The Full Bar - all my pages

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

PLCB Blog: Reason #4

I remember the first time I visited Johnstown. I was driving in from Pittsburgh, and it had been raining heavily. The sky was still gray and threatening, and local streams and creeks were swollen, brim-full. I mentioned this to a Johnstown resident, and his dead-serious response was, "You might not want to talk about that. We're kind of touchy about that."

Say the name, "Johnstown," and people think "flood." The flood they're thinking of was in 1889, a catastrophe caused by a dam failure, but there were other floods in Johnstown, in 1894, 1907, 1924, and 1977. The biggest flood after the 1889 event, though, was the "St. Patrick's Day Flood" in 1936. Damage was extensive, and the State responded with clean-up and recovery aid. The expenditures were covered by a quickly-imposed Emergency Tax of 10% on all wine and liquor sold in the State Stores.

You may have heard that we're still paying this Emergency Tax. Well, that's not really true; we're no longer paying a 10% Johnstown Flood Emergency Tax. Don't be silly; that was over 70 years ago! No, we're paying an 18% Johnstown Flood Emergency Tax for an "emergency" that ended 71 years ago, because the State raised the tax to 15% in 1963 and then again to 18% in 1968. That's some emergency.

Reason #4:

The Ridiculous 72-Year Old Emergency Tax


Anonymous said...

Hi Lew,
You should check out the Johnstown Flood Documentary sometime if you haven't seen it. Narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, it's very well done and moving.

Also in reply to your email a couple weeks ago, Cream Ale sales are up!
High Falls Brewing Co. took out a few full page ads yesterday in local publications urging people to buy local. Not to by "blue". Per the article it seems like the buyout rumors are just that - rumors. Still now word on the brewmaster though.

Orconectes said...

What is this money used for now?

Lew Bryson said...


The money goes into the General Fund, which is to say, it's just money to the State, all part of the big revenue stream. It is not tagged for anything in particular.

HolzBrew said...

My family is from Johnstown and my great grand father died rescuing people in the famous flood as he was a fireman. My family hasn't received any money from the emergency PA tax fund over years despite his sacrifice. Not that we expect any money.

Great blog, I read it daily.

Scoats said...

It should also be noted that

1) This is a regressive tax, like just all new state taxes in recent memory. By regressive I mean that it fits poorer folks heavier as a percentage of their income.

2) More importantly, citizens have to pay state 6% sales tax on the tax, which really doesn't seem right.

Lew Bryson said...

Thanks, Scoats: I should have pointed that bit about it being a regressive tax out, and may re-write the full post at the other blog to reflect that.