As Pa. Budget Turns: Where’s Tom Wolf?

The Democratic gubernatorial nominee ought to explain how he’d handle this mess.


So where is Tom Wolf, anyway?

The Democratic nominee for governor has been pretty quiet in recent days as Gov. Tom Corbett and the GOP-controlled Pennsylvania Legislature tried to wrestle the state budget into submission through a mix of bad priorities and morally dubious tactics.

Wolf — probably wisely — has stayed on the sidelines: His campaign’s last press release was June 19; its last blog post on June 27. When your already mortally wounded opponent insists on shooting himself in the foot publicly (does anybody think Corbett comes out of this process looking good?) it’s wise to shut up and let him reload.

Politically, at least, it’s wise. But Pennsylvanians shouldn’t let him get away with it. They should be demanding Wolf offer his ideas about how to put this year’s state budget together in the face of a $1.5 billion deficit.

Why? Two reasons come to mind.

• Once you’re actually governor, you don’t get to hide from the budget process — you own it. And you have to make real choices. Pennsylvania voters already know Corbett’s apparent budget priorities differ from theirs: Polls show they’d impose a severance tax on the Marcellus Shale and spend more money on education.

So it’s worth asking Wolf: How would you balance this budget? What would your priorities be? You can’t have everything you want, so what tradeoffs are you willing to make? Voters and reporters should be probing the candidate for answers.

• As things are now, Wolf stands to become governor pretty much because most of the state hates Tom Corbett. But here’s something to take seriously: The last man to become Pennsylvania governor chiefly because everybody was tired of his predecessor was … Tom Corbett. In 2010.

It’s easy to forget now, because that campaign was so forgettable. (Do you even remember Corbett’s opponent in that campaign? I bet not.)  Its chief characteristic was that there was a fair amount of Ed Rendell fatigue in the land at that point. A bland Republican like Corbett was as close a thing to a sure bet as was available in that election.

Only: Look what it got us.

Wolf hasn’t been completely silent on the budget. His campaign last week published a blog post detailing how the budget deficit was the result of Corbett’s failures. And that’s fine as far as it goes. But many of Wolf’s own agenda items — including a proposed 5 percent tax on the Marcellus Shale — pre-date the known existence of the state budget deficit. The agenda doesn’t appear to have budged all that much in response.

Listen: Wolf’s a Democrat, and it doesn’t appear that he’s all that unconventional. For the most part, I expect to prefer him to Corbett as a governor. But he’s sliding through this campaign with a bare minimum of resistance. His fortune helped him seal the primary before his opponents really got started with their efforts; now he may be hoping that Corbett’s deep unpopularity has the same effect here, now, before we get to November.

Luckily, Wolf can’t (and probably wouldn’t) hide forever: Between now and the election, he’ll be spending a lot of time kissing babies, meeting voters, appearing in debates and reminding people he’s not Tom Corbett. Be we already know that about him. Now’s our chance to find out who he is. The state budget is a great starting point for getting answers.

Follow @JoelMMathis on Twitter.


Around The Web

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • shinobi1

    This author sounds far more like a silly Philadelphian than a true Pennsylvanian. I am the latter. I DO NOT favor a severance tax. I want the jobs and extra drilling such a tax will seriously diminish.

    And Corbett is a sure bet to win, at least based on opinion in the region of Pennsylvania where I live. Obama, and his numerous catastrophes, are destroying Wolf’s prospects. Disappointed Democrats will not be turning out in November. Desperate Republicans will be turning out IN FORCE, so horrid is the destruction being wrought by Obama. Republicans are anxious to staunch the damage Obama is doing to America. But this nutty author cannot see the reality all about him. He still wants King Obama’s brand of “hope and change”.

    • Tracer Bullet

      Look out! Obama’s right behind you!

    • PATeacher

      So, because the author disagrees with you he is not a “true Pennsylvanian?” He is “nutty” and “silly” and unrealistic? It’s this lack of respect for informed opinions that differ from our own that is causing all the problems in our government today. I do not live in Philadelphia, yet I agree with the author and disagree with you on the severance tax issue. That does not make me want to call you narrow minded or shortsighted or say you are lacking perspective on the big picture. It makes me want to hear your (presumably informed) reasoning and see if we can come to an agreement or a middle ground that helps the state as a whole and it’s citizens as individuals. THAT is democracy, my friend.