Gov. Tom Wolf, who introduced himself at his first inauguration as an unconventional governor and then unveiled an ambitious blueprint to transform Pennsylvania’s tax structure, is returning for a second term with big plans, although with perhaps a more sober view of what is possible. Wolf, a Democrat, faced huge Republican legislative majorities throughout his first term, and will again face substantial Republican majorities as he hopes to nail down second-term achievements, including on stalled first-term priorities. He is frank about his prospects for success in persuading lawmakers to increase the minimum wage, expand background checks on firearms purchases, overhaul how public schools are funded and impose a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production.
“I don’t know,” he said during a December interview in his Capitol offices with The Associated Press. And while lawmakers wonder whether Wolf will float another bombshell, he is stressing the importance of getting things done. “You can choose as to whether you want to focus on things where we disagree and where we are different and, I think in American politics right now, we’re doing too much of that,” Wolf said. “But here, we’ve said, ‘OK, and it might not be the biggest area in the world, but there are areas of overlap,’ and we have focused on that, and I think that’s how we’ve gotten things done.”
The mild-mannered Wolf talks now about fixing inequities in Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system, including stopping the widespread use of bail from leading to debtors’ prisons. He is pressing counties to buy new voting machines ahead of the 2020 presidential election as a bulwark against foreign interference and he wants to make voting easier by allowing same-day registration and no-excuse absentee ballots.