The Wolf administration struck an aggressive tone this week, and not just when the governor criticized Republicans in his budget address.
Shortly before Gov. Tom Wolf spoke Tuesday, his secretary of policy and planning, John Hanger, sent an email to Penn State trustees encouraging the university to lobby for the governor's proposed tax increases.
Hanger framed his email as a response to statements in which Penn State President Eric Barron said, according to Hanger's email, that Penn State will lobby for an appropriation, but not for increased revenues, on the grounds that lobbying for higher revenues would be partisan.
Hanger responded that supporting higher revenues is in fact a bipartisan position, one supported by "essentially all Democrats and some Republicans." By contrast, he said, those who oppose increasing state revenues "are almost exclusively conservative Republicans."
"Unfortunately, by its inaction, PSU is enabling the partisan position of no-new-revenues," Hanger wrote.
"Indeed, PSU's refusal to support new revenues is more partisan than lobbying for revenues, when the governor, Democrats and some Republicans support this approach," he continued. "More troublingly, the PSU position of refusing to lobby for new revenues also makes it more likely the budget will be balanced by massive cuts that will harm PSU among many others."
In his budget address Tuesday, Wolf argued that in the face of a structural deficit, Pennsylvania must choose between enacting new recurring revenues -- his budget proposes raising the personal income tax, among other levies -- or a future of budget cuts and increases in local property taxes.
Wolf's press secretary, Jeffrey Sheridan, confirmed the authenticity of the email, saying that Hanger's message "is very clear."
"Investing in higher education is important to Governor Wolf, but if the math does not add up, institutions of higher learning will not only miss out on additional funding increases, but they will likely again face massive cuts."
Penn State responded to a request for comment on Hanger's email with a statement from Lawrence Lokman, vice president for strategic communications.
"President Barron articulated the University's position, which is that Penn State's history and that of all of the state-related universities is to be non-partisan and to advocate for education, and higher education in particular," he said.
Lokman said Penn State is pleased the governor "continues to acknowledge the importance of investing in Penn State," but that the university's focus remains on the state's budget stalemate, which has left it without a state appropriation for the current year.