The most significant section of the law decriminalizes buying liquor out of state. Our reading of the bill indicates that the fines of $10 per bottle or can of beer and $25 per container of wine or liquor for bringing booze across the border remain in effect but the alcohol is returned to the buyer if he pays the appropriate taxes.
Further the bill states Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit any resident of this commonwealth not licensed under this act to purchase liquor outside of this commonwealth so long as the resident pays all state taxes on the liquor to the department of revenue and the liquor is not shipped into this commonwealth.
State Sen. Scott Wagner (R-28) compared Pennsylvania to the Titanic with disaster just ahead at tonight’s (April 6) meeting of the Delaware County Patriots.
About 100 persons attended the event which was held at the Knights of Columbus hall in Newtown Square.
“The ship is going down and we got to do something about it,” Wagner said.
He was referring to Pennsylvania’s fiscal crisis driven by out-of-control state pensions and spiraling property taxes.
He blamed the cause on corruption giving special scorn to those on his side of the aisle. Wagner, who started three successful businesses in York County that now employ 600 persons, described how GOP leaders would hit him up for money at campaign time and that he would write ever bigger checks. Yet, he noted, the simple things that should have made life easier for himself and his employees never seemed to happen.
“They weren’t taking care of you,” he says. “They were taking care of themselves.”
This inspired him to seek office and in a special election on March 18, 2014, he ran a write-in campaign to fill the remainder of the term left vacant by late State Senator Mike Waugh. It was the first time a write-in candidate won a state senate seat. Wagner got 10,595 votes (47.7 percent), while the endorsed Republican nominee received 5,920 votes and Democratic nominee got 5,704.
He won an election to a full-term in November.
Wagner notes that in the private sector pensions rarely reach 40 percent of the working pay. He said in the public sector in this state it is approaching 80 percent. He notes that average pay for a teacher in his school district is $88,000 for 180 days of work and they can look forward to getting $75,000 per year for the rest of their life upon retirement. This would be at age 60 after 30 years, or earlier after 35 years.
He said that it angers him to see soldiers coming home from overseas in wheelchairs missing limbs knowing they could look forward to $800 per month in benefits when retired teachers would be getting over $6,000.
He said if things don’t change benefits and wages would soon be dollar for dollar.
“If Pennsylvania could file for bankruptcy, I’d be the first to prepare a bill,” he said.
Wagner proposed specific solutions. He said abolishing the prevailing wage mandate that requires wages for public works projects be set by the union-dominated Department of Labor and Industry rather than the market would save school districts between $200 million and $300 million annually.
He said he will not vote for a state budget unless the state gets rid of prevailing wage.
Wagner is also pushing to turn the state pension programs into 401K defined contribution types rather than the existing defined benefit packages.
He said he is also working on ways in which force give-backs in the existing benefits package.
A related issue that he is also trying to address is the cause of the corruption that led to this crisis.
He noted that he has been targeted by Pennsylvania AFL-CIO leader Rick Bloomingdale for his push for paycheck protection for union members. He said that about $750 annually is automatically deduction from each union member’s paycheck with the members having little say for which causes the money should be used.
The state’s AFL-CIO has about 800,000 members, so that’s about $600 million that winds up supporting not-so-pro labor causes like opening borders and stopping pipelines.
Wagner pointed out that Bloomingdale’s salary is over $300,000.
Wagner mentioned that he had a recent lunch with presidential hopeful Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who was notably successful in stopping union corruption in his state. Wagner said the big difference between Wisconsin and Pennsylvania is that unlike in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin Republicans did not get any union money.
“Eighty percent of Republicans take money from unions,” Wagner said.
Wagner said he is far from making an endorsement but that he likes Walker
Wagner said that he is pushing for the sale of the state’s liquor stores.
“State liquor stores aren’t making the kind of money people think they are,” he said.
In a bit of irony, Wagner is now running the Senate Republican Campaign Committee which so bitterly fought him a year ago. He said that he has his eye on several Democrat seats in the western part of the state and expect to flip four or five to the GOP in 2016. The Republicans now hold a 30-20 lead in the body but Wagner notes that four or five from the Philadelphia suburbs often end up supporting the Democrats.
It was rather daring that Wagner would make his speech on his adversaries’ turf.
Wagner did have some nice things to say about Dominic Pileggi (R-9) who he was instrumental in removing as Senate Majority Leader earlier this year.
“I think he’s a brilliant guy,” he said.
He said Pileggi’s weak spot was that his training as a lawyer kept him from seeing the steps needed to save the state.
Pileggi is running for election as a Common Pleas Court judge this fall and would leave his senate seat if he should win as expected. Wagner said he expects a more conservative senator to replace Pileggi.
Wagner got some grief in the question period regarding his support for SB 76, a bill that was tabled last fall and would have replaced the property tax with either an income or sales tax to fund schools. Many members in the audience said they feared it would mean the end of local control of schools. Wagner said the bill was not perfect, is not likely to pass as is, and needs further work.
He said property tax relief is desperately needed, however, and SB 76 gets things moving.
Wagner said he does not expect a state budget to be passed until October. He said any claims that the government is going to shut down are “bullshit” a word he repeated several times. He noted that the state is still going to be collecting taxes whether the budget is passed or not.
