Corbett goes negative on TV, attacks Wolf as tax man

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) stayed positive in his TV ad campaign for two whole days last week, then began rotating a spot on job-growth with another that portrays Democrat Tom Wolf as a tax-mad monster.

The 30-second ad says that “millionaire” Wolf, a York businessman, neglected to mention in the onslaught of television ads he bought in the Democratic primary that he had been the state revenue secretary under former Gov. Ed Rendell (D).

It blames Wolf for new taxes on home heating oil, electricity and garbage, as well as a 1 percentage point increase in the sales levy. Rendell proposed all of those levies in the 2007-08 budget year, but he abandoned them in the annual give-and-take with the legislature. None was enacted.

In the event, a revenue secretary's role is to collect taxes, not determine the state's tax policy. When Corbett's campaign tried to pin Rendell-era taxes on Wolf in a similar ad run during the Democratic primary, fact-check organizations termed the linkage "false," "ludicrous" and misleading.

Wolf did testify before lawmakers on behalf of the Rendell proposals, however, and the new Corbett ad makes use of footage from those hearings.

Called "Missing," the ad began running July 10, two days after Corbett began TV advertising for the general election with a jobs spot.

“Now millionaire Wolf says he will raise the income tax on many hardworking Pennsylvanians – no thank you,” a narrator says in the tax ad, as a tight-lipped construction worker and a firefighter with his arms folded flash on the screen.

During the Democratic primary, Wolf did call at several forums and debates to make the state’s income tax progressive. (It is currently at a 3.07 percent flat rate, with no personal exemptions, regardless of income). It would take either a constitutional amendment to remove the clause requiring “uniformity” in taxation, or the use of personal exemptions to make the change to a progressive system.

Wolf says his idea is to increase the personal income tax liability on wealthier Pennsylvanians and decrease it  for middle-and-lower income households. His proposal would exclude from taxation every household's income below a certain amount, what he calls a "universal exemption," and an as-yet-unspecified flat tax rate would be applied to income above the exemption line.

The candidate has not provided details of the exemption or the rate, so it is difficult to say how it all might shake out.