Tuesday, June 4 was the final Senate hearing on Wine and Spirits privatization, held by the Senate Law and Justice Committee. Among those testifying was United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 President Wendell Young, IV. He thanked the members of the committee and committee Chair Charles McIlhinney for their efforts in gathering all of the facts and information through a series of three public hearings held over the past month – rather than just taking for granted the talking points of Governor Corbett, Mike Turzai and the privateers.
Over a hundred members of the United Food and Commercial Workers, including many employees of the PLCB, attended the committee hearing to protect their jobs and to support their Union President. President Young said that his union supports additional modernization of the PLCB – which includes more access and convenience and generates more revenue – as proposed by State Senator Jim Ferlo, the Minority Chair of the Committee. Senator Ferlo’s proposals are reflected in Senate Bill 800, a legislative alternative to the privatization scheme.
Senator McIlhinney said that he will be introducing legislation within the next few weeks, as he has promised, based upon information and input from the Senate committee hearings. Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley was the final official to testify today at the conclusion of the hearings.
“How did we get here?” President Young asked. “We’re here because Mike Turzai, Governor Corbett and the privateers have promised the moon and consistently misled Pennsylvanians over the course of the last two years. Their claims are more than inaccurate, they are dishonest,” President Young said.
The real facts, backed up by data and research, make it very clear that privatization is a bad deal for Pennsylvania. Now that the people have taken a closer look, the polling shows a majority of Pennsylvanians oppose privatization. Privatization just doesn’t work for consumers, not for taxpayers and not for communities.
The privateers claim that prices will drop and that convenience will improve; but they haven’t produced one shred of evidence to back up these claims. The privateers claim that there will be plenty of new jobs created, but it’s not true, and their own experts whom they hired to make the case told them that at least 2,300 LCB employees will land on the unemployment line and that very few new jobs will be created by privatization. The privateers continue to ignore the experts and the independent research that proves that privatization is bad economic policy and bad public health policy.
Even during this difficult economy, the PLCB has generated over $500 million in annual revenues. This year the PLC is on pace to generate $700 million, including $170 million in profits for the Commonwealth. Under privatization, much of the recurring annual revenue would be lost, and that budget gap would fall on the taxpayers. Meanwhile, the wild estimates of one-time revenue that would be generated from an auction of liquor licenses keeps dropping and dropping.
Corbett’s own experts at Public Financial Management said that privatization would cost the state at least $1.4 billion in transition costs, and that does not include the increased social and criminal justice costs which are estimated in the hundreds of millions.
These Senate hearings have provided the opportunity for a productive and revealing public discussion about the true impacts of this reckless privatization scheme. We applaud the Senate for taking the time to give this legislation the scrutiny it deserves, and hope that it is now obvious to everyone why this privatization agenda would be a terrible mistake for Pennsylvania.