Also at the meeting was Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Paul Panepinto who was seeking support for his independent run as a state Supreme Court judge. Judge Panepinto needs 17,000 signatures by July to get on the ballot. He recently made headlines for fining lawyer Nancy Raynor $1 million for her behavior during a medical malpractice case.
Wagner gave him a ringing endorsement calling him the “real deal”.
Pennsylvania State Rep. Joe Hackett (R-161) and Sen. Dominic Pileggi (R-9) have introduced bills that would end the penalty for bringing into the Keystone State liquor, wine and beer purchased elsewhere.
The law now provides for fines of $25 per bottle, cost of prosecution and 90 days in jail.
Both men represent constituencies on or very near the Delaware border and we suspect many, if not most, of their constituents know the address of Total Wine and Tri-State Liquors.
Pileggi notes that attempt is not connected to the attempts to de-communize the Commonwealth’s liquor distribution system — which he describes as facing a “fundamental disagreement” in the legislature — and expects it to pass.
Still, Wendell Young IV, the well-paid head of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1776 who inherited his $292,765 job from his father, Wendell Young III, has come out against it so don’t expect a slam dunk.
Local 1776’s fiefdom includes the proles in the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board distribution system.
Pennsylvania Independent reports that state senators Pat Browne (R-16), John Rafferty (R-44) and Tommy Tomlinson (R-6) received a massive union cash dump shortly before yesterday’s (Nov. 4) election with Browne getting $37,000 from 10 groups including $10,000 from the PSEA (public school teachers) and $500 from 1776 PAC UFCW (state stores); Rafferty getting $7,000 broken down as $5,000 from the PSEA, $1,000 from the Professional Firefighters Association PAC and $1,000 from Steamfitters Local 420; and Tomlinson getting $22,000 from seven groups including $10,000 from PA SEIU (government workers) and $1,000 from 1776 PAC UFCW.
It’s a pretty good bet that this trio will vote with Democrats in opposing legislation such as selling the state stores, effective pension reform and making education more effective but less burdensome on the average Joe and Jill.
The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board announced yesterday, Feb. 21, during an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee that it would retire the TableLeaf brand, an exclusive label made for our government by a winery in California.
After the existing stocks are sold it is no more.
We never knew that TableLeaf was the in-house government brand albeit we are not surprised. It tasted like something we’d image the citizens of Russia were stuck with drinking circa 1989.
It’s time to retire Pennsylvania’s communistic liquor sale system albeit that’s not likely going to happen until people — from both parties — who are not beholden to getting rich off taxpayers take control of our government.
If you are a Republican consider picking Bob Guzzardi over Tom Corbett during the May 20 primary.
It would send a good message and be a good change.
State Rep. Stephen Bloom (R-199) circulated a petition on Dec. 2 seeking co-sponsors for a bill requiring all advertising by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board to prominently state “This Ad Paid For By You, The Taxpayers of PA”.
The PLCB spent $5.8 million last year to encourage shopping at the state-owned liquor stores which has a practical monopoly on the sale of bottles of liquor and wine in the Keystone State.
Bloom also notes that the PLCB also awards grants aimed to reduce drinking.
“You’re literally seeing taxpayer dollars being used to buy billboards and TV commercials promoting drinking liquor while at the same time, the same state agency is advertising to discourage people from consuming liquor,” Bloom said.
He said that a draft of Pennsylvania academic standards being considered by the State Board of Education will specifically include the wording “There will be no required reading lists and curriculum will remain strictly a local decision by our school boards.”
He noted the name of the standards will be changed to PA Core Standards.
He distributed a memo from State House Education Committee Chairman Paul Clymer (R-145) that in the standards “there will be no national tests or assessments, except if one is deemed necessary for special education students and then only in consultation with parents, teachers and other interested parties.”
He said the action was prompted by House Resolution 38 which passed unanimously.
Adolph, echoing earlier remarks by state Sen. Ted Erickson (R-26) said liquor-sale privatization will likely occur albeit the likely result will not be as strong as he had hoped.
He said he expects the legislature to vote next June to change the state’s pension system to a 401K-type defined contribution one from its present defined benefit one.
He said he expects, unfortunately, to see a transportation bill pass that will feature either gas tax increases or more roads tolled. He said the state roads and bridges are in that bad of shape.
Adolph said he had some confidence in the passage of reform to the state’s prevailing wage law — namely raising the exemption level of work from $25,000 where it has been since the law was passed in 1961 to $185,000 which is today’s equivalent taking into account inflation.
It’s a relatively minor reform but it’s progress.
He said Medicaid expansion will not happen unless Gov. Corbett can negotiate a lesser cost-per-recipient with the Obama Administration. As of now, Pennsylvania pays about $7,500 per recipient which is one of the highest in the nation. He said the state can’t afford to accept the expansion at that rate. He said hospital administrators have been lobbying hard for the governor to accept it.
He said he supported paycheck protection legislation that would end union dues be involuntarily deducted from workers paychecks, and that he supported bills banning teacher strikes.
Adolph said legislation will be presented calling for the impeachment of Attorney General Kathleen Kane, who has refused to defend the Pennsylvania’s law restricting marriage to members of the opposite sex. He said the action has her worried. He pointed out that her refusal to enforce a law with which she disagreed is subverting the rule of law.