TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Jason Gottesman, Director of Communications
DATE: May 29, 2018
RE: Tom Wolf’s Record
In his three-plus years in office, Tom Wolf has done nothing but prove he is Pennsylvania’s obstructionist in chief.
Whether it is through the veto pen he used to stand in the way of fiscal prudence; using the threat of taxation and regulatory authority to stagnate Pennsylvania’s economy; and/or a smoke-and-mirrors approach to fighting the opioid epidemic and Pennsylvania’s skilled labor crisis, Tom Wolf is the only one standing in the way of Pennsylvania’s prosperity.
Let’s begin with Tom Wolf’s obstruction related to Pennsylvania’s financial well being.
Over the last three years, Tom Wolf has never signed a budget and—in a self-created budget impasse that nearly brought Pennsylvania’s public schools to their knees—vetoed or line-item vetoed three different balanced budget plans put on his desk by a Republican-led legislature seeking to respect taxpayer dollars by avoiding the largest tax increase ever proposed in the history of Pennsylvania.
Keep in mind, the budget plans during the 2015 budget impasse vetoes included education funding plans; meaning Gov. Wolf vetoed education funding while Republicans were working to keep public schools open.
Moreover, while Tom Wolf has looked time and again to Pennsylvania taxpayers—both businesses and families—as the go-to source fo financing a state budget bloated with unaccountable government programs, Pennsylvania Republicans have looked inward to balance the state’s books, reduce the size and scope of government, and provide true reform that not only benefits the state’s financial outlook and bottom line, but also seeks to drive the private sector economy to full job-creating power.
Take Pennsylvania’s public pension system.
While our state’s credit rating was taking a nose-dive, with the number one cited cause bing the Commonwealth’s unfunded pension liability, Pennsylvania legislative Republicans were putting on Tom Wolf’s desk ambitious reforms that would have not only shifted the risk away from the taxpayers, but also significantly attacked the unfunded liability while providing state employees with a portable pension plan more tune to the 21st century economy.
These reforms were met with obstructive resistance from the Governor who, taking his marching orders from his public sector union campaign financiers, vetoed these reform initiatives.
The same fate met significant alcohol sales reform measures through the divestment of Pennsylvania’s wine and liquor wholesale and retail operation.
Republicans, looking to utilize this pre-existing ancient behemoth of a state regulatory monopoly to bolster state coffers, put plan after plan of $1 billion divestment strategies on Tom Wolf’s desk. Again, taking his orders from public sector unions, the governor vetoed the plans.
While there have been historic plans enacted to reform public pensions and beer and wine sales in Pennsylvania, these successes cannot be rightfully attributed to the Governor’s leadership, but, rather, to legislative Republicans who continued to keep pressure on the Governor to agree to reforms, despite the fact that they lacked the full scope of change they originally sought.
Unfortunately, Tom Wolf’s use of the veto pen to obstruct the will of the people’s representatives does not stop with budgetary matters.
Over the course of the last three years, Gov. Wolf has vetoed bipartisan legislation that was aimed at protecting law enforcement, protecting the unborn, and providing for significant welfare reform.
Tom Wolf’s obstruction is most stark in where he is holding back Pennsylvania the most: in energizing the state’s growth industries and combatting the opioid epidemic.
First, in terms of Pennsylvania’s growth industries, Pennsylvania-made energy is undoubtably the biggest form of economic potential the Commonwealth has seen in generations.
Instead of finding ways to grow this industry, Tom Wolf has obstructed its growth by continuing to propose an onerous severance tax, by being complicit in a regulatory scheme that hampers industry growth, and doing very little to prove the industry with the skilled labor it needs to grow home-made jobs.
In all four of his budget proposals, the Governor has called for an industry-stifling natural gas severance tax. He has done this without regard to whether or not the industry is in a boom cycle, with our Gerard tow whether the taxes the industry already pays on top of the $1.5 billion they have paid as a result of the impact fee, and regardless of the onerous regulatory scheme the industry operates under that already creates substantial hurdles to doing business within Pennsylvania.
While the Governor continues to call for this tax under the banner of having the industry pay its fair share, that slogan does not hold its own weight.
First, the natural gas industry has already paid billion ins regular races and $1.5 billion in impact fee assessments that have been distributed to all 67 Pennsylvania counties.
Second, most natural gas rights are privately owned. The industry, in a private transaction, already pays the mineral rights owner to lease its land as well as a royalty on any gas extracted.
Third, where the Commonwealth could be directly compensated for the use of its assets, the Governor has put a moratorium on new drilling in state parks and state forest lands.
Any industry-killing tax on top of what is already being paid would stymie the ability of private citizens in some of the most rural parts of Pennsylvania from exercising their private property rights and maximizing their investment.
This is government intrusion at its worst, especially when coupled with the fact that Pennsylvania natural gas consumers will see their energy bills increase with the imposition of any severance tax.
Meanwhile, despite continuing under the threat of taxation and already operating under a draining regulatory environment, growing pipeline infrastructure and the coming build of the Shell ethane cracker plant could mean big things for blue collar jobs in the natural gas and downstream industries.
However, while throwing more money at an outdated education model, the Governor has done little for Pennsylvania’s skilled labor crisis. While state legislative Republicans have taken leadership in having needed conversations on topics like career and technical education, the Governor has not moved the needle. This sets Pennsylvania up for where these growth industries will have to look out of state for Pennsylvania-based employment.
Still, as he runs for reelection, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate lags behind the national average.
Tom Wolf’s obstruction has been most frightening as of late as it relates to Pennsylvania’s opioid crisis.
When faced with a prescription drug formulary bill that would have moved injured workers into paint treatment alternatives and off an opioid-now, opioid-forever cycle, the Governor once again pulled out his veto pen after caving to special interest donor demands in opposition to a bill that had wide-ranging business and medical community support.
He has also failed to show real progress for all of his public talk about efforts to combat the terrible scourge of opioid addiction.
Year-after-year overdose deaths increased from 2016 to 2017, all under Gov. Wolf’s watch. Still, this year, thousands of Pennsylvanians are dealing with opioid addiction with no end in sight.
In terms of lead, follow, or get out of the way, the Governor has led the Governor’s office into being a mouthpiece and the victim of a national liberal-progressive movement that is so self-obsessed with buzzword social issues, and unconstitutionally wrestling power, that it has left the people of Pennsylvania behind.
The Governor has also found a way to follow, kicking and screaming, Republican leadership on fiscal accountability, government reform, and respect of taxpayers.
This election year, the stakes are even higher with Tom Wolf running with a Bernie Sanders-endorsed candidate that sought the endorsement of socialists.
Since this is the leadership the Governor has shown, and promises to continue, Republicans across Pennsylvania will be working to make sure that come January 2019, the Governor is out of the way of Pennsylvania taxpayers, out of the way of true reform, and out of the way of the prosperity he has spent his time in office obstructing.