Last week was about personalities but this week we returned to the issues.
Given the last few weeks, it is not an absurd assumption to guess that education will be the issue most mentioned by Wolf this year while pensions will be brought up as much if not more by the Governor.
The Corbett-Cawley campaign has been intensely focused since the budget season on attacking Wolf for not recognizing the pension crisis that the Governor believes is at the heart of the commonwealth’s fiscal problems.
They pointed out that State Rep. Mike Sturla, the Democratic caucus policy chairman, acknowledged that the pension issue needs to be addressed.
“Even as millionaire Secretary Tom Wolf’s surrogates acknowledge Pennsylvania has a pension crisis, Wolf continues turn a blind eye and appease the interests of the public sector unions who have given him $1.13 million since he purchased the Democratic nomination in May,” said Corbett-Cawley Communications Director Chris Pack. “Governor Corbett is the only one willing to stand up to the public sector unions and get pension reform done and costs under control for future generations.”
The cries from the Governor’s campaign became even louder after Moody’s downgraded the state’s credit rating and cited pensions as one of the contributing factors.
“Moody’s has cited the Commonwealth’s growing pension liabilities as a primary reason for downgrading Pennsylvania’s credit rating despite millionaire Secretary Tom Wolf’s repeated denial of a pension crisis,” Pack stated. “It is a true shame that despite all of the evidence of our state’s pension crisis that Secretary Tom Wolf continues to deny there is a problem at all. It is time for Secretary Tom Wolf to stop denying our state’s pension crisis for his selfish political reasons and instead encourage his Democratic cohorts to do what is right for the 12.7 million residents of Pennsylvania and not just what is best for the Harrisburg special interests.”
It’s clear the Corbett campaign feels pensions are their strongest issue but it remains to be seen whether they can successfully connect that issue to the one voters (and Wolf) are focusing on, education.
After the Corbett campaign took aim at Wolf in a new television ad, the Democratic nominee attacked the Governor for what he identified as a billion dollar cut in education funding.
“Tom Corbett cut $1 billion from education, leading to teacher layoffs and property tax increases, while refusing to make oil and gas companies pay their fair share,” said Beth Melena, the campaign’s spokeswoman. “Tom Corbett sunk Pennsylvania to 49th in the nation in job growth. Now he is spending millions in attacks that have already been called false and ridiculously misleading. After more than three years of failed policies and no leadership, Pennsylvanians are ready for a fresh start.”
Meanwhile, Mike Mikus of FreshStartPA went after Gov. Corbett for speaking in front of an apparently preselected group of Bucks County seniors. He also made clear that the pension and education crises are the fault of the incumbent.
“Tom Corbett is trying to hide from the fact that his $1 billion dollar cut to education is what has driven up property taxes in Pennsylvania and that his pension plan will offer no immediate savings,” Mikus wrote.
“Not only would Tom Corbett’s pension plan do nothing to create short-term savings, it also would do nothing to reduce the unfunded liability. This means that Corbett’s pension plan would not help to upgrade Pennsylvania’s $11.1 billion general obligation bonds to our previous rating of Aa2.”
Expect to hear much more about pensions and education in the weeks and months ahead.