Modernization of Wine and Spirits
In September, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) announced revenue at Fine Wine & Good Spirits stores reached $2.24 billion in fiscal year 2013-14, a $67 million or 3.2 percent increase compared to fiscal year 2012-13. The PLCB also paid a record $526 million in liquor tax, sales tax and transfers to the General Fund and remitted $8.3 million in local taxes to Philadelphia and Allegheny counties; $25 million to the Pennsylvania State Police; $2.5 million to the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs; and $4.5 million in licensing fees returned to local municipalities. Overall, the PLCB reported net income of $123.7 million in fiscal year 2013-14.
Clearly, Pennsylvania’s 600 liquor stores are a financial asset in which we must look for ways to maximize. With Governor Wolf in office now I think the best approach to this situation is to modernize our liquor and beer system to guarantee we will have a continued cash flow in the state for the future. Senate Bill 15 (SB 15) was recently introduced that would modernize the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, the Wine & Spirits Stores, and process through which beer is sold.
Specifically, SB 15 encompasses changes that will allow the PLCB to operate more efficiently, and more profitably. These changes include:
Changes to Store Operations:
- Open more stores.
- Encourage those additional stores to be within or near grocery stores.
- Remove the cap on the number of stores that can operate on Sundays.
- Extend the permitted hours of operation on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
- Offer customer loyalty programs to improve customer experiences in stores.
- Sell lottery tickets within Wine & Spirits Stores.
Pricing: Currently, the PLCB feels it cannot provide flexibility in its pricing due to restrictive language in the Liquor Code requiring “proportional” markups on all of its products. “Proportional” has been interpreted to mean that a uniform markup must be used on all products regardless of the quality or quantity of a particular brand that is sold.
- The PLCB wishes to remove the required proportional pricing so that the Board can design pricing structures more reflective of successful retail operations. If given this flexibility, the agency could increase profitability by $50 to $70 million per year.
- In order to assist licensees with any potential increases in prices associated with this change, the bill also will increase the licensee discount from 10% to 16%, and will reduce the special liquor order mark up by 50%.
Direct Shipment of Wine:
- Will permit wine manufacturers to directly ship wine to residential customers. These customers will be required to provide identification at the time of delivery.
- The State’s liquor tax and sales tax will continue to be calculated and collected in the same fashion that it is at the Wine & Spirits Stores, and the PLCB will be required to license any direct wine shipper.
Procurement of Stores: Currently, the PLCB must go through the rigorous and time-consuming procurement process which may cause the agency to miss important market opportunities.
- Will permit the PLCB to have a limited number of opportunities, such as entering leases, to bypass the procurement process and act on the Board’s discretion. The Department of General Services will review the procurement process and purchases at the PLCB.
Beer Reform: This bill will address package reform for the sale of beer.
- Distributors would be able to sell as little as 42 oz (currently only allowed to sell a full case) provided that the package is produced by the manufacturer.
- Will allow restaurants and taverns to sell more beer per transaction than they are currently able to sell.
- Will address some definitions that relate to beer sales and are in need of updating. These updates will include items such as: kegs, units, package, and case.
These reforms mentioned as well as additional miscellaneous provisions are believed will produce additional revenues for the Commonwealth of approximately $100 million annually.
Property Tax/Rent Rebate Applications
The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is accepting applications for the 2014 Property Tax/Rent Rebate program. If you filed a paper rebate form last year, you should have received a 2014 application by now. If you have not received an application, or did not apply last year and wish to apply this year, applications can be obtained from any of my district offices and my staff would be happy to assist you in preparing your application.
The Property Tax/Rent Rebate program benefits eligible Pennsylvanians age 65 and over; widows and widowers age 50 and over; and people with disabilities age 18 and over. Homeowners with a maximum yearly income of $35,000 and renters with a maximum yearly income of $15,000 are eligible for a rebate. Keep in mind that half of Social Security income is excluded.
