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Blind Debate: What the Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Candidates Have to Say About Oil and Gas

  October/November 2018 / Vol 8 Issue 

Blind Debate: What the Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Candidates Have to Say About Oil and Gas
By: Teresa Irvin McCurdy, President of TD Connections, Inc.


I want to thank Pennsylvania’s Gubernatorial Candidates Governor Tom Wolf and former Senator Scott Wagner for participating in this article to help us gain some insights into where they stand on issues. I asked both candidates the same questions and held both to the same space constraints to provide answers. Neither were able to see each other’s answers prior to publication.

1. Do you believe that the discovery of shale natural gas has been a blessing or a curse to Pennsylvania? Why?

Governor Wolf: Pennsylvania is fortunate to have abundant natural gas resources. We are also uniquely positioned to be a national leader in this market because we are located in the middle of the market. We are at the epicenter of an energy revolution which poses significant opportunities for innovation, job creation, and additional revenue. We must take full advantage of this resource to ensure that Pennsylvanians are the ones who are benefiting from it.

Senator Wagner: We are blessed to have one of the largest natural gas resources in the world. We should be incentivizing growth and expansion of this industry, instead of attempting to punish and limit opportunities.  In my plan, “Empowering Pennsylvania’s Economy,” I highlighted how natural gas development can provide a major economic growth component for Pennsylvania. It is a cheaper and more abundant fuel source and can be used to attract business to grow our economic opportunities. By providing greater incentives to use this commodity, mainly through power generation and growth through the manufacturing and petrochemical industry, we can fully benefit from this asset for major economic growth and an increase in job opportunities.

2. The Shell Cracker plant is on schedule to be in operation in 2020 (or 2021). There is a lot of concern that our workforce is not prepared. What can be done to educate and train our workforce?

Senator Wagner: In both on my plans, “Empowering Pennsylvania’s Economy” and “An Opportunity for Every Child to Succeed,” I outlined my plans to meet employer needs by developing a highly skilled workforce. We must retool and reinvent our education system putting in place initiatives to adequately prepare our students to be tomorrow’s adults by providing the necessary tools for success after graduation. I will encourage and expand our STEM educational programs, increase access to dual enrollment and dual credit opportunities, enable our students to graduate high school with an industry certification in hand, and publish Job Security Reports to highlight workforce needs. In order to meet employer needs I will implement policies to assist in developing a highly skilled workforce and will further provide the necessary investment to train our future workforce as well as retrain our aging workers.

Governor Wolf: A four-year college degree is not necessarily the right path for every student, and I am dedicated to ensuring that all Pennsylvanians have the tools they need to succeed. My PASmart initiative seeks to align workforce development efforts across commonwealth agencies to more efficiently deliver services for all Pennsylvanians. The 2018-19 budget I just completed with the legislature includes $30 million for investments in computer science and STEM education programs and expands apprenticeship and industry partnerships.

Throughout my time in office, I’ve sought to expand apprenticeships in traditional and non-traditional occupations, including youth pre-apprenticeship programs and registered apprenticeships at high schools and career and technical centers, and to encourage businesses, community colleges and other higher education providers to expand registered apprenticeships and work-based learning experiences for adults. PASmart also builds on the Department of Labor and Industry’s successful Industry Partnerships program, which connects similar businesses with educational and economic development partners to provide the job training.

Through these investments, we have launched Pennsylvania to third in the nation in STEM education and increased the number of credentials earned by students in career and technical education programs by 32%.

3. After serving a term in office, what are one or two things that you are most proud of accomplishing?

Governor Wolf: We’ve made progress by investing in our education system and expanding access to affordable, quality health care for Pennsylvanians. I took office after the previous administration had cut $1 billion from our schools, resulting in mass teacher layoffs, cuts to important programs like pre kindergarten, and larger class sizes. My top priority was investing in our education system to ensure that students were getting the education they deserved. I’m proud to say I have fully restored the billion-dollar education cuts and expanded career and technical education.

We are now working to invest even more dollars in our classrooms. The most recent budget builds on prior-year increases in education funding to provide an additional $313.5 million, which will be invested in Pre-K and Head Start, basic education, career and technical education, and higher education, among other areas.

