#PAGov: The 10 Best Ideas From Tom Wolf’s ‘Fresh Start’ Policy Agenda

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1. A Progressive Income Tax! This is awesome. Currently the state Constitution bars us from passing a graduated rate structure for the income tax, because of the Uniformity Clause. So in terms of distributional politics, here’s what’s happening:

This is also the reason we can’t tax commercial properties at a higher rate than residential properties. The Uniformity Clause has to go, and Wolf is committing to a Constitutional fight to change it. Just a reminder, that involves passing a bill in two consecutive sessions, and then passing a voter referendum. It’s hard, but so is everything!

2. Under the “Exploit the Innate Strengths of Pennsylvania’s Economy” header Wolf includes “Revitalize Our Communities and Encourage Smart Growth.” He also had strong answers on smart growth in our Issue Questionnaire. He dropped the “David Rusk” dogwhistle which I heard loud and clear, and said he’d encourage regional planning, service sharing, and prioritize investment in existing built-up areas over new greenfield development. I want to hear more about this.

3. “Getting Rid of ‘Gifts’ as a Way to Do Business in Harrisburg.” This is an under-appreciated source of influence-buying. Campaign contributions are one thing, but politicians get a lot of those and donors’ competing priorities often cancel each other out to some degree. What’s so evil about gifts is that you have to feel a certain level of gratitude on a psychological level toward somebody who tops up your personal consumption with a nice vacation or a pretty watch. The nice thing about Wolf being a self-funder, which was also the nice thing about Michael Bloomberg, is that you can be reasonably sure he thinks what he says he thinks because he can buy all that stuff himself.

4. Improving Public Access to Campaign Finance Reports. Online reporting. ‘Nuff said.

5. Public Financing Option for Campaigns. Extremely important – effective campaign finance reform is about setting a funding floor for challengers, not a limit on donations, although Wolf would also cap donations. Money will find its way into political campaigns no matter what. The most important thing that matters is making sure that challengers have sufficient money to get their message out and be competitive.

6. A State Paid Sick Leave policy for companies with 50 or more employees. That’s a bit high for my taste, but we can always reduce it later. The city ordinances are nice, but we want this policy to apply to the largest possible political jurisdiction in order to minimize any economic distortions. The worry that employers would avoid Philadelphia or Pittsburgh because of this are overblown, but our highly fragmented system of municipal government makes that scenario at least more plausible than in some other states. A statewide policy would eliminate that argument as a serious objection to a paid sick days policy. What are you gonna do, not do business in Pennsylvania?

7. Vote by mail, early voting, and same-day registration. ‘Nuff said

8. Office of Data Analysis and Program Management based on Maryland’s excellent StateStat approach. Let’s hand the mic to Tom Wolf, because people need to hear more about this idea:

Some states use their state databases as a management tool to achieve targeted outcomes for state government programs, like vaccinations provided, potholes filled, and academic gains. Maryland’s State Stat program is an award winning version of a state management program. Tom Wolf will implement a Penn Stat management program – one of many ways that he will stretch taxpayer dollars, and make state government more efficient.

9. Full-day kindergarten and pre-K for all. Also worth quoting in full:

Improving access to full-day Kindergarten programs – Pennsylvania is one of six states where school districts are not required to offer Kindergarten. While many local districts do offer

Kindergarten, Governor Corbett’s $150 million in cuts for Kindergarten programs have led too many school districts to eliminate full-day Kindergarten programs. This is the wrong direction for Pennsylvania. There is ample evidence that students who attend high quality, full-day Kindergarten programs perform better academically. As governor, Tom Wolf will provide funding to support the expansion of full-day Kindergarten and change the compulsory age so that students can start school at 6 years old.

10. Focus Development Dollars on Mixed-income, Mixed-use Communities! THIS —>

Today, more than 13 percent of Pennsylvania residents are living in poverty. Those living in concentrated poverty – where 30 percent of all families are living below the poverty line – are often in communities with high violence, poor schools, and limited access to health care.

One way to deconcentrate poverty in our communities is to focus our existing development resources on mixed-income, mixed-use communities that are located near or utilize existing investments such as transit, walkable communities, small businesses and struggling town centers. In this vein, Tom Wolf will use a creative mix of public and private dollars to spur mixed-income, mixed-use development projects in which 10 percent of the homes are for low-income residents.

This goes much further than anything I’ve heard the other candidates commit to regarding prioritizing development dollars for our older core cities and boroughs. I’ve heard some good gestures in this direction from McGinty, Schwartz, and McCord, but you can see here that Wolf’s work as President of Better York has given him a hands-on feel for what these communities need, and it makes me happy to see he’s not shrinking from the difficult politics.

You can read the whole thing here.

This entry was posted in Miscellany.

10 Responses to #PAGov: The 10 Best Ideas From Tom Wolf’s ‘Fresh Start’ Policy Agenda

  1. It’s important to remember that he says this because he believes it to his core. Sure, someone looked over it to make it campaign friendly, but Tom Wolf has been for progressive policy and smart government his entire life.

  2. Lee R. says:

    Stop funding charter and cyber charter schools that are failing the AYP = $1 billion more for our public schools. Tax and strictly regulate marijuana = $ 500 million of new revenue with another $300 million saved from stopping this failed war on prohibition. As Kathleen Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist for the Washington Post says: Treat marijuana like liquor: legal for adults and controlled. Hey, there is a candidate who has an 8-point jobs program detailed at HangerforGovernor.com and who also addresses failing charter schools(71% are failing) and failing cyber charters (100% failing at last check) while taking an adult, realistic position on marijuana reform. John Hanger!!!!

    • chris says:

      Im with you on taxing legal marijuana. But parents should choose where their children go to school. im pro voucher. why subsidize public schools over a private school?

  3. Elsie Lynn says:

    Sounds good.

  4. Marg Gotwald says:

    Question: Are you saying you want to tax commercial properties higher than residential? Our taxes in York City are already outrageous….for small businesses, this is prohibitive and it will eventually drive more businesses out of the cities….I would rather see county wide tax distribution, one level for every municipality. (Actually a county wide school system would cut costs, allow for better use of resources and administrators)…It would actually spur business growth and residential buying in the city proper…Thriving cities are good for the counties …

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I personally don’t like the idea, but this is something some people in Philadelphia are interested in doing. I would rather see taxes shift off of improvements to property and onto land values. I agree with everything else you’re saying.

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  7. Folayan says:

    Where do you stand on fracking ? Before I vote for you I need to know .