Health - August 15, 2014

PA liquor prices not going up

After an internal Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board memo was recently released saying there would be "an additional 5 percent markup on prices" to help offset increasing costs, PLCB Chairman Joseph Brion said the markup will not increase this fiscal year. The current markup, which is set at 30 percent, has not increased since 1993. The Markup is the percentage the LCB adds to the price of liquor and wine after taxes in order to make a profit.  The internal memo suggested raising the markup to 35 percent on some but not all shelf products.  Rising costs at the agency include mostly personnel costs including salaries, benefits and pensions. The memo noted an estimated 20 percent decrease in net income in 2014-15 due to those personnel costs. Brion was quick to note that those estimations "are not reason to raise the markup percentage." The memo had been part of an annual report by the finance director on "sales projections, upcoming expenses, expected profit, and ideas on how to generate more profit, a significant portion of which is transferred to the state's budget" and was intended to keep the board aware of expenses that need to be accounted for in the next year. 

While the Governor and some Republican lawmakers have attempted to privative the state liquor system, the LCB reports (though the final profit report for 2013-14 fiscal year has yet to be released) that they had "a banner year" with sales increases of 3.2 percent. LCB spokeswoman Stacy Kriedeman said the LCB is always looking for "alternate ways to increase revenue" and leave the markup at 30 percent. 


Education Advisor to Governor resigns

Ron Tomalis, higher education advisor to Governor Tom Corbett, resigned this week with his last day being August 26.  Tomalis' role was questioned after the Pittsburg Post-Gazette reported that in his first year he "sent only five emails, made little more than one phone call per day, had a largely empty calendar and incurred no expenses traveling the state" to visit state universities.  Tomalis collected almost $140,000 annually, the same salary he garnered as educaton secretary when he left that position in June 2013. Corbett had been recently questioned on whether Tomalis was a ghost employee and some state Democratic leaders began to call for Tomalis to be fired along with current Secretary of Education, Carolyn Dumaresq. Dumaresq defended Tomalis, saying he worked 40 hours a week, preferred face to face meetings and that department employees "purge their emails at the end of each day" in order to explain the lack of email volume. 

Originally the role was created to carry out recommendations of the Governor's Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education, including increasing access to higher education and assisting schools with cost containment. Dumaresq said Tomalis could be credited with reviving "the Governor's schools," creating the Ready to Succeed scholarships and the Pennsylvania STEM competition.  Tomalis will not collect a severance and did not say what he will be doing next; just that his resigning was in the "best interest of the administration." Corbett has said he will not replace Tomalis at this time and will only make a decision on the role itself should he win re-election.