State Policy Network
Free-market values still valid during crisis

Pennsylvania has relatively few cases of COVID-19, despite being the nation’s fifth-largest state. Nevertheless, Governor Tom Wolf has closed so-called “non-life-sustaining” businesses, leaving more than one million unemployed and causing massive lines at local food banks.

As chaos afflicts Pennsylvania’s economy, Wolf governs in secret—refusing to provide a timeline for his business shutdown, clear criteria about how waivers to reopen business are approved, and rejecting “right to know” requests about these decisions.

During this uncertainty, Commonwealth Foundation seeks to prevent hasty policymaking that could lead to disaster and prevent recovery. Free-market alternatives are still the best protection:

Education. Education scholarship accounts can direct funding to families to help them make up lost educational time after school closures.

Criminal Justice Reform. Instead of mass prisoner release or gubernatorial reprieve, lawmakers must utilize technological solutions and health standards to mitigate infection risk for the incarcerated, while reducing prison populations through home confinement and parole options.

Economy. Unlike any other state, Wolf shut down nearly all construction work across the state, causing undue expense, job loss, and putting Pennsylvanians at risk of homelessness. Lawmakers should pass legislation to reopen construction projects as long as recommended safety measures are maintained.

State Budget. After COVID-19, all Pennsylvanians will feel the financial squeeze. Balancing the budget responsibly will require taking a hard look at off-book “shadow budget” funds where billions of dollars are spent without legislative oversight. Reprioritizing these funds in this emergency will eliminate the need for borrowing.

Government Transparency. The credibility of our leaders is damaged when they make decisions behind closed doors. Wolf should be required to provide a rationale for denying many waivers that would allow businesses to reopen.

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