PA-Gov: Wolf, Corbett Tackle Education and the Economy in Op-Eds
On the eve of the second gubernatorial debate, Governor Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf, authored individual editorials in for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review to express how they plan to solve issues with pension reform, school funding and unemployment.
Considering the three issues to be an interconnected challenge, both candidates held that improving Pennsylvania’s economy begins with finding a reliable source of funding for all schools.
Corbett takes a retrospective approach to the issue, citing past efforts to restore fiscal discipline when the administration addressed “compounding issues” created from the one-time federal stimulus money and the Rendell Administration’s school funding cuts.
Corbett highlights that he “worked to implement critical reforms, including teacher and school evaluations, so taxpayers, parents and our children receive the 21st-century education system they deserve.”
Wolf’s solution involves a five percent severance tax on the natural gas industry that is projected to raise $1 billion in 2015-16 and nearly $1.5 billion by 2018-19 for Pennsylvania’s schools.
“We must start by providing our children with a world-class education that equips them with the skills to succeed in the 21st century,” Wolf writes. “The revenue generated from a severance tax will go a long way toward fully funding our education system.”
However, Corbett considers such tax increases inefficient, and vows to work “so that you can keep more of your hard-earned money.” To preserve his constituents’ wealth and improve education, Corbett has previously worked to reform the pension plan to ensure that more taxpayer money goes to the classroom while also making the necessary payments to the state’s pension liabilities, the debt of which is expected to exceed $65 billion in the next five years.
To ameliorate the issue, Corbett suggests a “401(k)-style plan” that will preserve “the benefits already accrued,” and “begin to address the issue.”
Equally as vital as pension reform is the need for an improved labor and job market.
Wolf argues that many employers are unable to replace retiring workers, finding young job applicants unprepared, and thus contributing to high unemployment rates. Wolf offers a three-point solution his My Technical Education Applied to Manufacturing (T.E.A.M.) proposed to improve the labor force by 1) marrying vocational and academic learning, 2) ensuring vocational curricula meets manufacturers’ standards, and 3) encouraging schools to offer a nationally recognized industry certificate.
To make these improvements, Wolf plans to re-appropriate funds in local school districts and restore tax dollars to middle class communities. With Pennsylvania one of only three states that does not use a fair funding formula to distribute state education dollars to local schools, Wolf believes that taxpayers deserve a funding formula that is equitable and will actually save money.
“The Pennsylvania Auditor General’s Office estimates that more accurate funding formulas could save taxpayers and local districts at least $365 million each year” writes Wolf.
Corbett takes a different approach. Corbett plans to invest in the Marcellus shale region to secure another 240,000 careers. Once again criticizing Wolf’s proposed severance tax, Corbett emphasizes that in addition to creating thousands of jobs, the natural gas industry has already paid 2.2 billion in taxes and continues to pay a “one-of-a-kind impact fee” that has reinvested $636 million in local communities.
Wolf, if elected governor, has the intention to “invest in the future” and aspires to use his experience in business and government to create jobs, improve education, and utilize Pennsylvania’s natural resources, world-class universities and prime East Coast location to “build a stronger Pennsylvania.”
Corbett, if re-elected, expresses a desire to maintain the standards he has previously set moving Pennsylvania forward. “There’s no doubt we are better off today than we were four years ago when I took office” Corbett writes, going on to ask for continued support as he pledges to tackle reform that promises a “stronger and brighter future for our children and grandchildren.”