By Matt Nussbaum
As the Pennsylvania GOP continues to splinter over pension reform, Tom Wolf, the Democratic nominee for governor, is savoring the political debate, but treading cautiously on the policy front.
"Why would [Wolf] do anything that gets him into a controversy when he's got a big lead and the Republicans are in a fight?" said G. Terry Madonna, Director of the Center of Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College. "He'll have to engage Corbett if Corbett starts to rise in the polls. When you have a 22-point lead, you just go about your business."
When Gov. Tom Corbett hit the legislature Thursday with a veto of $72.5 million in funds controlled by the body, and said that their refusal to address pension reform led him to force "mutual sacrifice” on them, legislative leaders fired back. A statement from Republican senate leaders said, “We are disappointed that the governor has not, to date, been able to work effectively with the Republican majorities in the House and Senate to address important fiscal issues impacting our state.”
Then, Friday morning, House Republican Leader Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) called a press conference in Pittsburgh to assail the governor's leadership on a range of issues, including pension reform.
"We're the ones leading," he said repeatedly, in reference to his House Republican colleagues.
But Rep. Turzai also took the opportunity to hit Tom Wolf on pensions, who has said borrowing by selling bonds might be one remedy to the state's pension shortfall.
"We think that's an unbelievably wrong approach to how to deal with the unfunded liability for the pensions. It's completely irresponsible," Rep. Turzai said.
The Wolf campaign, however, perhaps eager to allow the Republican infighting to continue unabated, declined to respond to the attack.
Wolf campaign press secretary, Jeff Sheridan, declined to say anything about Mr. Wolf's position on bond sales beyond the brief, one-sentence statement available on the campaign website, which says Mr. Wolf "will work to create innovative solutions and explore new funding mechanisms, like issuing pension obligation bonds, that are fiscally responsible, and fair and beneficial to future employees."
Vagueness is not a bad strategy, though, according to Mr. Madonna.
"Wolf is only going to be as specific as he has to be, because at the moment it's to his advantage not to be specific," he said,