Here's some more info:Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf says he'd look to increase income taxes on Pennsylvania's higher earners to expand the state's share of public education funding.
In an interview with a panel of Associated Press reporters and editors Friday afternoon, Wolf says he'd tie the increase to a dollar-for-dollar reduction in local property taxes levied by school boards.
Wolf's goal would be to raise the state's share of public school costs to 50 percent. - WFMV-TV, 7/26/14
A bold proposition and Wolf, who will be the next governor, will need the State Senate to help him pass such a proposal. Democrats believe Wolf can help them take back the State Senate:Wolf's plan to reshuffle school funding would accompany his proposed overhaul of the 43-year-old income tax. It would be his intent, he said, to use this new income tax structure targeting higher-earners as an essential way to shift a portion of public school funding away from property taxes.
His plan would shift more of the financial burden onto wealthy taxpayers, reduce taxes for the middle class — a category he says includes households with taxable incomes of roughly $70,000 to $90,000 — and exclude more lower-income households from the tax.
He would do it by combining a "universal exemption" — an income amount below which all households are not taxed — with a flat percentage tax to incomes above that. The new flat percentage tax would be higher than the 3.07 percent at which it is currently set.
"I'm looking at it from the point of view of fairness. I think people like me should pay more. I think people who are starting out, building a business, starting a family, should pay less," Wolf said.
Wolf, a wealthy businessman from York County, sank $10 million of his own money into a TV-heavy Democratic Party primary campaign that helped him win a four-way race in the May 20 election.
Wolf declined to provide additional details about his proposed overhaul of the roughly $12 billion-a-year income tax. Wolf, a state revenue secretary under former Gov. Ed Rendell, said he cannot determine where he would set the exemption or tax rate before the election because he lacks the Department of Revenue's up-to-date information about state taxpayers.
Wolf has also proposed other ways to collect more money for public school funding and the state treasury, including by imposing higher taxes on the booming natural gas industry.
Property tax relief remains an elusive goal in Pennsylvania, much discussed in the Capitol for more than a decade but so far only delivered in doses that are quickly swallowed by the schools' growing costs.
Rendell, a Democrat, took office in 2003 with the same goal as Wolf of increasing the state's share of public education to 50 percent. Rendell raised it from 34 percent to nearly 40 percent — after raising income taxes and taxing the newly legalized casino gambling industry — during his two terms, but it has dropped since Corbett took office in 2011.
Corbett pushed for and signed a 2011 law that put tough new restrictions on school boards' ability to raise property taxes. In his re-election campaign, he is emphasizing the need for reductions in the cost of public pensions that he blames for rising property taxes.
Asked how he expects to sell his education-funding proposal to the Republican-controlled Legislature, Wolf said support is already strong for pending bills to replace property taxes altogether by increasing state tax rates on income and sales.
"These are conservatives in the Legislature," he said. "They're coming up with some pretty huge increases in other state taxes, and that seems to be very popular among a big section of the population."
Wolf, however, does not support an increase in sales taxes, saying he views it as falling too heavily on lower-income consumers. - AP, 7/26/14
By the way, Wolf also hit Corbett on this:If millionaire businessman Tom Wolf holds or grows his 22-point lead over Gov. Tom Corbett in polls, Pennsylvania Democrats have a strong shot at taking control of the state Senate in November, Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa said on Thursday.
Half of the Senate and the entire House are up for re-election. The GOP has a commanding 111-92 lead in the House but a slimmer 27-23 majority in the Senate.
Costa, D-Forest Hills, said during an interview with Tribune-Review editors and reporters that the Democratic Party aims to swing the Senate using a two-pronged strategy: Make sure disgruntled Republicans stay home, and convince Democrats that “the incumbent Republican is tied at the hip of the governor.”
Pennsylvania GOP spokeswoman Megan Sweeney balked at the idea of Republicans losing control of either chamber. She said Democrats are “fatigued” by “out-of-control spending” under former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell and President Obama.
“We're very confident that we're going to keep the Senate and the House and even make gains,” Sweeney said.
The Corbett campaign platform emphasizes private job creation and less taxes. A 30-second attack ad the Corbett campaign put out this week accused Wolf of owing a huge “hypocrite tax” for supporting tax hikes as Revenue secretary under Rendell while moving his company to Delaware.
