Senator wrong on Sheetz

Jim Ferlo, a Democratic state senator whose district includes parts of Allegheny and Westmoreland counties, did a nice job of stuffing his foot in his mouth recently when he fired some unfair and inaccurate shots at Sheetz Inc.

In a public hearing June 6 about the possible privatization of liquor sales, Ferlo questioned whether the jobs created by Sheetz to handle increased sales in Pennsylvania would equal the “family-sustaining jobs” that exist under the state’s current system.

“The notion that you’re going to kill all these family sustaining jobs and that somehow people are going to go out and work for minimum wage at a damn Sheetz, I think, is outrageous,” Ferlo said.

First of all, Sheetz pays higher than minimum wage, but we’ll give Ferlo some leeway on that, even if he had his facts wrong.

Where he stepped out of line is when he continued his rant.

“Let’s be honest about Sheetz and all these other convenience stores. Yes, they’re a reality whether I like it or not,” Ferlo said. “They rip people off every day. They charge outrageous prices, they have smaller products. They’re an economic reality.”

Has Ferlo been in a Sheetz store lately? Or ever? The stores wouldn’t be thriving unless customers believed they were getting good value for their dollars – especially with so many competitors of all varieties just down the road.

At the risk of coming off as provincial because Sheetz is based in Altoona, Ferlo ought to consider that Sheetz is widely considered to be among the state’s best employers. It must be doing something right since its gross sales are hovering around $7 billion.

It has 226 stores and more than 9,000 employees in Pennsylvania and has generously given back not only to Blair County but to nonprofit organizations in every community where it has stores – 446 of them.

Ferlo and his pals in state government aren’t in position to throw rocks at taxpaying, growing businesses.

After all, if there’s any “business” that has “ripped people off every day,” it’s our bloated Pennsylvania government with its back-room, middle-of-the-night raises, unaccountable per-diems and total mismanagement of a state pension system that has forced school districts to cut to the bone and likely will force tax increases in the years and decades ahead.

Ferlo did apologize to Sheetz.

But he’s been in office 10 years – long enough for him to contribute to the mess that Harrisburg has become.

Maybe he should apologize for that, too.