Last week, Gov. Wolf unveiled new, bad policy ideas—to slightly adjust a misguided pension proposal, and to propose a private manager to a government run liquor monopoly.
But just as it was with the fabled wardrobe-challenged emperor, we aren't the only ones who have seen through the Governor's new clothes. Editorial boards across Pennsylvania have pointed out Wolf's new proposals are transparent and immaterial.
Lehigh Valley Live writes (emphasis added)
Instead of offering a real compromise, Wolf dredged up what can only be called Reform Lite — privatizing the management of the liquor system (but not the ownership or the workforce). He also came down in price on his hybrid pension proposal, saying that the earnings of new state employees over $75,000 would be shifted to a defined-contribution pension plan (down from his earlier ceiling of $100,000).
Leasing the Liquor Control Board's management function to a private firm 10 to 25 years, as Wolf proposes, is worse than doing nothing, because it would prevent conversion to a market-driven system during that time. Nothing in Wolf's offer would greatly increase service or selection, or reduce prices. The unionized sales force would stay in place. So would the number of stores. Wolf's idea to extend beer and wine sales to convenience stores and restaurants is tepid at best, and pits government against private enterprise.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette adds (emphasis mine):
The plan is a loser. It privatizes nothing. What’s worse is that by projecting an aura of private operation it could perpetuate Pennsylvania’s antiquated system for far longer. The state needs to get out of the liquor business, once and for all, as soon as possible, without the use of Tom Wolf’s smoke and mirrors.
The Bucks County Courier Times editorializes (emphasis mine):
Now that we’ve gotten an unvarnished look at those “historic” reforms, here’s our take: phony-baloney “reforms” that create the appearance of movement for a Democratic governor locked in a budget impasse with Republican legislative leaders.
Lastly, Lancaster Online pans the proposal, urging Wolf to look to real liquor store privatization:
Forget his proposal last week to offer a long-term lease to manage the state liquor stores; private firms would bid on a contract to manage the system, which would stay under state ownership.
If Gov. Wolf can make a deal with Republican leaders that would make good on his promise to boost funding for Pennsylvania’s public schools, he should choose our children over the unions that oppose privatizing our state-owned liquor stores. If he fails to do so, he could lose the support of those who elected him because they’re rightly frustrated with the human costs of the ongoing budget impasse.
Gov. Wolf may have trotted out new clothes last week, but they don't cover up the bad policies he started with.