Tom Wolf’s Hobson’s Choice


TO: Interested Parties

FROM: Jason Gottesman, Director of Communications

DATE: August 22, 2018

RE: Tom Wolf’s Hobson’s Choice

As he asks Pennsylvanians to elect him to a second term in office, Tom Wolf’s stance, and first term success, on education has been murky at best.

In a piece last week on Tom Wolf’s education record, The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that Wolf’s education record after his first term is “more complicated than Mission Accomplished.”

In addition, the same piece noted that basic education funding under the Wolf administration has only increased by $566 million or ten percent, despite the Governor falsely claiming—despite vetoing more education spending than he’s signed—he has restored the mythical Corbett-era education cuts. Indeed, while classroom spending has only increased ten percent, teacher benefit costs have increased 115 percent.

This is the record that Tom Wolf is taking on the campaign trail: a first term that prioritized teacher benefits instead of in-classroom spending increases.

So, what does Tom Wolf hope to change about how he has dealt with education funding should he be elected to a second term?

Tom Wolf presents Pennsylvanians with Hobson’s choice: Push all education dollars  immediately through the Basic Education Funding Formula; a result that would end up either cutting $1.2 billion from hundreds of rural and already-struggling school districts or increasing state taxes by around $4 billion in order to push the money through the formula without cutting funding to any school district.

Here a sampling of Tom Wolf’s mid-summer record of either calling for cuts or massive tax increases:

  • “Wolf said earlier this summer that he supported running all money for education through a funding formula that targets money to school districts based on need. The state adopted the formula in 2016, directing additional money to districts with high enrollment and large numbers of students in poverty. But it only applies to a fraction of what the state spends on education….Wolf says he wouldn’t support the change until the state had additional money and got lawmakers’ input. ‘The goal should be that no school gets a reduction in the investment that the state makes in public education,’ Wolf said.” – The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • “‘Yes, we need a fair funding formula for all dollars going into public education,’ [Wolf said]…’Only when there is full, fair and adequate funding would he support putting all money through the formula,’ said campaign spokeswoman Beth Melena.” – WHYY
  • “Wolf told The Associated Press that he does not support changing the distribution in a way that would cut funding to any school district. Rather, Wolf’s aides say he backs a shift when there’s a big enough increase in state aid to put all school aid through the state’s three-year-old funding formula without cutting aid to any single district.” – Associated Press
  • “[Tom Wolf] ‘will continue to fight to increase funding for all schools throughout Pennsylvania,’ Melena said.” – PennLive

Those thinking that the idea Tom Wolf would propose such large tax increases is absurd, need only look to recent history and the stances of his running mate—stances he has yet to distance himself from—to see that such tax increases would only be a repeat of recent Tom Wolf budgeting history.

In his first two budgets, Tom Wolf proposed increasing state taxes by the billions, increasing the state income tax while also increasing and expanding the state sales tax to include everything from diapers to caskets – literally cradle to grave taxation:

In addition, Democratic Lt. Governor nominee John Fetterman has supported concepts like single-payer healthcare and free higher education for all. If implemented, these concepts could cause a $20 billion tax hike in Pennsylvania. As of yet, Tom Wolf has yet to distance himself from these proposals supported by his running mate.

This all presents Pennsylvanians with a stark choice when it comes to what they want for education: Scott Wagner, a Governor who will work to reform the way state government does business and put $1 billion back into the classroom without raising taxes, or Tom Wolf, whose only education plan is to raise taxes or shutter rural schools.