OPED: Wolf: Moving Pennsylvania in the right direction

Tom Wolf
Governor of Pennsylvania

Today, Pennsylvania is in a much different place than when I first ran for governor four years ago. At that point, Pennsylvania schools were devastated. The previous administration had cut a billion dollars from education, and, as a result, 20,000 educators lost their jobs, property taxes skyrocketed, class sizes increased, and important programs like pre-K were cut.

Harrisburg was trying to balance budgets — unsuccessfully as it turned out — on the backs of seniors and our children, and programs that help our most vulnerable were the first on the chopping block.

The previous administration also refused to expand Medicaid, refused to support to gay marriage, tried to implement voter ID, tried to make it harder for women to access health care, and even pushed for an invasive ultrasound bill. When I took office, Pennsylvania was facing a $2.3 billion structural deficit.

I knew that we had work to do, so I took action. Sometimes that action has come in the form of challenging the Legislature to step out of its comfort zone. Sometimes, we’ve worked our way to compromise. And sometimes, I’ve been forced to move forward on my own.

Over the last four years, we have fought to change Harrisburg by prioritizing the issues important to Pennsylvania families. We have restored the Harrisburg Republicans’ billion dollar education cuts, expanded career and technical education, expanded health care for 720,000 Pennsylvanians, driven our uninsured rate to its lowest point in history, and increased opportunities for over 50,000 seniors to age in their homes.

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I fought for all these things because they make people’s lives better. By doing the right thing, we were finally able to get Pennsylvania’s finances in order.

This summer, a bipartisan budget was completed that builds on these investments and puts the commonwealth on sound financial footing. We have eliminated Pennsylvania’s massive structural deficit, saved taxpayers $2 billion by streamlining government to protect important programs for our children and seniors, and for the first time in a decade, we deposited money into the commonwealth’s rainy day fund. 

It turns out that doing the right thing is also the smart thing. When you invest in education and workforce development, give people access to health care, and allow our seniors to have the option of aging in their homes, you are actually making it easier to balance our budget. We are not only making our communities stronger, but we are also making our economy stronger.

And it’s making a difference in people’s lives.

I’ve worked to move Pennsylvania forward while working to make sure that our government is worthy of the trust of the people it serves. That’s why I banned members of my administration from accepting gifts from lobbyists, reformed legal contracting to end pay-to-play, donate my salary to charity, and live with my wife of 43 years in our home in York county.

But we need to do more. It’s time that people start trusting their government again.  And in a second term, I will continue to fight for the reforms I have outlined in my Citizens First Ethics Reform Plan, which calls for a gift ban for all public officials, "No Budget, No Pay" legislation, gerrymandering reform, campaign finance reform, and public official expense reform.

I know we have a lot more to do, but Pennsylvania has come a long way from where we were in 2014. We cannot go backwards now. Every step of the way, I have been fighting to change Harrisburg for the people of Pennsylvania, and if I am re-elected, I will continue to work hard to move our commonwealth forward and make people’s lives better.

— Tom Wolf is a resident of Mount Wolf and is the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania.