WHEN ASKED if he had any message to give the Pennsylvania Legislature last week, Gov.-elect Tom Wolf responded with two words: “Happy Holidays.”
That’s our idea of the fresh start promised by the York County Democrat in his campaign for governor.
Handed the opportunity to give the Republican-controlled state House and Senate a few jabs over any number of issues, Wolf decided to tone down on the partisan rhetoric and urge peace and goodwill on Earth, even to members of the opposite party.
It’s a lesson our own elected leaders could follow, Philadelphia state Sen. Vincent Hughes for one.
Hughes, Democratic chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, can’t resist kicking the outgoing Corbett administration whenever he gets a chance. It’s as if he hasn’t quite absorbed the fact that the election is over and the Democrats won.
Gov. Corbett’s policies and leadership (or lack thereof) were repudiated by the voters in a convincing way on Election Day, when the incumbent lost to Wolf by nearly 350,000 votes. No need to get the final licks in.
Wolf, who will be sworn in as governor on Jan. 20, seems intent on setting a new tone — and lowering the volume.
An example came last week when Sen. Jake Corman, the Republican who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, said his members may be willing to consider a shale gas-extraction tax, which Wolf backs, but only if the new governor considers significant reform of the state’s pension system, which Democrats — including Wolf — have opposed.
Wolf’s reply? He said he’d be happy to sit down and talk with Corman, adding, “I was elected governor of Pennsylvania, not dictator.”
Wolf is being realistic. He knows he will have to horse trade with the Legislature. Both sides know that the state faces a $2 billion deficit in the next year. If he hopes to raise, through taxes, the money needed to partly fill that huge hole, the new governor will have to get it through the Legislature, which includes a cadre of rabid anti-tax conservatives.
Those anti-taxers believe that the less government, the better, even if it means starving it to death. The clear majority of voters have made it clear that although they may want better government, they also want it to adequately fund bedrock programs — especially public education.
In his politics, Wolf is decidedly liberal. In his personal habits, he is as frugal as any conservative.
For starters, he has decided not to collect his $191,000 annual salary as governor. He’s a wealthy businessman, so he has the luxury of doing without the extra money. But how many wealthy people would turn down more wealth?
He also has decided not to leave his home in Mount Wolf and take up residence in the luxurious (although stuffy) Governor’s Mansion in Harrisburg. Instead, he will commute the 20 miles from his more modest home to the state Capitol.
As governor-elect, Wolf is entitled to use tax money to pay for the costs of the transition from the Corbett to the Wolf administration. Instead, he intends to meet those expenses from his own pocket.
These are small gestures, but it’s a sign that Wolf realizes that the trappings of holding elected office cost real money. And money is something in short supply in Harrisburg these days.
Less partisan rhetoric. Less spending. Showing a willingness to compromise.
It’s called leading by example, and it’s a welcome change.
This article was from Philadelphia Daily News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.