Wolf Veto = $11 Million Bill for Taxpayers


School districts have borrowed $346 million—and taxpayers will pay to pay up to $11 million in interest payments—as a result of Gov. Wolf’s budget vetoes, according to a report from Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.

DePasquale noted that this borrowing is due to the lack of tax dollars flowing out of Harrisburg—despite the fact the state is certainly still taking money from taxpayers.

At the press conference announcing these findings, Sen. Scott Wagner stood up to say he’s tired of taking blame for Gov. Wolf’s actions. That is, the House and Senate passed a budget—and subsequently passed a temporary funding plan—but Gov. Wolf’s vetoes denied funding for schools and social services.

Sen. Wagner is right. The only person to blame for schools having to borrow money is Gov. Tom Wolf, who vetoed the original budget in its entirety—rather than using the line-item veto as previous governors have done—and the temporary stop-gap measure.

Wolf says his vetoes are about education funding, but are they really?

Education spending is already at an all-time high, while Pennsylvania ranks among the highest spending states. The Republican-passed budget would have increased aid to public schools by another $350 million (and $1.4 billion more than four years ago).

Republicans even offered Gov. Wolf $300 million above that total.

Gov. Wolf thinks that’s not enough, and continues to cling to his demand for higher taxes on working families.

But there can be no doubt, Wolf is the only reason schools are struggling to make payroll.

RELATED : , , blog_line

Fresh Start, or Stale Policies of Decades Past?


At the beginning of 2015, we heard a lot about a "fresh start" for Pennsylvania. But nine months later, it's difficult to identify anything fresh about Gov. Wolf's tax, borrow and spend plan.

In fact, Philadelphia Daily News columnist John Baer pointed out that every Pennsylvania governor since the 1970s has raised taxes. Reading that, I naturally thought, “Yeah, well maybe we should stop doing that.”

Some Democrats argue that tax increases are part of responsible governing, noting that every governor elected since the '70s - Milton Shapp, Dick Thornburgh, Bob Casey, Tom Ridge, Ed Rendell, Tom Corbett - raised taxes (the argument is Corbett's fuels-tax hike for $2.3 billion in road and bridge repairs counts).

But Republicans say maybe that's the problem. Maybe the state's economy would be better with lower taxes.

Nate Benefield, of the conservative Commonwealth Foundation, makes the case against raising taxes: "Overall, our tax burden has gone up, and yet we have stagnant growth, among the slowest in the country."

Pennsylvania's ranking in state and local tax burden, according to the respected D.C.-based Tax Foundation, is 10th heaviest among states and third heaviest among the most populous states, behind New York and California.

In other words, for 45 years Pennsylvania politicians have been raising taxes—resulting in anemic job growth, income growth and population growth.

Ironically,Gov. Tom Wolf suggests his $4.6 billion, $1,400 per family of four tax increase represents a new way of doing things in Harrisburg. Raising taxes to historic highs, while rejecting real pension reform or liquor privatization, isn't fresh or innovative. It's the same thing we’ve been doing for decades.

It’s time we stop repeating the same failed mistakes of the past.

RELATED : , , , , blog_line

Who Will Vote to Raise Your Taxes?


Republican leadership in the General Assembly has announced they will allow a floor vote on a budget proposal that has the massive tax increases Gov. Wolf and government union leaders desire—if Democrats secure enough votes to pass it.

That’s a big “if.” Not only would every Democrat have to vote for the tax hike—and some Democrats have already expressed concerns—they would also need 18 Republicans in the House and six in the Senate to vote for their tax-and-spend budget.

Consider the gauntlet thrown down. Those who favor massive tax increases on working families would have to make their case publicly and defend their policy desires. In any event, CF will continue to expose the truth about what the Union/Wolf tax plan would mean for Pennsylvania taxpayers, businesses and families.

We know lawmakers are going to hear from special interests clamoring to take and spend more of your hard-earned money. But they need to hear from families like yours who would pay the bill.

Join us in telling your legislators and Gov. Wolf—No New Taxes!

RELATED : , , blog_line

Secret Contract Leaves Taxpayers in the Dark


In a special Friday night voting session, board members in Monessen School District unanimously approved a new teachers’ contract, which runs through 2018. The terms of the contract, including the cost, is a secret. Still, local property taxpayers are now contractually obligated to foot the bill. Sound unfair? And Monessen is only the latest example of a secretive collective bargaining process that leaves taxpayers in the dark.

Whenever decisions over public money are made, government and elected officials need to be open and transparent. Taxpayers have the right to know how their money is spent. This is common sense. And it’s why a growing number of states are bringing more transparency to public sector labor negotiations. Here in Pennsylvania, the Senate has already passed contract transparency legislation. 

SB 645, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Stefano (Westmoreland), requires a summary of public sector collective bargaining agreements be posted on state, school district, or local government websites two weeks prior to signing. This allows taxpayers to see cost projections and raise objections if the proposed contract does not represent the best interest of taxpayers and workers. 

The Pennsylvania House now has an opportunity to take up SB 645.

