Government Liquor is a Liability

Liquor privatization came dangerously close to reality this year with a true privatization plan passing both houses of the legislature in June only to be stonewalled by the governor. So it’s no wonder that supporters of the state liquor monopoly are becoming more “creative” in defending the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB).

Various media outlets have picked up on the state system’s “record sales” in 2014, but the truth is the PLCB is losing money. In fact, according to the PLCB’s own report, it’s on the verge of insolvency.

After changing its accounting practices to mirror those used in the private sector, the agency ended the year more than $238 million in the red.

For the first time the PLCB had to record on its financial sheets its share of the State Employees’ Retirement System (SERS) unfunded liability. That means the PLCB’s $362.7 million pension obligation (2.9 percent of SERS’ total $12.3 billion unfunded pension liability), when applied to the State Stores Fund, leaves the fund in a negative net position.

Compared to last year when the fund had a net ending position that was more than $77 million dollars in the black, FY2014-15 ended at negative $238.7 million.

The PLCB’s poor finances are just one more reason the days of government liquor are numbered.