Wolf hopes he’ll strike gold in legislative mines
Good will is worth its weight in gold in Pennsylvania.
How valuable is it? Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf is poised to spend $51.4 million in an apparent attempt to buy the affinity, if not necessarily the acquiescence, of the Republican-controlled state Legislature.
Wolf’s proposed state budget would increase the Legislature’s allocation from $228.9 million to $280.3 million. That’s a roughly 22 percent spike, which is 22 percent more than the increase proposed for the state judiciary.
Perhaps contrasting the two branches of government is unfair, because all the court system does is apply and interpret the law. How important is that?
Much more relevant are state lawmakers. They take extended summer and holiday recesses when they aren’t passing important resolutions such as the recent recognition of Deep Vein Thrombosis Awareness Month in Pennsylvania.
Wolf proposed cutting local property taxes, increasing state sales and personal income taxes, and levying a Marcellus shale extraction tax. For any of that to occur, he needs the support of the acutely-aware-of-thrombosis bunch.
So he’s attempting to buy their good will even though the state is as busted as a hobo whose last quarter just fell through a hole in his pants pocket and rolled through a sewer grate. Wolf claims the state has a $2.3 billion budget shortfall; the state Independent Fiscal Office puts it considerably lower, at around $1.5 billion.
No matter who you believe has the accurate calculator, the state is in no position to splurge. How can Wolf even remotely consider boosting the Legislature’s appropriation?
“The Legislature’s funding level is proposed to be restored to the level it was before it was cut by the previous governor,” Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan explained Thursday.
Former Gov. Tom Corbett, who had a contentious working relationship with lawmakers, vetoed a large chunk of their operating budget last year.
But the House and Senate are sitting on a combined surplus of as much as $161 million, according to an audit released last month. As recently noted in this space, that’s more than enough to buy each of the state’s 4.9 million households a $32 Hamilton Beach toaster at Wal-Mart.
So restoring the Corbett cut would be a lot like writing a check out to Warren Buffett. He might accept it, albeit with a puzzled look on his face, but he certainly doesn’t need the money.
Let’s do a little math.
Divide the proposed $51.4 million funding increase by the 253 members of the House and Senate. You’ll see that the amount Wolf wants for this grand gesture to the General Assembly will cost a bit more than $203,000 per lawmaker.
On Thursday, gold was trading for about $1,205 an ounce, or $19,280 per pound. That means the governor is preparing to spend the equivalent of about 10 pounds of gold per lawmaker to buy their good will.
In being willing to traffic in that much precious metal, Wolf is displaying an alarming lack of precious mettle.
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or [email protected].