Think Tom Wolf thinks of home these days?

3 x 2 tom wolf tom ridge
That's newly minted Gov. Wolf a year ago, shaking hands with former Gov. Tom Ridge.

I WONDER IF he's ready to pack it in, jump in the Jeep, and stick-shift back to Mount Wolf for keeps.

Who would blame him?

Tom Wolf's first year has been more pugnacious than productive; lots of too-familiar politics, precious little progress.

Promises of a better state wilted under partisan heat and political rancor, leaving Harrisburg still stuck in its hamster-wheel of sameness.

By contrast, Wolf's ancestral home 22 miles southeast of the Capitol is a placid place of no mail delivery and no red lights, where living and governing seem stress-free.

This, for example, from last month's Borough Council meeting: Mount Wolf Mayor Mo Starner performed one wedding and met with two residents about their dog; "they were very appreciative of her visit."

See?

I wonder whether sirens of serenity are luring the governor home.

"Absolutely not," he says as he sits in his Capitol office. "I'm really happy to be here."

Wow. Talk about a high pain threshold.

But then, he's America's "most liberal governor" (according to the website InsideGov), running the Northeast's least liberal state (according to Gallup polling).

That could be part of the problem.

He and Republicans who control the legislature are unable to achieve even a basic requirement of office: There's still no completed budget, due last July.

Each side, with name-calling and charges of deception, claims the other won't face reality.

Republicans won't face financial facts of a looming deficit and the need for new revenue, i.e., taxes. Wolf won't face political facts: There aren't the votes for taxes. So everybody's math-mired.

Meanwhile, this week marks the first anniversary of Wolf's inauguration, at which he pledged "jobs that pay, schools that teach, and government that works."

I ask how that's going, especially that last thing.

"You have to be selective," he says.

He points to his expansion of Medicaid, jointly state and fed funded, as an example of government that works.

It brought health care to a half-million Pennsylvanians who didn't have it and dropped the percentage of the state's uninsured from 14 percent to 8 percent.

That's below the 10 percent national average, but about the same as in similar-size states (Illinois, 9 percent; Ohio, 7 percent) and in neighboring states except New Jersey, where it's 11 percent.

So, yeah, that's good but not unique and required no political skills.

Schools that teach? Can't be happy about that one.

"I'm happy in terms of what was in the compromise budget," he says.

That was a $350 million education increase. But it blew up; still a work in non-progress.

Jobs that pay?

The latest 12-month average based on U.S. Labor Department data puts Pennsylvania's job growth 38th nationally, worse than all neighboring states except dead-last West Virginia.

The latest report by Congress' bipartisan Joint Economic Committee says that although the state added 43,200 private-sector jobs (November 2014 to November 2015) that's far fewer than the 68,400 added during the prior 12 months.

And Business Insider, a New York-based biz-and-tech website, just ranked state economies: Pennsylvania is 32d - well behind neighboring states except dead-last West Virginia.

So, not so good.

Wolf says governors have "certain limitations" on jobs and the economy because of national and global factors.

I say candidates for governor never seem limited in promising upturns with more and better jobs.

And, yeah, almost every governor has a rocky start, because Harrisburg's a loathsome, self-protective culture that abhors attempts to change it.

But Wolf succeeded a disastrous one-term Tom Corbett and, as a critic put it, "had small shoes to fill and failed to do so."

So I wonder about Mount Wolf calling its professorial son with a doctorate in political science who must be more frustrated than he concedes.

Unless this Tom Wolf buys the sentiment in a novel by another Tom Wolfe: You Can't Go Home Again.

Email: baerj@phillynews.com

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