By investing in education, we have increased the number of children attending pre-kindergarten by nearly 50 percent, increased the number of students in career and technical education programs by 42 percent, and increased the high school graduation rate to nearly 90 percent. These are the positive results we can expect to see when we invest in education, and I am committed to building on this progress.

Additionally, one of the first things I did when I took office was to expand Medicaid, which has provided health care to over 720,000 Pennsylvanians. I’ve worked to reduce Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate to its lowest point in history at 5.6%, well below the national average of 8.8%. Since I have taken office, Pennsylvania has increased enrollment in the Children’s Health Insurance Program by more than twenty-two percent. The program now serves more than 180,000 Pennsylvania children. I have been a vocal opponent of efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and destroy Medicaid, charge seniors more for their care, and strip protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Senator Wagner: One thing I’m incredibly proud of is how I always stood up for my principles while I served in the Senate. I believe in fiscal responsibility and I believe in policies that get government out of the way and allow businesses to thrive. That’s why I worked to stop Tom Wolf ’s record tax increases from being enacted. Those increases would have taken money out of the pockets of hardworking Pennsylvanians to foot the bill for Harrisburg’s incompetence, which would have been unacceptable. They also would have harmed employers and prevented them from growing and expanding their businesses.

That being said, I know how to work across the aisle on common sense legislation. That’s why I cosponsored Clean Slate criminal justice legislation with Senator Anthony Williams from Philadelphia. This legislation allows those who have served their time to have a better chance at finding employment when they enter back into society. I will continue to work on criminal justice reform as governor.

4. Please provide the readers a closing statement.

Senator Wagner: Governor Wolf and I could not be more different. I grew up a poor farm boy – where sometimes there wasn’t enough pot roast to go around to feed my whole family. I’ve started businesses from scratch starting at age 19 and I now employ hundreds of Pennsylvanians. Governor Wolf is an Ivy League elitist who’s been handed everything he’s had in life and that’s why he doesn’t understand the people of Pennsylvania.

And Governor Wolf ’s record reflects the fact that he doesn’t understand the struggles hardworking Pennsylvanians face.

He’s called for the largest tax increase in Pennsylvania history. While more and more seniors have been forced from their homes due to high property taxes he has done nothing. His regulatory policies on small businesses have been called “more burdensome than Barack Obama’s” by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce. And he’s stood in the way of more money in the classroom and curbing the opioid epidemic at the request of his million dollar special interest donors. I won’t be owned by anyone. I will always fight for the people of Pennsylvania because I am one of them.

Governor Wolf: Over the past few years, I’ve worked to move Pennsylvania forward by prioritizing the issues that matter most to Pennsylvanian families. As a former business owner myself, I know how important it is to have a government that is dedicated to cutting red tape and removing barriers that businesses often face to ensure a dynamic economy. I’ve made it a top priority to make Pennsylvania a better place to live, work, and do business.

I launched the PA Business One-Stop Shop to serve as the central source for entrepreneurs and small businesses to help guide them through all stages of business development. I eliminated the Capital Stock and Franchise tax, an unfair tax on business that hindered job creation, once and for all. I’ve made significant investments in infrastructure development and signed into law a manufacturing tax credit that will help spur growth in new industries.

I’ve also pushed ahead on large projects like the Shell Cracker Plant, an expansion of the Port of Philadelphia, and an investment in a steel plant in Johnstown, which will create more than 15,000 jobs in Pennsylvania. Yet we must make sure that we also have a workforce that is properly trained to take these new, family-sustaining jobs. That’s why I’ve made significant investments in career and technical education and workforce development.

But I know that there is still work to be done to ensure that Pennsylvania businesses have the resources and support necessary to thrive. I remain committed to working with the business community to ensure that Pennsylvania is welcoming and open for business.

If you are eligible to vote in Pennsylvania, please vote on Tuesday, November 6th. Before you vote, do your research. Visit the websites of each candidate. Don’t blindly cast your vote because of party.

Want more information or have a question, contact Teresa at 717-329-6402 or or learn more about TD Connections at