On October 21, more than 100 days after his veto touched off Pennsylvania’s ongoing state budget impasse, Gov. Tom Wolf sent a letter to the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers saying “I am with you.” This has been his spoken—and unspoken—pledge to government unions across the state.
Had Wolf sent a letter to the schoolchildren of Pennsylvania, rather than a teachers union that gave nearly $900,000 to his election campaign, it may have read something like this:
Dear Schoolchildren of Pennsylvania,
You don’t have to be a “straight-A” student to notice public schools are borrowing money because I vetoed state education funding—several schools might even shut their doors if they don’t get money soon.
You see, I could have signed a budget that increased school funding—or even used the line-item veto so schoolchildren aren’t held hostage. But I vetoed the entire budget instead. As I explained, “I want to keep the pressure up.”
I could have agreed to temporary funding to keep schools opens. I vetoed that too. Remember, I said, “I want a fight.”
I could try to work with Republicans to put your needs first, but I won’t give in. As I explained, “I’m not going to cave on this. I can’t cave on this.”
I wish I could help out, but like I told the Philadelphia Federation of teachers, I’m with the union.
Let’s face it, government unions gave $3.5 million to my campaign and spent millions more in union dues to support my election.
They expect a return on that investment.
That’s why I stripped Bill Green from his chairmanship of the School Reform Commission for supporting charter schools in Philadelphia. Yes, charters serve low-income, minority students, and most charters outperform other district schools. But the union doesn’t like charter schools. I’m with the union.
That’s why I forced the Chief Recovery Officer out of York—the state’s second-worst performing school district. The unions opposed the officer’s recovery plan to improve performance and save money. I’m with the union.
That’s why I want to cut funding for cyber charter school students and for special needs students in brick-and-mortar charter schools. Unions want to keep all students in union-dominated schools. And I’m with the union.
That’s why my administration stopped sending funds to charter schools during the budget impasse I created. Sure, state law lets us release funds when school districts refuse to pay, but unions complained. Sorry charter kids, I’m with the union.
That’s why my administration froze the tax credit scholarship programs, which allow thousands of kids to afford better schools. The tax code is still law, and everyone is still paying taxes. But I’m with the union, and, as I’ve said, “I want to keep the pressure up.”
But don’t worry, students—it’s not just you. I’m siding with unions over all Pennsylvanians.
That’s why I vetoed liquor privatization—even though nearly every state lets private stores sell wine and liquor, and Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly want to see that here. I’m with the union.
That’s why I tried a backdoor executive order to unionize home care workers. Unions would like people simply providing care for a family member to pay union dues. I’m with the union.
That’s why I vetoed pension reform, too—even though my own former business offers 401(k)s. Our state may be more than $50 billion in pension debt, but I’m with the union.
That’s why I am negotiating contracts with union leaders in secret even though I publicly trumpet transparency. And that’s why I threatened to veto paycheck protection that gives unions an unfair political advantage. I’m with the union.
Again, please believe me that I feel your pain and suffering, but this isn’t about you. I’m with the union.
Best of Luck,
Governor Tom Wolf*
*This letter is satire, though the quotes from the governor are real.