Monday, January 04, 2016

Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA)-- Very Much NOT Like Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Flint)


The first time I spoke with Tom Wolf was in March, 2013 when he was considered a longshot to replace Pennsylvania's Republican Governor Tom Corbett. It only took a few minutes of listening to him talk before I realized that he was the guy-- the guy who could stop conservaDem Allyson Schwartz from getting the Democratic nomination, the one who could retire Corbett and the one who could show Pennsylvanians what it was like to have a good governor. (Anyone remember Milton Shapp?) Anyway, Tom did a guest post for DWT explaining who he is and how he wanted to approach governing Pennsylvania.

He is very much the benevolent businessman-- reminded me of my grandfather in that way, who was both a dedicated socialist and the owner of a coat manufacturing factory-- who had a reasonable set of progressive principles he felt would be good for Pennsylvania. The voters agreed. He easily triumphed over the establishment-favored Schwartz-- 58% to 18% (that's the race where Katie McGinty, the Schumercrat running against Joe Sestak, got 8% of the vote)-- and then went on to oust Corbett 1,920,355 (55%) to 1,575,511 (45%). Obama took Pennsylvania 2 years earlier against Romney 52-47%.

He has his own blog now, which he uses to keep Pennsylvanians informed about what he's doing and why. When the Republican-controlled state legislature (Senate has 31 Republicans and 19 Democrats and the House has 120 Republicans and 83 Democrats) decided to cut the state's public education budget, Governor Wolf vetoed the plan. This is his post from New Years Eve:
Why I Vetoed The GOP's Plan to Cut Education
by Governor Tom Wolf

Earlier this week, I used my line item veto power to veto the Republican plan to cut education by $95 million, while also taking action to ensure that schools received money owed to them through December 31.

There are many reasons why this budget is wrong for Pennsylvania, but these are the big reasons why I vetoed part of the GOP’s plan:

1. The Republican budget underfunds education.

Instead of finally providing funding for our schools, Republicans cut $95 million for local school districts. After $1 billion in budget cuts to our schools over the past several years, this budget makes it even worse.

Republicans continue to refuse to adequately fund Pre-K through 12 education and their budget fails to fund over $305 million in school construction reimbursements. The Republican’s failure to provide school construction funding to local school districts and the commonwealth’s inability to responsibly issue debt-- which is a result of past Republican budgets built on gimmicks that led to a multi-billion dollar deficit-- will lead to a direct cost to the school districts. This will wipe out any marginal funding increases for local school districts.

The Republicans did not pass legislation to provide funding for Pennsylvania’s institutions of higher learning including Pitt, Penn State, Temple, Lincoln, and the Penn Vet School, leaving them completely without state funding.

They did not pass a fiscal code or a school code.

2. The Republican budget does not balance.

This budget spends $30.3 billion dollars without sufficient revenues to pay for it. Assuming that we would certify the current year revenue estimate at the amount recommended by the Independent Fiscal Office earlier this month, if I signed this bill, the commonwealth would end the year over a half a billion dollars out of balance.

There is already $2.3 billion structural deficit, and the Republican budget increases it even more. It will lead to more credit downgrades and fiscal instability in Pennsylvania. Bottom line: It is not responsible.

For the first time in years, we have an opportunity to change the status quo. We have a real chance to make historic investments in schools, truly balance the budget, and begin to fix the deficit. Now, the Republican legislature must return to work immediately and pass a real budget for Pennsylvania.
What the governor wants out of this is for the Republican legislative leaders to live up to the November deal he worked out with them as part of a $30.8 billion spending and tax deal. It includes about $500 million more than the bill he vetoed and calls for a 6% spending increase and about a billion dollars in new taxes. The Senate had already passed it 43-7 when extremists in the House decided to flex their muscles.

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