POLITICS/BUSINESS: State and local budget problems, revenue from alcohol, distilleries: "Budget Problems? Kentucky and Elsewhere Find Answer in Bottle" ....

* New York Times:  "Budget Problems? Kentucky and Elsewhere Find Answer in Bottle" - From the NYT:

LAWRENCEBURG, Ky. — Alcohol may not be single-handedly saving state and local budgets from the red, but it is certainly helping. Consider Kentucky. Coal mines in parts of the state are struggling to stay open, but here among the gently rolling hills of horse country, bourbon is booming. At the Wild Turkey plant, a new bourbon distillery is rising, the first built from the ground up here since Prohibition. Visits to the company’s tasting room, where guests can sip bourbon and gaze into a gorgeous valley, have doubled in the past few years.

The company paid over $778,000 in real estate and property taxes to Anderson County this year, twice what it paid in 2010, making it the biggest taxpayer by far. “We’re lucky to have them,” said Brian Stivers, the property valuation administrator for the county. “Without their expansions we would have probably had to raise the tax rate.”

While Kentucky has enjoyed a special upswing from bourbon, across the country, changing consumer tastes and changes to state regulatory and tax policies have created a bull market in booze-related businesses.


From Colorado to southwestern Michigan to the District of Columbia, craft beer, a small but rapidly growing segment of the beer market, continues to expand. Distilleries, benefiting from changes in regulation, are growing in nearly every state. The farming of hops, once largely a small crop limited to a few Western states, is also on the rise.

Spirits revenue nationwide — from all alcohol except beer and wine — increased to over $60 billion last year from roughly half that in 2000, according to the Distilled Spirits Council. Exports of spirits, much of it whiskey, have increased to nearly $1.5 billion from $531 million over that same time.

The growth of many segments of the alcohol business reflects consuming trends that have dominated the marketplace for the past several years. A fixation on local products, a nostalgia for American traditional food ways and a lust for upscale everything — from a $5 cup of coffee to $10-a-pound organic chicken — have now reached single-barrel $100-a-bottle bourbon.

Further, the resurgence of classic cocktails has fueled the whiskey industry. . . . . . .


No state has benefited quite like Kentucky..................................


LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Orange County): Anaheim, Regional Transportation Intermodel Center (ARTIC), signage: "Anaheim Backs Away From Proposal for Giant Billboard" ....

* Voice of OC:  "Anaheim Backs Away From Proposal for Giant Billboard" - From Voice of OC:

The Anaheim City Council Tuesday night backed away from approving an 84-foot-tall billboard after a torrent of opposition from concerned residents, instead moving forward with a signage plan for the city’s transit hub that only includes two smaller signs.

Those two 35-foot-tall signs were supposed to be digital and are designed to help guide visitors at the city’s new Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center (ARTIC), which is the large shell visible from the 57 freeway that will be a station for trains, busses and bicycles. But the digital faces of the monument signs, which will also market the transit hubs tenant businesses, were scrapped and will instead be static. Mayor Tom Tait proposed having the planning commission weigh in on the signs, but other council members wanted to have the signs erected in time for ARTIC’s public opening in December.

Council members voted 3-2 to approve the signage plan, with Tait and Councilman Jordan Brandman opposed.

The billboard was a substantial part of ARTIC’s operations and maintenance financing plan. Those expenses are projected at over $5 million annually, and there's already a deficit. City leaders expected the billboard to pay for approximately $800,000 of the costs, according to the Orange County Register.

During Tuesday's meeting, Councilwoman Kris Murray asked city staff about their plans to make up for the revenue the billboard could have generated. They didn’t yet have an answer.........................


POLITICS: California, public employee reform, editorial: "California public pensions, unfunded liabilities staggering, must be fixed" ....  

* Daily News (editorial):  "California public pensions, unfunded liabilities staggering, must be fixed" - From the DN:

November brought two pieces of good news for Californians hoping to regain momentum in the fight against the public-employee pension systems that are strangling state and local budgets. Well, one and a half pieces of good news, anyway.

