SCRANTON — Addressing an invite-only crowd at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine, Governor Tom Wolf gave a sort of State of the State report Thursday that highlighted his work since he took office in 2015.
Despite two budget crises during that time and a recent credit downgrade for the state, Wolf still believes his administration has accomplished a lot for Pennsylvanians. He mentioned medical marijuana and reducing the number of uninsured residents.
The event, fittingly called “A Conversation with the Governor,” was organized chiefly by the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the chambers of Wilkes-Barre and Pittston.
The conversation drew members of all three chambers, along with members of state government like Senator John P. Blake and Representatives Eddie Day Pashinski and Sid Michaels Kavulich.
Wolf spoke at length about his administration’s successes.
“We’ve worked hard to make Pennsylvania a better place to build and grow a business, a better place to get a thorough and efficient education, a better place to live and work, a better place to grow old, and a better place to grow your family,” Wolf said.
He also focused on the attempts to attract Amazon to the state. While Amazon is concerned about things like taxes and deals, it also wants potential locations for its new headquarters to provide a good quality of life for its employees.
“Those are the things we’re trying to do,” Wolf said, adding that one of the most important things for a company’s success is a healthy community to support it.
Wolf congratulated members of state government for being able to come together — despite party differences — to accomplish things for the good of the community.
“While we have clear, obvious disagreements on a lot of issues, we’ve been able to get things done,” said Wolf, a Democrat. “I’ve heard Republicans say, ‘We’re not Washington, D.C.; we’re Harrisburg.’”
Some of the successes Wolf enumerated were the legalization of medical marijuana — which he said could help stem the tide of the state’s growing opioid crisis — balancing the state’s budget for the first time in years without using “smoke and mirrors,” and dropping the percentage of uninsured Pennsylvanians to the lowest number ever.
“We’ve done a lot of good things in a very short time,” said the governor.
After Wolf’s comments, he took questions that were submitted by members of the audience before the event. He was joined by a panel made up of the medical school’s president, Dr. Steven J. Scheinman; Ellen Bush from Morgan Stanley; and John P. Wiercinski, regional vice president of Geisinger Northeast.
During this portion of the event, Wolf conceded there were many ways for the state to still improve, such as bettering communication channels between unemployed people and prospective employers and upgrading the infrastructure connecting the state’s biggest cities.
Insurance was also a hot topic, with one of the questions focusing on what Wolf wants to do about the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which has been routinely criticized by President Donald Trump and other members of the GOP.
“I don’t know anyone that thinks (the Affordable Care Act) is perfect, but it’s an improvement,” Wolf said, addinghe would only back the repeal demanded by Trump if it is to be replaced by something superior.
“If you have something better, we’re all ears,” he noted.