The Wolf campaign fired back in a statement that his company “has never taken advantage of the Delaware tax loophole.” The campaign said the Wolf Organization is headquartered in and files corporate taxes in Pennsylvania, and it pays taxes in 28 states.
“In fact, Tom (Wolf) has proposed a comprehensive plan to close the Delaware tax loophole and other corporate loopholes when he's governor,” the Wolf campaign said. - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 7/25/14
Of course Corbett keeps pushing pension reform to the voters but isn't having the best of luck:Monday’s credit downgrade from Moody’s Investors Services, a move widely seen as indicative of a sluggish economy and poor budgets, was wielded by Tom Wolf on Tuesday as vindication of his argument that Gov. Tom Corbett has hurt the state’s economy.
Mr. Wolf, the Democratic nominee for governor, called the downgrade a “verdict on the lack of management and leadership in Pennsylvania.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Corbett, a Republican, said the rating downgrade was the result of a pension crisis, and accused Mr. Wolf of neither taking the pension issue seriously nor having a plan to address it.
The report did mention “below average” economic growth, along with growing pension liabilities and one-time budget fixes.
“To me, Pennsylvania is the last place that should be suffering a bond downgrade. We have so many resources, there is so much capacity for so many good things,” Mr. Wolf said after a tour of TechShop on the city’s East End. “This should be a state that is humming with economic activity.”
When it came to his own budgetary plans, Mr. Wolf repeated his plan to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act and impose a 5 percent severance tax on natural gas companies.
He also mentioned his intent to make Pennsylvania’s flat income tax, currently 3.07 percent, more progressive by raising the level of income that is exempted from the tax while also increasing the rate — a move he says will result in a tax cut for middle class Pennsylvanians.
“I’m still working out the mathematics. I don’t have access to the estimates as to what different rates would provide, given different levels of exemption,” he said.
He also declined to go into specifics about the pension issue, which has become the centerpiece of Mr. Corbett’s campaign in recent weeks.
Mr. Wolf said the sale of pension obligation bonds is one possibility, along with “a number of innovative ideas floating around Harrisburg.”
“I’m not going to kick the can down the road anymore. That’s my promise,” he said. - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 7/22/14
Plus it seems like Corbett is annoying voters over this issue instead of persuading them:Shane Patterson, 44, who describes himself as a conservative, said he supports changes to the pension systems. Patterson's children are in the Dover Area School District, and his wife is a teacher there.
Patterson, who works in banking, said he hasn't made up his mind in the governor's race. He said the pension issue is a key one for him.
"I'm a Republican," Patterson said, "but I see that the Republican Party's had control of the governor's office, the House and the Senate, and this hasn't been accomplished."
Corbett faces a tough re-election against Democrat Tom Wolf, a York County businessman who has had a double digit-lead in the polls. Both Corbett's administration and his campaign have been pushing pension reform in recent weeks.
Corbett has backed a proposal from state Rep. Mike Tobash, a Republican who represents parts of Berks and Schuylkill counties. Tobash's proposal would not affect the benefits of current state and public school employees.
Instead, it would create a hybrid system for new employees, in which part of their retirement savings would be in a defined benefit plan, while, generally, any part of their salary above $50,000 would be tied to a 401(k)-style retirement plan.
The state pensions are funded through employer contributions, employee payments and the return from investments. Tobash's plan shifts some risk away from taxpayers and onto employees, so more of their retirement benefits would rise and fall based on investment returns.
Democratic leaders from across the state have opposed the plan.
Katie McGinty, chairwoman of the Campaign for a Fresh Start, a committee supporting Wolf, said in a statement Wednesday that education cuts under Corbett have forced schools throughout Pennsylvania to raise property taxes, while educators have been laid off and programs have been eliminated.
In a later memo, Fresh Start spokesman Mike Mikus called the pension plan Corbett is pushing "useless," saying it wouldn't "offer immediate savings or property tax relief."
"Not only would Tom Corbett's pension plan do nothing to create short-term savings, it also would do nothing to reduce the unfunded liability," Mikus said.
