WILKES-BARRE — Pennsylvania Department of Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser said Friday partnering with a lottery management firm and selling off the state’s liquor system remain priorities for the Corbett administration.
Meuser, a resident of Kingston Township, addressed the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce at a breakfast meeting at the Westmoreland Club.
Despite the state House of Representatives and Senate being Republican-controlled, Gov. Tom Corbett can’t get his fellow GOP members to approve the two plans
“The governor feels both are in the best interests of the commonwealth,” Meuser said. “There has been so much remarkably inaccurate information about the plans in the state Legislature and in the media. We intend to continue the discussions.”
The sale of the liquor system would provide a one-time revenue jolt of $1 billion, Meuser said. The divestiture of the retail and wholesale functions would be a two-step, four-year process and would “end the state-run monopoly and invest in schools,” he said.
The plan would then place state focus on regulation and law enforcement, said Meuser, and would be far more convenient for Pennsylvanians and other consumers. “The private sector and marketplace would set prices and locations,” he said.
Meuser repeated an often-used line regarding the state’s liquor system — that Pennsylvania is one of only two states that still controls liquor sales. Utah is the other. “The other 48 states have the private sector handling the sale of wine and liquor,” Meuser said.
Corbett is expected to ask Attorney General Kathleen Kane’s office to reverse its rejection of a contract with London-based Camelot Global Services to manage the $3.5 billion Pennsylvania Lottery. Kane’s office said the plan violates state law and is unconstitutional.
Meuser told the crowd that the governor does not intend to sell the lottery system. The state’s population growth of older residents exceeds the projected growth of lottery funding for senior programs, and the Camelot agreement would be incentive-based, he said.
“We project $1.3 billion in incremental growth — above and beyond lottery projections — in funding for programs benefiting older Pennsylvanians over the next 10 year,” said Meuser. “We are not selling the lottery; that would be a violation of federal law.”
Meuser said other goals of the Revenue Department and the governor’s office outlined in the proposed $28.4 billion budget include:
* $5.4 billion in funding over five years to address the needs of Pennsylvania’s aging and fragile transportation infrastructure.
* Creating a more competitive tax structure through elimination of the capital stock/foreign franchise tax; reduction of the corporate net income tax; increasing the cap on net operating loss deductions; repealing the corporate loans tax; tax code changes to level the playing field and provide for fair and equitable tax policy; repealing nuisance taxes and obsolete taxation and administrative provisions.
* Reform the state pension system. Benefits accrued cannot be rolled back, said Meuser, but there is nothing preventing rolled-back rates from applying to benefits that will be accrued in the future.
Meuser said since Corbett took office, private sector jobs have increased by 105,900 — 38,900 over the last year. Manufacturing jobs have gone up by 8,000 and public/government jobs are down by 21,000, he said.