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Politics & Government

Sparks Fly at 2nd Corbett, Wolf Campaign Debate

AP Photo/The Philadelphia Inquirer, Tom Gralish, Pool

A lively second debate between Republican Gov. Tom Corbett and Democratic challenger Tom Wolf became tense Wednesday as Wolf sought to assign blame to Corbett for budget deficits and struggling schools while Corbett tried to frame Wolf as the candidate who will favor labor unions over taxpayers.

Corbett and Wolf met during the one-hour "Breakfast with the Candidates" event at KYW-TV and KYW-AM in Philadelphia.

Wolf sought to put Corbett on the defensive amid questions from station reporters over what the candidates would say to parents who are upset about the quality of their public schools.

"You have not been a friend of education," Wolf told Corbett. Corbett immediately replied, even talking over Wolf, saying, "I have not been a friend of unions."

Corbett said he understands that people want more money for schools, but he promised no increases, saying the state has "tight, limited budgets." Wolf pledged that parents would see smaller class sizes if he is elected, in part thanks to his plan to seek higher taxes on Pennsylvania's booming natural gas industry. Corbett opposes raising taxes on the industry.

The pair often talked over each other, or directly challenged each other's statements. At one point, Wolf accused Corbett of "cooking the books," a reference that he later said was to the state's current budget, which relies on a large number of one-time stopgaps to balance.

Corbett took umbrage: "So you're accusing me of a criminal act?"

"I'm accusing you of overestimating what the revenues were going to be in the last year's budget. We were $700 million short," Wolf responded.

Corbett replied that, in many years, tax collections have fallen short of estimates, including while Wolf was revenue secretary under former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell in 2007 and 2008. Wolf responded that the Rendell administration was scrupulous about such matters.

Wolf also pressed the case that Corbett signed legislation to raise fuel taxes, which Corbett denies.

Wolf is heading into the final weeks of the campaign with a cash edge and a hefty lead in the polls that Corbett has been unable to crack. A Wolf victory in the Nov. 4 election would break a four-decade tradition of governors winning a second term.