Morning Must Reads: Higher Liquor Prices in Washington and a $100 Million June Revenue Surplus

As the debate over privatizing wine and spirit operations in Pennsylvania looms, The Patriot News takes a look at what privatization brought to Washington State — higher liquor prices. Voters approved the privatization of Washington’s state-run liquor stores effective June 1 (beer and wine is already for sale in private retail outlets in the state). The Patriot story is critical reading for Pennsylvania lawmakers considering privatization.

Supporters touted the [Washington State privatization] measure as a free-market reform that would give consumers more choices and lower prices. Those in favor included warehouse giant Costco Wholesale Corp., one of many big-box stores that can negotiate volume discounts for some products or sell their own labels more cheaply.

Shoppers didn’t expect to encounter higher prices. Sticker shock led to this one Seattle Times headline: “Buyer’s remorse over end of state stores as liquor prices rise.”

Capitolwire.com reports that there is some hope for the ongoing state budget talks as officials now expect a $100 million revenue surplus in June. 

While Republican legislative leaders and Gov. Tom Corbett discussed his 12 legislative priorities, the leaders hailed some good revenue news: June’s revenues are projected to be $100 million above estimate.

Since the gap between the governor and the GOP leaders started out Monday at $319 million, the legislative leaders tried to press the idea that this made their spending proposal of $27.656 billion less of a stretch than the governor has said.

But the governor has refused to move his number, or say when he would do so, or under what conditions he would do so, two negotiators said. Corbett told reporters in terms of agreement on a total spending figure: “I would hope we would get there in a day or two.”

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, meanwhile, is encouraging lawmakers to save taxpayer money by adopting Governor Corbett’s plan to cap the amount of sales tax dollars that big retailers get to keep.

Mr. Corbett … proposed putting a cap on the vender discount. The governor’s plan would not eliminate it all together, and the change would not affect an estimated 98 percent of the state’s businesses. But by setting a monthly cap of $250 on the discount, the state could realize $47 million a year.

Only very large retailers with a high volume of sales – for example, the Walmart, Home Depot and Target chains – would be affected by the imposition of a cap…

Pennsylvania is one of 28 states that provides the vendor discount, and 16 of them already have put caps on the amounts. Doing so would add a layer of fairness to the tax collection process; most businesses would continue to get a small sum for collecting the tax but big vendors wouldn’t be able to reap windfalls from it.”

Finally, The Allentown Morning Call’s John Micek takes a look at the proposed tax credit for Shell Oil and other petrochemical producers that Governor Corbett wants to include in any state budget deal. 

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