Candidate Wolf can’t commit on giving details of tax plan
If elected, he’s not sure of timetable
October 13, 2014 10:58 PM
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf, joined by Aliquippa School District Superintendent David Wytiaz, Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker and state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver, speaks on education funding at Aliquippa High School this afternoon.
By James P. O'Toole / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Tom Wolf, the Democratic candidate for governor, said Monday he hopes, but can’t promise, that if elected next month he would be able to offer a detailed proposal to revise the state’s personal income tax system in his first budget address.
Mr. Wolf spoke about his education and tax proposals during a news conference outside Aliquippa High School in which he renewed his criticisms of Gov. Tom Corbett’s school funding record and said that a 5 percent natural gas severance tax would provide a significant down payment on shoring up school finances.
In addition to the new severance tax, Mr. Wolf has proposed a major restructuring of the state’s personal income tax to provide a significantly larger personal exemption, coupled with a higher tax rate for income above that level. The new system is an effort to make the system fairer and more progressive. The Democrat has said repeatedly, however, that he would be able to provide more specifics on the overhaul only if or when he gets into office and has access to fuller details on the distribution of income and other fiscal data. But he has also said that individuals making between $70,000 and $90,000 would not pay any more under his revised system; those making less would pay less, and only more affluent individuals would pay more.
If he were to defeat Gov. Tom Corbett on Nov. 4, however, he would have only a few months before he would be obliged to present a budget proposal to the Legislature.
Asked if that would give him enough time to get up to speed on the revenue data he would need to flesh out his proposal, he said, “I haven't decided. I don’t know how long it will take to get that data together ... I don’t know how long that will take.”
Mr. Wolf was accompanied at the afternoon news conference by Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker; David Wytiaz, the Aliquippa Schools superintendent; and Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Ambridge. Mr. Matzie complained that the reductions in school funding that occurred during the Corbett administration had been accompanied by a turn away from the Rendell administration’s effort to utilize a formula for fairer allocation of school funding among the state’s school districts.
Mr. Wolf endorsed that criticism and also renewed his call for reform in the way funding is allocated between traditional public schools and the charter schools that school districts are obligated to fund.
Mr. Wolf has said that cuts in reimbursements for charter funding have added to the school districts’ increased burdens.
The Corbett administration rejects the charge that it reduced school funding, insisting that the cuts were primarily the result of the expiration of federal stimulus funding directed to schools by the Rendell administration. Looking solely at state tax dollars directed to schools, including school pensions, they insist that the state aid is at an all-time high.
Reacting to the Aliquippa news conference, Chris Pack, a Corbett spokesman, said, “Secretary Tom Wolf continues lying about Gov. Tom Corbett's record investment into state education funding to distract from Wolf’s proposal to raise the state income tax rate by 188 percent.”
The 188 percent increase he cited is the Corbett’s campaign’s projection of what the Democrats’ campaign promises would cost. It is not contained in any proposal from Mr. Wolf.
Mr Wolf, a former state revenue secretary, said that, in addition to the need for access to current state data on taxes, his goal of formulating a proposal to submit to the Legislature is clouded by the fact that he does not know how large of an inherited deficit he might confront.
“I am looking at a tax system that is fairer. ... I’m also trying to be honest here. And there are two things I don't know,” he said.
“I don't know what everybody pays in taxes and I shouldn’t. I’m an outsider. I’m not part of the government ... I shouldn't have access to that as a candidate.
“Once I’m in office, it becomes appropriate for me to get that information,” he said.
“I don’t know how deep the hole this administration has dug,” he continued.
“I don’t know what we’re looking at here. And until I know that, I can’t honestly tell you the specifies of what the number will be on the rate, and what the number will be on the personal exemption.”
Nonetheless, he said, “My hope would be that I could go to the Legislature with a full program.”
“I hope that the winter is not too cold, too,” he added.
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