Due to program changes enacted last year to ensure claimants aren’t disqualified from rebates solely because of Social Security cost-of-living-adjustments, homeowners and renters may be eligible for rebates even if their eligibility income is greater than these limits. Any homeowner who collected Social Security, received a property tax rebate in 2013 for claim year 2012 and had annual income last year, discounting half of Social Security, up to $36,129, is encouraged to apply for a rebate for claim year 2014. Any renter in that same situation with an annual income in 2014, discounting half of Social Security, up to $15,484, is also encouraged to apply.
Applications are due to the Department of Revenue by June 30th.
Consumer Protection Awareness Fair
Tomorrow, in conjunction with National Consumer Protection Week, the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General, Bureau of Consumer Protection, is hosting its annual Consumer Awareness Fair. The Fair is being held in downtown Pittsburgh in the lobby of the City-County Building, located at 414 Grant Street from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Federal, state, and local government agencies along with consumer organizations expected to attend are: US Postal Service; Better Business Bureau; AARP; PA Public Utility Commission; PA Department of Banking and Securities; and the Area Agency on Aging. For more information, please visit www.attorneygeneral.gov.
Last week was Highway Safety Law Awareness Week in Pennsylvania and PennDOT wanted to draw attention to some often overlooked rules of the road. The following are a few laws that motorists might not be aware of but that are important to observe for the safety of fellow motorists and road workers:
- “Keep Right Pass Left” focuses on the safety of passing only on the left and not remaining in the left lane as a travel lane
- The “Steer Clear Law” reminds drivers to move over or slow down for police, emergency responders, road crews and tow-truck operators while they carry out their duties
- “Headlights On, Wipers On” requires that all vehicles should have their headlights and wipers on when operating in inclement weather
“Clear vehicles of ice and snow” reminds drivers that their cars should be fully clear before winter travel
For more information on highway safety please visit www.JustDrivePA.com.
Great American Cleanup
This year’s Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania began Sunday and runs through May 31st. This project is an annual effort organized by Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful with the goal of keeping our communities clean and green, and improving the overall quality of life for everyone.
If you are interested in volunteering, please visit www.gacofpa.org where you can find a listing of cleanup events, resources for organizing a cleanup, and other information. These events can include cleaning up litter and trash along roadsides, streams, parks, forests and in neighborhoods, the planting of bulbs and trees and removing graffiti. Anyone interested in registering a cleanup event can do so at www.gacofpa.org. All registered events being held through May 31st are eligible for free work gloves, safety vests, and trash bags while supplies last, courtesy of PennDOT, PA Department of Environmental Protection and Glad Products Company.
Once again this year, Keep Pennsylvania Beautiful is also offering the Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania Video Contest, where event organizers can submit a video of their cleanup event and win a cash prize as well as having their video posted online. More information on the Video Contest can also be found at www.gacofpa.org. The deadline to submit a video is May 22nd.
Did You Know…
Did you know that since the inception of the Great American Cleanup of Pennsylvania in 2004 over 1.5 million volunteers have picked up over 80 million pounds of litter and waste? Over 146,000 miles of roads, waterways, shorelines and trails have been cleaned and more than 136,000 trees, bulbs, and flowers have been planted since 2004.
My Bike Program
Variety the Children's Charity provides children with disabilities unique programs, experiences, and equipment, so they may live life to the fullest. Variety’s “My Bike” Program is an initiative to provide children with disabilities who are eligible with adaptive bicycles that are individually customized, so they may have the freedom of a bike and the joy of riding alongside friends and family. Currently, more than 250 adaptive bikes are available through the program. This program serves children and youth who have a disability that reside in Variety’s 26 county service area, are between the ages of 4 and 21 years of age, and meet the income guidelines, as well as the other eligibility requirements outlined in the application.
If you have a child or know of a child who may qualify for an adaptive bike please click here to view the application and requirements. More information about the My Bike Program and other programs offered through Variety the Children’s Charity can be obtained by calling the main office at 724-933-0460.
This Sunday, March 8th daylight savings time begins at 2 a.m. with the turning forward of all clocks by one hour. While most places in the United States observe daylight savings time, Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and most of Arizona do not.
Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana
| Brookline District
932 Brookline Blvd.
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
543 Main Capitol
Harrisburg, PA 17120
524 Pine Hollow Rd
| Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15216