Democrat Tom Wolf seeks to turn the tables in a new TV ad, ripping into Gov. Corbett for policies that, he says, have led to higher taxes for middle class families in Pennsylvania.
"Get real," Wolf says as he walks in a leafy neighborhood of Craftsman-style homes. "It's Tom Corbett who's been sticking it to the middle class on taxes."
The 30-second spot began airing state Tuesday, on the heels of a Corbett scorcher that accuses Wolf of proposing to hike state income taxes on middle-income households while taking advantage of tax breaks for himself. (For a deconstruction of that ad, see the post below).
The Corbett attack called Wolf a "hypocrite" on taxes.
Wolf, who projects a mild demeanor, comes out swinging. He says that Corbett cut $1.2 billion in state education money in his first budget, triggering local school districts to raise property taxes; the ad cites a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story reporting 80 percent of districts want to increase the levy this year.
Next, Wolf notes, Pennsylvania is the only state that doesn't charge an extraction tax on oil and gas companies, foregoing hundreds of millions in potential revenue from Marcellus Shale gas exploration.
And then, the kick in the pants: Corbett caused the price of gasoline at the pump to rise – hurting working people the hardest – as a result of his transportation plan that aims to rebuild roads and bridges after years of deferred maintenance.
"I'm Tom Wolf - I'll be a governor who stands up for the middle class for a change," the candidate says.
It's indisputable that the state lost more than $1 billion in education money, due to the expiration of federal stimulus funds designed to boost economic activity during the depths of the recession. Corbett blames his Democratic predecessor for relying on the federal dollars.
The administration also says it has since increased the state's share of education funding to the highest level in history. Democrats and education groups note that a large part of the increased money is for school-employee pensions rather than instructional programs, and say that Corbett should back a production tax for the booming natural-gas drilling industry in the state.
Here's a good explainer of the education-spending issue from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Corbett's campaign says that growing pension costs are driving the increases in property taxes.
It is true that Corbett's transportation plan, enacted late last year, raised a wholesale gasoline tax that has driven up prices at the pump. The infrastructure repairs are necessary, he says.
During an appearance in Erie Tuesday, Wolf said he applauded the work the legislature and the governor did.