WILKES-BARRE — Following his own lead, Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday introduced his “Citizens First” ethics reform plan that includes a gift ban for public officials, “no budget, no pay” legislation, public official expense reform and steps to curb the influence of special interests in Harrisburg.
Wolf donates his salary to charity and refuses his state pension. He has enacted executive branch ethics reforms. On his first day in office, he ended pay-to-play legal contracting and banned members of his administration from taking gifts from special interests.
Over the last three years, Wolf has also been an advocate in Harrisburg for broader reforms for ethics, voting and curbing the influence of special interests.
“Since day one of my administration, I have done things differently and worked to rebuild public trust in the executive branch,” Wolf said in an emailed news release. “This proposal enforces strict standards for how Harrisburg operates, and it will rebuild trust in government. My plan will make sure that our citizens are the ones calling the shots — not entrenched special interests.”
The Citizens First Ethics Reform Plan includes:
• Gift Ban for Public Officials: Wolf banned members of his administration from accepting gifts, and believes all public officials should be held to the same standard. Pennsylvania is one of 10 states with no specific law limiting gifts to public officials. Outside the executive branch, Wolf said politicians in Harrisburg can take unlimited gifts from special interests. Wolf wants his gift ban made permanent and expanded so all state elected officials are accountable to it.
• No Budget, No Pay: Wolf said the influence of special interests in Harrisburg has crippled the Commonwealth’s budget process. He said this has resulted in a late budget in six of the last 10 years. Wolf is calling for a “No Budget, No Pay” bill to stop paying legislators and their top staff, as well as the governor and top officials in the executive branch, until a complete budget is passed.
• Curb Special Interest Influence: The governor said Pennsylvanians need to have confidence that decisions made by their government are the product of a robust competition of ideas, not rewards for the special interests with the deepest pockets.
Wolf is proposing:
• Campaign Finance Reform: Enacting new campaign finance laws that would place limits on contributions to candidates seeking elected office, implement aggregate limits for races, place sensible restrictions on Political Action Committees (PACs), and strengthen reporting and disclosure requirements across the board to restore confidence in government, and curtail the role of campaign spending in our political process.
• Pay-to-Play Protections: Implementing broader “pay-to-play” provisions requiring the disclosure of campaign contributions made by parties seeking contracts.
• Outside Income Transparency: Requiring public officials to disclose sources, type of work and amount of outside income received.
• Require Receipts for Public Official Expenses: In Wolf’s administration and most of the private sector, employees pay for expenses, provide receipts and then are reimbursed. Currently, receipts are not required for all officials to be reimbursed with taxpayer dollars. Wolf thinks the system should be reformed to cover all those serving in government, only allowing them to be reimbursed for the reasonable cost of travel, lodging or food with an itemized receipt.
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.