The one is the result of the mayoral election in San Jose, which pension reformers hope is a bellweather. Voters had a choice between a pro-reform candidate and a union-backed anti-reformer. Fortunately, they chose Sam Liccardo, who supports the agenda of outgoing Mayor Chuck Reed, architect of that city’s successful pension-reform ballot initiative in 2012 and leader of a stalled state initiative drive aimed at empowering government leaders to negotiate reductions in current workers’ future benefits.

The half — the semi-good news — is the online posting of huge amounts of data from 130 state and local pension systems. Available at state Controller John Chiang’s open-data website,, the data show the severity of the looming crisis and underscores public officials’ failure to confront it. The silver lining is that this new information arms state residents to pressure their representatives to act before it’s too late.

Right now, pension reform is one of those major issues that lawmakers love to avoid. Unlike with federal immigration laws, there is no hope for an executive order to get the debate rolling.  That means the problem keeps getting worse.

How bad is it already? Among the lowlights of the revelations in Chiang’s database is ..............................


POLITICS (National, State, Local): Marijuana dispensaries, CASH ONLY, but not by choice: "Shunned by banks, legitimate pot shops must deal in risky cash" ....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Shunned by banks, legimitate pot shops must deal in risky cash" - From the LAT:

OAKLAND -- The suppliers arrive at one of the nation's largest marijuana dispensaries carrying hundreds of pounds of cannabis in duffel bags, knapsacks and baby diaper totes. They leave with those same carriers stuffed with wads of cash. Harborside Health collects the money from thousands of customers, spending $40 to $60 a pop for one-eighth of an ounce of pot. No credit cards or checks are accepted.

That's not by choice. Though Harborside's business is legal in California and a growing number of other states, most banks still won't touch the marijuana industry, fearing the federal prohibition that remains in place. 

That's a huge security problem for Harborside and hundreds of other dispensaries forced to deal in cash by the truckload. . . . . . . . .

To pay local and state taxes, employees carry bags filled with bills to government offices, changing routes every time. "We've gone through three armored car services already, and that doesn't even include the many that refused to work with us," said Steve DeAngelo, who co-founded Harborside in 2006. "The biggest concern to us is the threat to the well-being and safety of our staff and patients."

As the marijuana industry expands into a multibillion-dollar business, the need for proper banking services continues to intensify. . . . . . . .

Without banks and credit cards, financial transparency remains elusive. Taxes and basic accounting are complicated. Paying vendors and employees is both a headache and a danger. Unless Congress takes action, the problem will grow............................


"UNUSUAL" NEWS: "When pigs fly" (or when they don't?): "When pigs fly? Not on this plane"; also, "US Airways kicks disruptive emotional-support pig off plane" ....  

* USA Today:  "When pigs fly? Not on this plane" - From USA Today:

A US Airways crew ordered a disruptive pig off a plane this week, adding a tasty new chapter to the annals of holiday travel and likely a million riffs on the phrase "when pigs fly."

A passenger on a US Airways flight leaving Connecticut's Bradley International Airport brought a pig on board Wednesday as an emotional-support animal. The passenger and her pig left the flight after crew members decided the animal had to leave because of its disorderly behavior, Laura Masvidal, a spokewoman for US Airways-parent American Airlines, said Friday.

A fellow passenger, University of Massachusetts professor Jonathan Skolnik, told the Associated Press he first thought the passenger was carrying a duffel bag, but an odor clarified the situation. "It's no duffel bag but a rather stout PIG … on a leash," he wrote in an e-mail. "Am I dreaming?"

The woman, who sat next to Skolnik, tied the leash to the armrest, he said. He estimated that the pig weighed between 50 and 70 pounds, according to ABC News. Skolnik said things got worse, which actually means better for late-night talk hosts drooling over the comedic mix of barnyard animals and air travel. "The pig is incontinent," he told AP. The animal then started running back and forth, as its owner tried to control its behavior and clean up after the animal before eventually leaving the plane.......



* Fox News:  "US Airways kicks disruptive emotional-support pig off plane" - From Fox News:

A pet pig trying to board a U.S. Airways plane in Connecticut found out that not all pigs can fly.

The porky passenger was grounded at Bradley International Airport for turning the cabin into a pig pen and disrupting other passengers.


Emotional support animals are allowed on commercial flights under federal rules as long as they are not disruptive, . . .a U.S. Airways spokeswoman said Friday.