LET'S CALL IT "Tom Wolf's Big Adventure."
Not that he's starting to look like a political Pee Wee Herman (though, candidly, some suggest that).
But like Pee Wee's prized tricked-out bike stolen in the classic 1985 film, Wolf's plan for higher taxes could get hijacked as soon as today.
If things go as scheduled (always a question), the Republican-controlled House is set to vote on administration tax proposals.
If the vote is "no," that could end big tax increases peddled by the Democratic guv.
Wolf says the budget, overdue since July 1, can't be balanced without a jump in a broad-based tax, such as the PIT (personal income tax).
Republicans, since the day in March when Wolf proposed his budget, say there aren't the votes for broad-base hikes.
If both sides stick to their claims, then prospects for a resolution can serve as the plot line for a new film, "Dim and Dimmer To."
But back to T. Wolf's big adventure.
In March, he called for raising the PIT, the sales tax, the cigarette tax and a new severance tax on natural gas, the latter of which he campaigned on for $1 billion in new revenue (which, in the current market, falls into the category of "as if!").
The new money, he argued, was needed for state finances long ignored and public schools long neglected.
The argument flopped.
Republicans called for pension reform and liquor reform to save and make more money. Wolf offered a little of both, but Republicans held firm against taxes.
We got to where we are today after Wolf suggested he has rank-and-file support that GOP leaders playing partisan politics won't acknowledge.
So leaders said, OK, fine, we'll give you a vote and prove your plan's a loser.
Ah, but Wolf, who holds a doctorate in political science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says he'll appeal to the "patriotism" and sense of duty of enough lawmakers to get the votes for passage.
On Monday, he called today's showdown "a once-in-a-generation vote," and admonished lawmakers, "You don't want to be on the wrong side of history."
Pretty strong stuff.
I'd only note academic degrees are given for the study of a subject and generally not for the practice of that subject.
Yet Wolf keeps trying.
Yesterday, he modified his wants, abandoning sales-tax and cigarette-tax hikes, coming down on his shale tax (from 5 percent to 3.5 percent), but upping the 3.07 percent PIT to 3.57 percent (after earlier seeking a bump to 3.49 percent) and tossing in property-tax cuts for seniors and the disabled.
Confused? Join the club.
House GOP Leader Dave Reed says the governor's office contacted his office to say Wolf has the votes (all 84 House Democrats and at least 18 Republicans) to pass the package.
Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan says it's "flat-out untrue" that the administration conveyed that to Reed or anyone, and that "we're still working to garner support."
So it goes.
Reed says, "I personally believe the votes are not there," and if the package fails, "I would hope he [Wolf] finally comes to reality" and abandons a tax increase.
And maybe that happens.
But Wolf insists the math doesn't work without new taxes; the state can't afford to keep passing "smoke and mirrors" budgets that shortchange schools, ignore a structural deficit and drive down bond ratings.
Given Wolf's consistent position, giving up on taxes would be akin to Pee Wee selling his beloved bike.
And remember, when confronted with a deal for purchase of said bike, Pee Wee responded: "I wouldn't sell my bike for all the money in the world. Not for a hundred million, trillion, billion dollars!"
So if the Wolfman's plan goes down today, look for him to keep peddling.