NEWS ALERT…Bluegrass Institute poll: Voters from both parties want Frankfort to quit meddling, focus on economic growth
Meddling with beer laws least-important issue for voters
(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – A new poll released today by the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s first and only free-market think tank, makes it clear: economic growth is by far the dominant issue on the minds of Kentucky voters, and they strongly disapprove of state government catering to special interests in an attempt to pick winners and losers in the marketplace.
When asked to choose the most important issue for the governor and legislature to address during the 2015 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, Democrat and Republican voters by a 2-to-1 margin picked “Jobs and Economy” out of 11 possible issues, including the minimum wage, taxes and the environment.
“It’s not that other issues are unimportant, but these sophisticated voters understand that if you grow the economy, it clears a path for success in solving Kentucky’s most-pressing problems,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said.
The statewide phone survey of 600 Kentucky voters was conducted Jan. 5-7 with a 4-percent margin of error. (Seventy percent of the calls were conducted using land lines, 30 percent were on cell phones.) Fifty-three percent of respondents claimed Democratic Party registration; 39 percent are Republicans while 6 percent claim another or no party.
While 34 percent of the voters chose “Jobs and Economy” as the most important issue for the governor and legislature to address, a whopping 54 percent of voters chose “Laws regulating beer distribution” as the least important for policymakers. Not a single voter tapped this as their top priority and a majority said it was the least-important issue.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, recently filed House Bill 168, an attempt to double-down on government regulation by preventing beer companies from owning their own independent distributorships.
Stumbo, who has failed so far to secure a single co-sponsor for his bill, filed the legislation after Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip J. Shepherd recently ordered the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to issue a wholesaler beer distributor’s license to Anheuser-Busch so the company can complete its purchase of an independent beer distributorship in Owensboro.
Opponents of the sale include Anheuser-Busch’s smaller competitors – who also are large campaign contributors to Stumbo. They essentially want state government to confiscate the brewing-company’s property it has owned in Louisville since 1978 and redistribute it to the company’s competitors.
“With a huge pension crisis, serious problems in our education system and a commonwealth that is becoming less-competitive every day without a right-to-work law or job-friendly tax reform, how and why is this House Speaker so easily distracted?” Waters asked. “Besides, any time government starts to go down this path of setting its legislative and regulatory sites on a single company or transaction, it often has negative – if unintended – consequences.”
Anheuser-Busch’s Louisville distributorship was floundering with only 19 workers when the beer company purchased it nearly four decades ago. Today, the brewery has added nearly 200 jobs at the site. Both the Teamsters Union – which represents 100 workers in the facility – and Greater Louisville Inc., Louisville’s chamber of commerce, agree that House Bill 168 is bad policy.
Stumbo’s bill would force Anheuser-Busch to sell both its Louisville and Owensboro distributorships.
“What kind of message would that send to companies considering expanding or relocating in Kentucky?” Waters asked. “Speaker Stumbo is asking the same legislative body that voted 75-16 last year to deny the Bluegrass Pipeline the authority to exercise eminent domain on private property to authorize the taking of a private company for his own personal political gain.”
The poll indicates that voters don’t believe that allowing such transactions like the Anheuser Busch-Hand family agreement in Owensboro would hurt smaller players. In fact, most say the industry is vigorously competitive and offers consumers a multitude of choices:
- Keeping in mind that not all Kentucky adults are beer drinkers, 63 percent of voters – 70 percent in Louisville – say the choice in beer has grown during the past decade.
- More than two-thirds of voters – 75 percent in Louisville – say retailers have choices in the range and styles of beer they can pick to offer their customers.
- More than three-quarters of voters say that beer producers should be allowed to choose the distributor that will bring their beer to market.
“What Stumbo and Anheuser-Busch’s opponents couldn’t get in court, they’re trying to ram through the legislature,” Waters said. “However, the Speaker might want to consider the fact that more than two-thirds of voters in our survey are far more likely to choose the candidate for governor or the legislature that rejects using the force of government to play favorites among businesses and create an uneven – and unfair – playing field.”
The poll suggests that not only do voters reject the idea that more government involvement in private business is going to produce better economic results, but also that policymakers should be looking for ways to be less involved in the private sector:
- Three-quarters of voters reject the idea that Kentucky’s economy will benefit from more regulations on businesses.
- A majority of voters by a 53-percent to 43-percent margin support policies that get government out of the way and let all businesses compete evenly and reject government practices that artificially prop up some companies over others, including smaller firms over larges ones.
- Only 31 percent of voters think Kentucky should be more involved in private contracts between businesses while nearly half – 48 percent – believe state government should be less involved.
The breakdown of respondents from the different areas of the commonwealth is as follows: 30 percent from Louisville; 29 percent from Lexington; 21 percent from western Kentucky and 20 percent from the eastern part of the commonwealth.