Monday, March 31, 2014

Gypsies, tramps, and thieves.

By now, you have heard that the leadership of the PLCB is full of crooks. We already knew that it was full of incompetence: just look at date-rape ads, buying mom vodka for mother's day, the born-to-fail wine kiosks, computer systems 158% over budget, and who knows how much more that hasn't even been exposed yet. Meanwhile, the CEO, Chairman, and Marketing Director were out having a good time when they should have been working (The board only works 22 partial days a year as it is), taking gifts and then conveniently forgetting to report them. Maybe "conveniently" isn't the right word, since we all know the PLCB isn't convenient. How about we say "on purpose" instead....yeah they forgot about $2000 golf trips on purpose, or forgot about a few thousand in free booze on purpose. That sounds more like it.

While the ethics committee has no teeth itself, they apparently thought that these good ol' boys were just  playfully forgetful....after all, what PA legislator hasn't taken a favor or two or two or eight thousand? So they got caught; just fill out the paperwork and pay what you should have paid -- nudge nudge wink wink -- and everything will be fine.

I'm not sure if our AG saw a chance to make a point, or if she really felt these people should pay more than restitution, or if it made her skin crawl that a so-called public servant would disrespect the citizens as they did, but she at least refereed the case to the Dauphin County DA, recusing herself... since her husband has a $12 million contract with the PLCB.  Nepotism isn't new in Harrisburg but this was a bit to high profile to not be noticed.

As reported in the Intelligencer:
Unfortunately, this type of corruption is a symptom of a much larger problem: the government’s complete control of the sale and distribution of wine and spirits in Pennsylvania. If government bureaucrats did not have the sole authority to determine what alcohol is sold in all the state’s liquor stores, businesses would have no incentive to bribe them with golf outings, fancy dinners and free liquor.

Hopefully the DA can give the people what they want: turn left, convicts!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Let’s Kill Another Privatization Myth

Like the movie, some supporters of the State Store System will "say anything" to keep the PLCB jobs program and prevent the citizens from having the choice, selection, and service enjoyed in the majority of states.

The latest in their series of  "Look (at our) Interesting Example," or LIE as I like to call it, is that privatization will kill craft beer, micro-distilleries, and small wineries (you pick: one, two, or all) in Pennsylvania. 

Really? Consider:
1.       What state has the largest number of craft brewers?
2.       What state has the largest number of micro-distillers?
3.       What state has the largest number of small wineries?
4.       What do these states have in common?

Not hard to figure out that California is the answer to #3, but they also lead in #1 with 316 as of last year. Question two goes to the state best known for distilling, Kentucky, with 16 micro distillers as of 2013 and California is second with 14

Both California and Kentucky have private alcohol sales - retail and wholesale. So tell me again how privatization will kill off these businesses in PA?  I’ll wait while you make up something.
.....Right. Exactly.

My next article will prove that PA rural roads have nothing to do with DUI fatalities compared to our surrounding states. Another LIE that pops up a lot.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

What we don’t have….

The latest failed tactic of those who want to keep the PLCB (largely the people who work there, and the unions they belong to) is to counter the “majority of states do it this way” argument with “but only X amount have this” – pick whatever consumer feature you want that PA doesn’t have and that they don’t want us to have.

The one I like best is “only 15 states have one stop shopping for food and alcohol.” Of course, Pennsylvania isn’t one of those states and heaven forbid we try to lead the way instead of lagging behind. Truth be told is that 39 states have one stop shopping for alcohol including six of the so-called control states. Pennsylvania is a control state, and the most onerous of them all, because while only PA and Utah control wine and spirits retail, you can still buy some beer in Utah in a grocery store (by the case, if you really want!), but you can’t do that here, except in the few stores that have gone to the trouble and expense to buy a tavern license and put in a "cafe" and even then you still can't buy a case at one time.

So in in 39 states you only have to make one trip to buy a case, a six-pack, a bottle of wine and some bourbon; in 10 states you have to make 2 trips; but only in the you have to make three trips.

Perhaps if we didn’t have to waste so much time we could write our legislators and list this idiocy as yet another of the myriad of reasons to get the PLCB out of all retail and wholesale.

Privatization – the ultimate modernization.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Modernization won’t do what the consumer wants – Part III

Today we are going to look at another part of  the PLCB's plan for “modernization,” called getting "the right people.” That's what point #9 of the Executive Summary of "Proposed Statutory Amendments of the PLCB" calls it; have a look:
9) Changes to Staffing and Human Resource Management:
  • Restrictions imposed by the Civil Service Act and the Administrative Code impair the PLCB’s ability to effectively manage its workforce 
  • Allowing the PLCB to make employment decisions outside of Civil Service, and giving the PLCB the authority to classify or reclassify its own positions and set the compensation of all employees will give the agency the autonomy and independence needed to place the right people in the right positions at the right rates of pay. 
  • The PLCB currently pays the Civil Service Commission approximately $1 million dollars per year to administer examinations for store employees.
  • Appropriate employment, classification, and salary policies would be put in place to provide necessary controls and structure to the Board’s decisions. get the “right people,” they want to set different rates of pay. Obviously, it has to be a higher rate to get those people, otherwise those people would be here now. Equally obvious is that the PLCB believes that they can’t train or teach the people they have now, and currently don’t have knowledgeable staff that could fill the positions that the “right people” would fill. (They've had 80 years to work on it, but they're only admitting that failure now.)

Since these “right people” currently won’t work for the PLCB because the salary -- even though it's at the highest end of retail compensation in America -- doesn’t match their needs, who is going to pay for the increase? You know who: us, the wine buyers, the taxpayers, because we are the ones who have to cover the increased pension obligations that these “right people” will incur since they are being paid more. The PLCB portion of the pension deficit is $550 million and expected to go to $600 million by the end of this year. But that isn’t enough. All that extra money the PLCB says they will be making; some of it will have to go to pay for these “right people” and their benefits. How much will be left over for the General Fund? Anything significant?

The only benefits to this scheme are really to the PLCB and the people who work for them. We consumers still won’t get the convenience and selection found in other states even if our “right people” are wearing world class aprons.

Privatization IS Modernization.  Contact your legislators and tell them so.