Wolf has said he opposes 401(k)-style plans for new state employees. He has not provided specifics for how he'd reduce the unfunded liability for pensions. His "Fresh Start" policy plan says he supports giving a 2010 law time to work and will consider pension obligation bonds, but campaign spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan didn't provide additional details when asked last week.
During a campaign stop on Tuesday, Wolf said he "will work with the Legislature and those interested parties to come up with a solution that is fair to beneficiaries but also doesn't swamp the taxpayer," according to a TribLIVE.com article. - York Dispatch Report, 7/26/14
While Wolf has addressed this issue, he isn't making it to core issue of the race. He's heavily focused on this:KNOW WHAT'S annoying about the politics of pensions?
Gov. Corbett is in week two of a race around the state - scheduled in Trevose, Bucks County, today; Dresher, Montco, tomorrow - browbeating the Legislature for not passing pension "reform."
Everywhere he goes he cites "a pension crisis" causing property taxes to rise.
And he pretends his mostly small-town tour has nothing to do with his re-election effort because, after all, that would be wrong since he put people in prison for using taxpayer resources for political campaigns.
So that's annoying.
It's also annoying that this "crisis" has been with us for years, as have rising property taxes, and if this stuff is so important, why didn't Corbett push this hard three years ago?
I guess leadership late in the game is better than never at all. But it does sort of make one question the motive, no?
(There's a Corbett campaign Web ad attacking Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf for saying there is no pension "crisis.")
The public doesn't understand the complexities of public pensions or what it would take to change them.
Nor does it much seem to care. A 2013 Quinnipiac University poll on top state problems found voters listing the economy, unemployment, education and taxes. A 2014 Franklin & Marshall College poll listed top problems as education, unemployment, government/politicians and taxes.
No mention of a "pension crisis."
But at the simplest level, the public understands most private-sector workers lost employer-paid pension plans years ago and are in 401(k)-type employee-contribution plans, if in any plan at all.
And many folks wonder (as do I) why a Republican governor with a Republican House and Senate, especially in an election year, can't get something as seemingly easy (and popular with most voters) as starting only new public employees on contribution plans. - Philly.com, 7/24/14
Down in the polls and struggling to get his message across, Corbett is now resorting to lies and negative attacks against Wolf:Wolf visited TechShop, the membership manufacturing workshop in Bakery Square that President Obama visited this year.
The Democratic businessman from York County has made generating manufacturing jobs a central tenet of his platform.
He proposes accountability-based tax credits only if companies generate jobs and finding ways to spin off university research into companies that employ Pennsylvanians.
“We have a market here, but we also have the skills,” Wolf said. “We have the design capacity, another reason why manufacturing should be really strong here.” - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 7/22/14
And Corbett is getting hounded with negative attack ads from teachers:
A new attack ad from Gov. Tom Corbett (R) accuses Democratic opponent Tom Wolf of hypocrisy because, it says, his building-products company takes advantage of a loophole to avoid corporate taxes while he favors more taxes on the middle class.
One problem: the Wolf Organization, though it is chartered in Delaware, says it pays corporate taxes in Pennsylvania and the 27 other states where it does business. State law allows many corporations to avoid Pennsylvania tax by listing assets in Delaware, the so-called “Delaware Loophole.”
The 30-second ad’s other charges rest on Wolf’s service as state revenue secretary in the administration of Gov. Ed Rendell (D).
“When Tom Wolf was the state’s top tax collector, he tried to raise taxes on almost everything,” a woman says in the first frame, going on to note that Wolf called for new taxes on garbage, home heating oil and electricity and “even tried increasing the state sales tax.”
As revenue secretary, Wolf did not set tax policy. In 2007, Rendell proposed the above tax changes – and Wolf testified on their behalf before the legislature – but they were never enacted.
“If there was a hypocrite tax, Tom Wolf would owe a lot of money,” the ad concludes. It says he wants to increase the income tax on some Pennsylvania workers.
Wolf campaign spokeswoman Beth Melena said Corbett “is spending millions in attacks that have already been called false and ridiculously misleading” by media fact-checkers in order to distract voters from his “three years of failed leadership.” - Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/24/14
And from Tom Steyer and his Super PAC:
A new Democratic political action committee is launching a 30-second TV ad attacking Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) for cuts in state education spending, taking aim at what polls show is one of the incumbent’s greatest vulnerabilities.
