Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Budget Bluster Wolf Offers Nothing on Liquor, Little on Pensions

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Budget Bluster Wolf Offers Nothing on Liquor, Little on Pensions

Article excerpt

You'd think a former businessman would know the art of compromise. What Gov. Tom Wolf has offered state legislative leaders is no compromise at all.

The Democratic governor says he wants the Republicans who control the General Assembly to give him a severance tax on shale drilling, more money for education and options for property tax relief. What he has offered is a private lease proposal that doesn't privatize the state liquor monopoly and some changes on public pensions that don't really reform the pension system. (A 401(k) plan for new employees making at least $75,000? How many state or school employees start at that salary?)

No wonder Mr. Wolf's negotiating opposites are unimpressed. The Republicans should stand their ground until the governor is ready to offer something significant.

Let's start with Mr. Wolf's liquor plan.

On Wednesday he said he would lease the state-owned wholesale and retail system to private management for 10 to 25 years. The private operator would determine the number and location of stores and have flexibility on pricing. The stores would be open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

A major negative is the firm would have to keep the current workforce, who are paid at union scale and who therefore make the government system far more costly to operate than comparable retail stores. And where in the governor's plan is the dynamic of competition - the hallmark of free enterprise - if just one private entity runs the entire statewide liquor system?

As if that isn't already lacking, the governor says that still to be negotiated are the sale of wine in grocery stores and restaurants and the sale of beer six-packs in convenience stores.

The plan is a loser. It privatizes nothing. What's worse is that by projecting an aura of private operation it could perpetuate Pennsylvania's antiquated system for far longer. …

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