly how riddled with incompetence it is, and now their corruption is coming to the surface as well. Their ludicrous "modernization, not privatization" campaign is pathetically self-serving. Here's a thought: how about someone in Harrisburg thinks about all of us and what we want instead of making another damn skeezy deal to get some other small group what they want?

This is far from over, though PJ Stapleton's early resignation is a welcome gift. The day after the election, remind Governor Corbett that he owes us privatization.

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