PA Families First is spending just under $2 million to air the ad on broadcast and cable outlets in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Johnstown, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia media markets.
The independent-expenditure PAC, registered in Pennsylvania, enjoys backing from the Democratic Governors Association, AFSCME, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. It is not allowed to give money directly to a candidate or political party, and cannot coordinate expenditures with them.
In Corbett’s first budget, the state share of basic schools funding was cut about $1 billion, forcing cutbacks in local districts and property-tax increases. Corbett says that the loss of federal stimulus money, which had been used to patch together the previous budget, is to blame and notes that he has since increased state funding.
Democrats and education groups note that a large part of the increased money is for school-employee pensions rather than instructional programs, and say that Corbett should back a production tax for the booming natural-gas drilling industry in the state. - Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/22/14
Meanwhile, Wolf has been out on the campaign trail working on getting Democrats ready to vote:
Earlier this month, Steyer, who runs a climate change-focused Super PAC called NextGen, launched an attack ad hammering Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's support for the oil and gas industry.
That's a target-rich environment for Democrats who have long been frustrated by what they see as Corbett's altogether-too-cozy relationship with Shale Nation.
The NexGen commercial opens with shots of plaintive-eyed school kids and narrator darkly proclaiming that if they were energy execs, big-dollar donors or lobbyists, Corbett would be listening to them, "instead of cutting funding for their schools."
The ad repeats a familiar, though not entirely accurate claim, that Corbett slashed $1 billion from public education in his first budget in 2011.
And it charges that he traded campaign contributions for a "sweetheart deal" with the industry on taxes that cost the state "billions." It's unstated, but pretty clear, that Corbett's resistance to a severance tax on drillers is the issue here.
The ad closes with the narrator challenging Corbett to come clean on his dealings with the energy industry. And it makes the unintentionally hilarious claim that "we've got a right to know who Tom Corbett is listening to, because it sure isn't us." - The Patriot-News, 7/24/14
This race is ours for the taking but we can't afford to take anything for granted. Click here to donate and get involved with Wolf's campaigns, State Senator Mike Stack's (D. PA) Lt. Governor campaign and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party so we can take back the State Senate:Beach and ball games are typical summer time activities for most people but a bunch of Chester County Democrats had politics on their minds Friday night.
About 200 turned out at the township building for a seminar organized by the party to get tips on campaigning for Tom Wolf, their candidate for governor.
Wolf, and Mike Stack, the party candidate for lieutenant governor, also stopped by at the event organized by state Sen. Andrew Dinniman of West Whiteland and party Chairman Brian McGinnis.
All were greeted outside by about 20 or 25 Republican picketers supporting Gov. Tom Corbett on the sidewalk holding Corbett for governor signs.
The meeting was essentially a nuts-and-bolts organizing meeting among true-believers rather a rally to stoke up voters. Dinniman said he invited Wolf to stop by since he was already in Philadelphia for the day and would be on his way home to York.
Wolf was introduced informally and spoke off the cuff, thanking the workers for their organizing efforts, saying it was important to the campaign.
Wolf told the group that no matter what advertising campaign was utilized, whatever social media campaign was put together, nothing really compared to voters talking to someone they trusted. “What you are doing is really, really important. Don’t you forget that,” said Wolf.
He talked less about issues and more about how he appreciated their work for him as an exercise in democracy and in making the United States work. “There is some nobility in this,” he said.
When the candidate left the front of the room he probably spent the better part of 30 minutes in the lobby informally talking to people and letting them take his picture on cell phones.
Dinniman, Stack and other party leaders discussed organizing for the campaign ahead.
“I’ve won here,” said Dinniman. “We know that Democratic candidates in Chester County whether myself or (former Democratic governor) Ed Rendell can win by 16 percent. It is not like we are asking for something we can’t do. It’s been done.”
While the registration difference between Democrats and Republicans has shrunk over the past two decades, Dinniman said statistics showed Democrats in Chester County generally voted in lesser numbers than Republicans in many elections. The party needed to address that.
Also, the party faithful needed to learn to talk better about issues. “You can’t talk jargon to Chester County,” he explained. Dinniman said issues such as protecting the environment and promoting education resonated with local voters. - Daily Local News, 7/26/14