AP NEWS

Pennsylvania governor has $2.2M to help Democrats win seats

January 28, 2020 GMT

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Gov. Tom Wolf is renewing his push for his top priorities that have stalled in Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature, and the Democrat will have at least a couple million dollars to spend in this year’s legislative elections to try to improve his chances.

Wolf’s campaign raised $2.8 million in 2019, the first year of his second term, and had $2.2 million left over heading into 2020 to help elect Democrats to the state Legislature, a campaign spokeswoman told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Wolf also announced Tuesday that he is renewing his push to raise the minimum wage and to win approval of a tax on Marcellus Shale natural gas production to underwrite a $4.5 billion “Restore Pennsylvania” infrastructure program.

Wolf, now in his sixth year in office, has seen the Republican-controlled House reject a minimum wage increase and a tax on Marcellus Shale each of the past five years. At the same time, Wolf has never been closer to winning a Democratic majority in one of the chambers after Democrats picked up 16 House and Senate seats in 2018′s elections.

“There’s still a lot of things he wants to get done, and he’s going to keep fighting for those things,” Wolf campaign spokeswoman Beth Melena said. “He thinks more Democratic partners in Harrisburg will help him cross over the finish line on some of those items.”

Wolf, himself, said he had not given up on this year and this Legislature, and will continue to appeal to the “self-interest” of every lawmaker, Republican and Democrat.

“I’m raising money not because I’ve given up on the way things are, I’m raising money because I’m the leader of the party and that’s what the leader of the party does,” Wolf said after a news conference Tuesday on Restore Pennsylvania. “And I’m trying to do the best I can to be of help to people, good candidates who are running for state office.”

Votes even from Democratic lawmakers are not necessarily guaranteed, Wolf said.

“I‘m gonna have to be convincing as well there, each and every one of them is an independent actor and they’ll make up their own minds,” Wolf said. “I’ve got to convince them and that’s what I’m trying to do here.”

Wolf will include his minimum wage pitch and the Restore Pennsylvania plan in the budget proposal he delivers to lawmakers next Tuesday for the 2020-21 fiscal year beginning July 1. Wolf first floated the Restore Pennsylvania infrastructure program in last year’s budget, but it never received a vote in the Legislature.

Democrats still need to win four seats in the Senate or nine in the House in November’s election if they are to control a chamber next year.

The state’s deadline to file campaign finance reports for 2019 is Friday.

Wolf will keep fundraising in 2020, he said, and the $2.2 million he has now likely makes him one of the heaviest hitters, if not the heaviest, in the fight for legislative seats.

Elected in 2014 and re-elected in 2018, Wolf’s second term runs through 2022. Wolf gave a big chunk of cash, about $4 million, to the state Democratic Party in 2018 to help other Democrats when he spent $31 million in his re-election year. In 2016, when Democrats lost seats, Wolf gave dramatically less, about $700,000 to the Democratic Party.

Also on the line for Wolf is bringing Pennsylvania into a 10-state consortium of Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

Member states set a price and declining limits on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants and, in Pennsylvania, winning legislative approval could mean raising hundreds of millions of dollars from polluting power plants to spend on clean-power projects or energy efficiency programs.

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