Welcome to Pennsylvania’s budgetary Mexican standoff. High taxes or die! It would appear that Tom “Wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing” wishes to alter a famous American expression. Tom “Taxman Cometh” Wolf never met a tax he didn’t like. Income tax hike, sales tax hike, natural gas tax, my tax, your tax, everywhere a tax . . . just not on Wolf and his business, which resides in Delaware. From a business standpoint, and the taxman attitude Wolf has, that makes good business sense.
According to free-market Harrisburg think tank the Commonwealth Foundation, Tom “Taxman” Wolf’s tax hikes would dwarf those already approved in 28 other states, a veritable tsunami of an additional $4.6 billion in additional state taxes slated to wash across the country next year. Only Alabama and Connecticut even come close to Pennsylvania’s tax increase jeopardy.
If Pennsylvanians thought that Harrisburg Republicans would save them from increased taxation, well, the Republicans’ budget pretty much accomplishes Tom Taxman Wolf’s aims. It increases spending, in particular for the education sector, but it appears to make sure that those increases are paid for. However, there is one key deficiency (as likely viewed by the Wolf team) to the Republicans’ proposal: TAXES . . . taxes on diapers, dry cleaning, caskets, and Snickers. Despite the fact that Wolf’s tax-and-spend plan was — in an unusual legislative maneuver — presented before both chambers of the PA Assembly as an amendment and miserably failed by a 193–0 vote (which, of course, included both parties), he simply doesn’t seem care.
Instead of negotiate with his Republican-led legislature, Wolf shared a cutesy little attack meme on Facebook riddled with lies seemingly intended to cater to emotions and not facts. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that, instead of adding his two cents, he chose to reject the budget from “across the aisle,” causing the state to miss the deadline to pass a budget balanced by mandate, and then chose campaign-style attacks and the bully pulpit to browbeat those who disagree with his own budget version. Those would be, of course, every single elected leader besides him.
As Pennsylvania spends over $13,000 per student per year, Wolf pounds his podium for more, more, more. One is impelled to ask, how much is enough? Beyond vague platitudes, to what is this funding going specifically? The national annual average per student as of 2013 was $10,700, according to the website Governing, and only eight states (New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wyoming, Alaska, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey) and Washington, DC, were spending more per pupil than Pennsylvania does. Two of them had decreased spending from 2008 through 2013, while four had raised it. Governing is a non-partisan “media platform covering politics, policy and management for state and local government leaders,” according to its website.
When did we Pennsylvanians decide that throwing more money at a problem fixes it? We are constantly told that scoring teachers based on the performance of their students is a no-no, and won’t help the students, but aimlessly throwing money at schools will. Well, New York spends the most per student (per the 2013 data) among all the states, but Wallet Hub‘s list of best schools ranks New York at 49th. Alaska’s per-pupil spending immediately follows New York’s — at over $18,000 in 2013 — and they are ranked 50th. Pennsylvania occupies slot 29 on the list. It doesn’t seem to add up, but according to Governor Tom Taxman Wolf, we just need to throw some more money at the problem. Wallet Hub compiles data on schools and ranks states’ overall performance. Their sources include the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Educational Statistics, the Institute of Museum, and Library Services,
Some have publicly suggested that Wolf is seeking to repay his union cronies who got him elected, but naturally, that is hard to prove. Nevertheless, Wolf’s public statements on charter schools certainly affirm his distaste for non-public education and school choice. For example, Wolf sought to slash funds to a Chester Upland charter school which the school’s administration said would cripple their operations. So, public education should have as much money allocated as possible, but charter schools need to trim back? Hypocrisy much?
Tom Taxman Wolf’s record on education and school choice is a curious one, as the Commonwealth Foundation points out in its bullet point list below.
According to the Times-Tribune, we are heading for some potential services disruptions, as locales scramble to find money to deal with Pennsylvania’s budget limbo. This is a consequence of Governor Wolf’s refusal to budge, or to compromise in any way, on his excessive tax hikes and his seeming desire to reciprocate to the unions that got him elected. Say what you will about Corbett — and there are certainly plenty of critiques to offer — but Pennsylvania operated under balanced budgets, and its economy was in the black for the first time since Rendell moved into the office of chief executive. Then again, Wolf was Rendell’s taxman, so why is anyone surprised that he is willing to tax diapers and potentially tank the Pennsylvania economy — according to numerous observers — to impose even more taxes?
Governor Tom Corbett raised one tax slightly, on gasoline, and everybody lost their minds. Governor Tom Taxman Wolf wants to raise just about every tax exponentially — so it appears — and no one bats an eyelash. Then again, Corbett violated his promise to voters, and Wolf is sticking to the script.
The exercise of executive power totally absent some give and take should not occur in a free society. Since when does a governor, president, or even a private company’s CEO not negotiate? Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Apparently, individuals such as Governor Wolf feel this concept is antiquated. Despite the fact that the corrupting influence of political power is the cornerstone of the American experiment and Revolution. Leadership is defined by the notion that if you want to lead, you must first serve. In the case of elected office, said service is to constituency, to the people. Will Tom Taxman Wolf serve and lead Pennsylvanians as the state’s budget perilously teeters on the edge, or will he serve his interests and those of teachers unions and lobbyists?
The ball is in Wolf’s court. However, as team captain he has a poor record in this area. The outcome is anyone’s guess, but his latest move to compromise has come to a crashing halt, as he canceled his meeting with Republicans to review their concessions. Wolf’s seeming arrogance should offend every Pennsylvanian. Ideological stand-offs should not happen between governor and legislature. They aren’t there to work together because they are BFFs, but because the people elected them to work in concert to accomplish a task. In the private sector, the inability to pass a balanced budget on time would be considered borderline gross negligence. In 21st-century politics, it’s called an average work day.
In a Rant Lifestyle article prior to Wolf’s election, this writer labeled him Tom Wolf-in-Sheep’s-Clothing, but that moniker is no longer valid. The veil and disguise have dropped and the shimmer has faded; the Wolf is now on the prowl. The shepherds aren’t asleep, but nevertheless, seem not to care, as the sheep are being slaughtered one by one before they or the shepherds realizes.