Without reform, taxpayers will continue to be stuck paying for secretive backroom deals as exemplified in Monessen School District. Notifying the public after a labor contract is already signed is too little, too late, as there is no turning back. Instead of treating taxpayers as an afterthought, lawmakers should make labor contracts transparent and give Pennsylvanians a seat at the table.   

RELATED : , , blog_line

Wolf's "Loser" & "Phony-Baloney" Proposals


Last week, Gov. Wolf unveiled new, bad policy ideas—to slightly adjust a misguided pension proposal, and to propose a private manager to a government run liquor monopoly. 

But just as it was with the fabled wardrobe-challenged emperor, we aren't the only ones who have seen through the Governor's new clothes. Editorial boards across Pennsylvania have pointed out Wolf's new proposals are transparent and immaterial.

Lehigh Valley Live writes (emphasis added)

Instead of offering a real compromise, Wolf dredged up what can only be called Reform Lite — privatizing the management of the liquor system (but not the ownership or the workforce). He also came down in price on his hybrid pension proposal, saying that the earnings of new state employees over $75,000 would be shifted to a defined-contribution pension plan (down from his earlier ceiling of $100,000).

Non-starters, both.

Leasing the Liquor Control Board's management function to a private firm 10 to 25 years, as Wolf proposes, is worse than doing nothing, because it would prevent conversion to a market-driven system during that time. Nothing in Wolf's offer would greatly increase service or selection, or reduce prices. The unionized sales force would stay in place. So would the number of stores. Wolf's idea to extend beer and wine sales to convenience stores and restaurants is tepid at best, and pits government against private enterprise.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette adds (emphasis mine):

The plan is a loser. It privatizes nothing. What’s worse is that by projecting an aura of private operation it could perpetuate Pennsylvania’s antiquated system for far longer. The state needs to get out of the liquor business, once and for all, as soon as possible, without the use of Tom Wolf’s smoke and mirrors.

The Bucks County Courier Times editorializes (emphasis mine): 

Now that we’ve gotten an unvarnished look at those “historic” reforms, here’s our take: phony-baloney “reforms” that create the appearance of movement for a Democratic governor locked in a budget impasse with Republican legislative leaders. 

Lastly, Lancaster Online pans the proposal, urging Wolf to look to real liquor store privatization:

Forget his proposal last week to offer a long-term lease to manage the state liquor stores; private firms would bid on a contract to manage the system, which would stay under state ownership.

If Gov. Wolf can make a deal with Republican leaders that would make good on his promise to boost  funding for Pennsylvania’s public schools, he should  choose our children over the unions that oppose privatizing our state-owned liquor stores. If he fails to do so, he could lose the support of those who elected him because they’re rightly frustrated with the human costs of the ongoing budget impasse.

Gov. Wolf may have trotted out new clothes last week, but they don't cover up the bad policies he started with.

RELATED : , , blog_line

Audio: A Path of Compromise


Refusing to abandon his demands for the highest tax increase in state history, Gov. Wolf continues to fuel a budget impasse that has left human-services agencies and schools without critical funding.

CF’s Matt Brouillette was on WPHT with Dom Giordano to discuss the “path of compromise” that requires actual compromise from Gov. Wolf.

“While Governor Wolf is going to need to tell his government union supporters we have to do something on the pension front and it’s time for us to get government out of the booze business, Republicans are also going to have to go to their own business interests and say we need to stop these subsidies, whether it’s to the film industry or the horse racing industry, money that the taxpayers should not be supporting these crony capitalists.”

Matt justifies the Republican lawmakers’ plan to pass individual funding bills for schools and state agencies already agreed upon by the legislature and Gov. Wolf–which includes 274 of approximately 400 line-items.

Despite this, Matt anticipates the budget battle “would likely go past Thanksgiving, into the Christmas time, because it does not seem that Gov. Wolf, at this point, is giving up on his demands for the highest taxes in the country.”

Click here or listen below to hear more. 

The Dom Giordano Show airs every weekday from 9 am to 12 pm. 

Follow Commonwealth Foundation’s SoundCloud stream for more of our audio content.

And for mobile listening, get the SoundCloud iPhone and Android apps.

RELATED : , blog_line

Audio: Protecting Teachers' Rights and Paychecks


Teacher unions are taking money from teachers to fund political causes they do not support. Through Free to Teach, teachers like James Williams and Linda Misja are speaking out and shining a light on shady union practices.

CF’s Brittney Parker was on the Gary Sutton Show to talk about Free to Teach and how it's helping teachers who have fought against being forced to fund causes that conflict with their morals.

Brittney explains, “a lot of teachers feeling like their beliefs are being violated because they are being forced to pay this money to keep their job”.

The Teacher’s Bill of Rights is one of Free to Teach's resources that outlines personal freedoms all teachers should enjoy, including the right to a protected paycheck. 

Click here or listen below to learn more about Free to Teach and the Teacher's Bill of Rights.

Connect with Free to Teach on TwitterFacebook, and Pinterest.

The Gary Sutton Show airs daily on WSBA 910AM in the York area.

Follow Commonwealth Foundation’s SoundCloud stream for more of our audio content.

