Pennsylvania’s two gubernatorial candidates came out swinging Wednesday at a televised debate in Philadelphia that centered on education, taxes and jobs.
Democrat Tom Wolf, a former state revenue secretary, said Republican Gov. Tom Corbett had “obviously cooked the books” in the state budget he signed last year. Wolf said the Corbett administration had overestimated revenues in the financial plan, relied on one-time transfers, and eventually ended up with a $700 million-plus shortfall.
Corbett shot back, “So you’re accusing me of a criminal act?”
Corbett defended his budget as balanced and said revenues hadn’t come in as expected, just as in past administrations.
Wolf also took a swipe at Corbett over the pornographic emails that his employees reportedly swapped when he led the Attorney General’s office.
“I think the concern is the culture that would allow something like that to happen,” said Wolf. “In every organization I’ve headed, the culture starts at the top.”
Corbett said he did not receive any of the pornographic emails, but he wishes he would have so he could have addressed the matter immediately.
“I wish they would have sent me one, I wish they would have,” said Corbett, “because it would have stopped right then and there.”
Corbett told reporters afterwards that Wolf’s remark about the emails was a “cheap shot.”
During the debate, Wolf was asked about his income tax plan, which he has said would result in poor and middle-class Pennsylvanians paying less in taxes. Wolf’s proposal has faced criticism from The Philadelphia Inquirer editorial board and others for lacking specifics.
Wolf said Wednesday he considers a middle class income to be somewhere between $70,000 and $90,000 “on an individual tax return,” meaning residents earning that amount would theoretically get a tax cut under his plan. He did not, however, specify what the income tax rate would be under his proposal or at what income people would start paying more.
“I’ll be specific when I understand what kind of a hole this governor’s left the next governor,” said Wolf.
Corbett, meanwhile, questioned Wolf’s definition of the middle class: “I want to see if I get this right. So … two teachers … who make over $90,000, you would consider above middle class?”
The candidates also discussed schools for much of the hour-long debate, with Wolf accusing Corbett of eliminating a fair funding formula in Pennsylvania and Corbett restating his claim that he has increased education funding.
Corbett and Wolf were on the same page in one way, at least. During a special “lightning round” of questions, the two men were asked by KYW-AM reporter Cherri Gregg if they have tattoos. Neither does.
The gubernatorial debate, which broadcaster Larry Kane moderated, aired on CW57 and KYW-AM. It was the second of three standoffs in the race.