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Setting Gov. Wolf’s broken record straight: Matthew Brouillette

Posted 12/6/17

The 2018 gubernatorial election season is upon us!

As GOP candidates seek the nomination to take on Gov. Tom Wolf next fall, the incumbent governor’s big-government allies are already …

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Setting Gov. Wolf’s broken record straight: Matthew Brouillette

Gov. Tom Wolf
Gov. Tom Wolf

The 2018 gubernatorial election season is upon us!

As GOP candidates seek the nomination to take on Gov. Tom Wolf next fall, the incumbent governor’s big-government allies are already filling our television screens with political ads. But when it comes to a game plan, Wolf should be less concerned about running against his GOP challengers and more concerned about running against his own broken record.

While incumbency may bring Wolf name recognition, it also brings a tenure marked by three unsigned state budgets, massive overspending, vetoes of commonsense reforms, judicial smackdowns for executive overreach, and a state that’s declining in population for the first time in more than three decades.

Wolf’s broken record is hardly one to run on — instead, it’s one to run from.

In his first act as governor, Wolf unilaterally fired the executive director of the state’s Office of Open Records, the office that ensures public access to government records — including those from the governor’s office.

Soon after, Wolf sought to pay back two of his biggest government union campaign donors, SEIU and AFSCME, by forcing unionization on the state’s 20,000 home-care workers, which would have let the unions take more than $8 million annually in dues money from these workers.

In both cases, the courts ruled Wolf overstepped his authority. Unfortunately, this early onset of Wolf’s dysfunctional leadership was the playbook for things to come.

Just weeks after taking office, Wolf proposed a $4.6 billion tax increase — the largest in state history and more than all other 49 states combined. When the Republican-controlled Legislature fired back with a balanced, no-tax-hike budget, Wolf triggered a nine-month stalemate, withholding funding from schools and human services agencies instead of accepting a budget without massive spending and tax increases.

During the stalemate, Wolf inexplicably halted funding for the state’s popular Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit (OSTC) programs, denying low-income and mostly minority students more than 8,000 scholarships — an ironic move by a governor who campaigned on prioritizing education.

Ultimately, Wolf relented on punishing students, abandoned his tax-increase demands, and let a responsible state budget become law — albeit without his signature. The story of the following two years, however, is equally grim.

In both 2016 and 2017, Wolf violated the state Constitution’s balanced budget requirement and let unbalanced budgets become law without his signature. All told, Wolf has skyrocketed state spending by more than $2.8 billion over three years — more than the previous eight years combined. Additionally, last year he unilaterally spent $400 million more than the legislature authorized, further plunging the state into fiscal chaos.

Now, the courts have been asked yet again to rein in a rogue governor: Our lawsuit challenging Wolf’s flagrant violations of the state constitution is now before the Commonwealth Court.

But it doesn’t take a court order to recognize that Wolf’s campaign refrain of a “government that works” — isn’t working. Just ask the more than 100 small business owners forced to close shop after being slapped with a 40-percent retroactive tax increase last year to help pay for the overspending Wolf allowed. Or the thousands of people fleeing the state in search of a better future. Indeed, Wolf has presided over the first drop in total state population in more than three decades.

But while our friends and neighbors are leaving Pennsylvania, Wolf has been busy vetoing critical reforms that will help make the commonwealth more attractive.

Remember, this is the governor who vetoed full liquor privatization even though most Pennsylvanians favor it, vetoed human services reform proven in other states to help people rise from poverty, vetoed historic pension reform in 2015, and vetoed a bill to protect quality teachers in the event of furloughs.

It’s little wonder one capitol reporter wrote that Wolf’s “record, as far as accomplishments, was largely imposed on him by the Republican majorities in the state legislatures.”

Even less surprising is that half of likely voters believe it’s time for a change in the governor’s office.

Far from an asset, Wolf’s track record is his greatest liability. Indeed, regardless of who secures the GOP nomination, Wolf’s own broken record will be his most formidable campaign adversary next year.

Matthew Brouillette is president and CEO of Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs and host of ‘Brews & Views’ podcast. For more information, visit