Finance - January 18, 2013

Corbett set to unveil big plans in coming weeks

Governor Tom Corbett is getting ready to unveil his transportation funding and liquor privatization plans in the coming weeks.  Corbett confirmed this week that those plans will be revealed prior to his budget address on February 5, 2013.

The Associated Press has reported that the Governor’s transportation plan will include proposing to remove the Oil Company Franchise Tax; experts are unsure what effect removing the cap will have on consumers. The “point of taxation” would also change; stations will reportedly be required to pay the tax when they purchase fuel from oil companies as opposed to “reporting and paying at a later date.”  The tax on gas stations could generate $2 billion per year.  It remains to be seen if Corbett will actually include these and other recommendations made by the Transportation Funding Advisory Commission in 2011.  Some of those additional changes include increasing license, registration and other vehicle fees; with those increases would come other adjustments.  For instance, driver’s may pay a higher registration fee but would receive a two-year registration or driver’s licenses would be valid for eight years instead of four.  Traffic violation fines may increase as well. 

The Governor is also getting ready to publicize his plan for privatizing the state run liquor system.  The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that stakeholders have been meeting with the Corbett administration over the last couple of weeks to discuss details.  Those sources have said that the Governor’s intention is to fully privatize the market and open up sales “to grocery stores, convenience stores, restaurants and taverns, and big-box stores.”  The legislature tried to tackle this issue last session, but a deal could not be reached.  Early reports are that there could be 2,000 retail outlets for beer and liquor sales; and both the wholesale and retail operations would be auctioned off.  Currently there are 600 liquor stores and about 1,200 beer distributors.  Questions remain about who will be able to sell what and how much; though the tentative plan would be to allow only “big-box stores” to sell beer, wine, and liquor.  While there may be widespread support from the general public for privatization, the Liquor Control Board clerks’ union and some legislators from both sides of the aisle remain opposed and are holding fast that privatization will have “dire social and financial consequences.”

PA Farm Show has record attendance

The 97th Pennsylvania Farm Show had record attendance this year.   About 585,000 people visited the show the week of January 5.  There were over 10,000 competitive exhibits, 300 commercial exhibits, and about 7,000 animals on display.  Also featured was the 1,200 pound butter sculpture, which reflected the “Made in PA. It makes a difference” theme.  The Pennsylvania Farm Show Scholarship Foundation also marked a couple of milestones this year.  The foundation marked it’s 20thAnniversary and it’s one-millionth donated dollar.  The foundation gave 25 students $3,500 scholarships this year.