Tom Wolf overwhelmingly won the Democratic primary for governor on May 20 with close to 60 percent of the vote.
Next on his plate will be the challenge of incumbent Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who ran unopposed in the Republican primary, in the general election vote that will take place on Nov. 4.
Here are Wolf's answers to a series of questions posed to him by the Jewish Exponent to learn his views on issues relevant to the Jewish community:
TOM WOLF, Age 65, York County, CEO of Wolf Organization
Do you support legalizing same-sex marriage in Pennsylvania? If so, how would you push for it? If not, what would you do to ensure the laws don’t change?
I support full marriage equality, and I strongly believe that government should not be in the businesses of denying two people who love each other the right to enter into a marriage and enjoy the love and benefits that come with it. As governor, I will seek to repeal the state’s unconstitutional gay marriage ban and support legislation to recognize marriage equality in the Commonwealth.
Gov. Corbett has been criticized for cutting funding to public schools, a charge he says is a myth. What concrete steps would you take to help fix Pennsylvania’s ailing public schools?
I support our state’s public education system, and I know that Pennsylvania is home to some of the best public schools in the country. My two daughters attended York County public schools, where they developed a strong academic foundation that prepared them to go on to top-notch colleges and build successful careers. But I also know that there is still a lot of work to be done.
I will make education a priority. I believe we have not only a constitutional obligation to provide for a thorough and efficient public education system but also have a rational self-interest to ensure our youngest residents receive an education that will allow them to reach their full potential. Building a good public education system is not just the right thing to do, it is what drives a healthy, vibrant economy – something that’s good for all of us in Pennsylvania.
As governor, I will restore Gov. Corbett’s $1 billion in cuts to education, implement a fair funding formula, and institute reforms to help local school districts innovate and improve student performance. I will fight every day to build a strong public education system so that we can keep, create and attract good jobs right here in Pennsylvania.
The affordability of Jewish day schools is a major issue for some in the Jewish community. Would you maintain, increase or decrease the current EITC and OSTC tax-credit programs to help middle- and low-income families who wish to send their children to private schools. Do you have others ideas for helping such families?
As governor, I will take a look at all of the state’s tax credits to ensure we are not just rewarding special interests. I do not think that public tax dollars should be diverted from our public schools to create a back-door voucher system. I will take a close look at both of these programs and examine how they impact public education funding.
Holocaust education advocates are divided over whether to support legislation mandating that the subject be taught in Pennsylvania public schools. Some say there is little chance of such legislation passing and thus they are in favor of a bill with no mandate that they say would still lead to more students learning about the Holocaust. Would you as governor approve legislation with a Holocaust education mandate and would you also sign a bill that provides money but no mandate for such education?
I believe we must raise our youngest residents to be compassionate, tolerant and knowledgeable about the world outside of their community, outside of Pennsylvania and outside of the United States. I know from my work with the York Jewish Community Center that organizations are doing an exemplary job of partnering with schools and community organizations to ensure that future generations continue to learn about the Holocaust.
I know that our schools also need to provide developmentally appropriate lessons about such atrocities as the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda and the human rights abuses currently happening throughout the world. As governor, I will work with key stakeholders to evaluate what lessons are already being taught in our schools and what steps we need to take to ensure we are doing a responsible job of covering these issues. Additionally, I will explore the costs associated with Senate Bill 1523 as I believe we cannot continue to pass unfunded mandates.
Do you feel there are sufficient environmental and safety protections and that the state is receiving enough tax benefits from energy companies that are fracking in the state? If not, what would you do differently?
No, I do not. With Pennsylvania sitting on one of the largest deposits of natural gas in the world, I believe the Marcellus Shale must be a key component of any plan for Pennsylvania’s energy future. We must ensure that we take advantage of this resource and opportunity in a way that benefits all Pennsylvanians and protects our water and environment.
I know we have an obligation to get this new energy era right. The urgent challenge facing our state leaders, now and into the future, is how to manage this remarkable natural resource so that its benefits are broadly shared by the residents of Pennsylvania for many years to come.
I will take a responsible approach to natural gas development that includes enacting a 5 percent extraction tax so that we make gas companies pay their fair share and have the resources to fund schools and other key priorities. If done right, natural gas development can be a bridge to a clean energy future and create good-paying energy jobs.
In addition to a 5 percent extraction tax, I will protect our environment and hold drillers accountable by enacting practical regulatory actions, and increasing funding for the Department of Environmental Protection so that it is sufficiently staffed and able to provide proper oversight of drillers. I will work to bring greater transparency to the fracking process by requiring drillers to publicly disclose chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process, and lifting the current gag order on physicians.
Additionally, I will support an increase in the annual permit application fee as well as an increase in the fee for drilling on state lands. Lastly, I will continue to support drilling moratoriums on public lands and the Delaware Valley River Basin, and respect the right of local communities to say when and here drilling takes place.
I believe it is to our advantage to build a strong relationships with business leaders all over the world — including those in Israel. The country has one of the strongest high-tech sectors in the world, and, as we work to strengthen ours, I know we can learn a lot from Israeli business leaders and entrepreneurs.
Buildings strong relationships with Israel and countries all over the world will allow us to develop new partnerships, explore new trade opportunities, capitalize on the innovative products being developed outside of the United States, and attract new entrepreneurs and good paying, middle-class jobs to Pennsylvania. As governor, I will collaborate and work to strengthen our ties with Israel through trade missions and the creation of a high-tech exchange program, and by promoting cultural exchanges between Pennsylvania’s and Israel’s arts and culture communities.