For mobile listening, get the SoundCloud iPhone and Android apps.

RELATED : , , blog_line

New Wolf Offer, Same Bad Policy


Yesterday, 28 days after receiving a budget compromise proposal from legislative Republicans, Gov. Wolf rejected that offer and issued his own plan—hiring a private contractor to manage the government liquor system and slightly modifying his earlier pension proposal.

While Governor Wolf’s proposals are significant, and new to the current budget debate, they represent bad public policy.


  • Wolf’s plan to hire a private manager to run the liquor system replaces a government-run monopoly with a government monopoly run by a private company. In contrast to Wolf’s comments that he doesn’t want to “give this away to a crony,” that is precisely what this plan would do.
  • Consumers will not see better selection, prices, or service.
    • This plan doesn’t provide consumers new choices or true competition
    • This plan retains the one-size-fits all model that Pennsylvania consumers have come to hate—and drive to other states to avoid.
  • Wolf’s proposal doesn’t end the conflict of interest of government controlling and promoting the sale of alcohol.
    • It doesn’t change the fact that we having a single entity (or one person) choosing what products can and cannot be sold in Pennsylvania—which has resulted in rampant corruption and bribery.
  • The idea that wine in groceries and restaurants are “to be negotiated” means he isn’t offering the most basic reform consumers want to see.

Consumers will only see better selection, prices, and service when the government gets out of the wholesale business and allows competition, not monopoly, in wholesale and retail wine and spirits sales.  


  • Wolf’s stacked hybrid pension plan doesn’t offer meaningful reform. It is subject to the same political manipulations that plague the current pension system—increasing benefits and delaying contributions, kicking the can down the road.
    • The salary threshold could be adjusted at any point (Wolf proposed putting salary above $75,000 in a defined-contribution account, vs. his proposal of $100,000 a month ago) cutting into any “savings.”
    • While several states have created hybrid pension plans (part defined contribution, part defined benefit), no one has implemented a stacked hybrid.
  • Wolf’s $3 billion pension obligation (PO) bond proposal should be a nonstarter.
    • PO bonds have been historic failures—almost every city or state that has used pension obligation bonds have seen larger deficits after the bond issues. This includes in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh—where Mayor Peduto spoke out against Wolf’s bond proposal.
    • Wolf’s projected “savings” in reduced pension contributions don't include the interest payments on those bonds.
    • Ratings agencies have cautioned that pension bonds would result in bond rating downgrades.
  • Anti-spiking and revenue neutral option 4 reforms are good, commonsense reforms that protect taxpayers. Wolf should be applauded for supporting these reforms, and almost no one would disagree these are necessary changes.
  • The risk sharing for current employees is a good reform—but the $2 billion “savings” only occurs if the pension funds earn 6.5% instead of the projection 7.5%, an investment return that would create tens of billions in additional costs versus current projections.
  • Reducing Wall Street Investment fees is another good idea—SERS and PSERS have exorbitant costs—but Wolf has indicated he can do this administratively, with no legislation needed. This doesn’t need to be part of a “deal." 

RELATED : , , blog_line

Leader of the Free World?


What do Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates and Canada have in common? Their citizens all enjoy more economic freedom than Americans.

According to the 2015 Economic Freedom of the World Index, the United States ranks 16th, down from a rank of 2 in 2000. Americans are losing their economic freedoms while the rest of the world is becoming more free.

The Economic Freedom of the World Index measures economic freedom by analyzing five areas: size of government, legal structure and property rights, access to sound money, free trade, and regulation. The U.S. scored the lowest in the size of government and protection of property rights categories.

Economic freedom is more than an academic concept; it's critical for prosperity. Economic freedom is positively associated with higher average per-capita GDP, longer life spans, higher incomes for the poor and more civil liberties.

To read more about the benefits of expanding economic freedom visit www.freetheworld.com.

RELATED : , , blog_line

Audio: Getting Government Out of the Booze Business


A majority of Pennsylvanians support a privatized liquor industry, but government unions use their financial clout to ensure the state government maintains a monopoly over wine and spirits.

WILK’s Sue Henry spoke with CF’s Matt Brouillette to discuss his recent op-ed in National Review that outlines the problems created by the governement's liquor monopoly–including a system of corruption and higher prices for consumers.

Infusing competition into the industry would solve these problems. Matt explains that “competition provides greater choice for consumers, competition for the providers, and ultimately it will result in better prices for all the people who buy alcohol in Pennsylvania.”

Getting the government out of the booze business and dismissing groundless myths will allow the state to focus solely on its role of public safety and enforcing liquor laws, rather than promoting the sales of wine and spirits.

“It’s better to have the government in the role of oversight rather than in the role of selling liquor.”

Click here or listen below to hear more.

The Sue Henry Show airs weekdays from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Follow Commonwealth Foundation’s SoundCloud stream for more of our audio content.

For mobile listening, get the SoundCloud iPhone and Android apps.

RELATED : , blog_line

Total Records: 5587

Media contact:

(O) 717-671-1901

Who are We?

The Commonwealth Foundation is Pennsylvania's free-market think tank.  The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.