Lots of business around Harrisburg this week
n House Republicans have begun circulating the draft of the legislation that would enable the state to privatize the liquor system. Grocery stores, for an initial license fee and annual renewal fee of $25,000, would gain the ability to sell two 6-packs of beer and up to six bottles of wine per customer. Big grocery stores would have to pay a $30,000 fee. Big-box retail stores, for an initial license fee and annual renewal fee of $35,000, would gain the ability to sell beer by the case and up to six bottles of wine. Convenience stores, for a $10,000 fee, would gain the ability to sell one 6-pack of beer. Beer distributors, for $150,000, will gain the right to sell wine and break beer down into six-packs, instead of selling beer by the case. Makes me thirsty just writing about it.
n Budget hearings got underway last week, which for the most part, were pretty run-of-the mill. Budget Secretary Charles Zogby faced a Senate panel at the beginning of the week, with much of the discussion dealing with the pension reform plan. Amidst all of the uncertainty about the legality of changing pension plans in the middle of labor contracts, it seems like it will be months before we really know what is going to happen. “If the governor’s budget were passed just as he presented it, the most surprised person in Harrisburg would be Tom Corbett,” said Sen. John Wozniak after Zogby’s appearance.
n The biggest loser? We talked last week with lawmakers who argued that the basic education funding formula proposed by the Department of Education was not necessarily treating rural schools badly because many of them are already heavily-subsidized. An analysis by the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center found that the biggest losers are students in Philadelphia. Since 2010-11, the per pupil funding in Philly has dropped $1,258. But there are rural schools that fare poorly, too. In the list of the 20 biggest losers: Sharon comes in fourth, New Castle comes in ninth, Ferndale in Cambria County comes in 13th and Johnstown comes in 17th.
Finnerty reports from Harrisburg for Community Newspaper Holdings Inc.’s Pennsylvania newspapers, including The Meadville Tribune. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cnhipa.