Paul Mango outlines broad plan for 'change journey' for Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Republicans won’t vote for a gubernatorial candidate until next May. But Pine Township consultant Paul Mango isn’t waiting that long to offer what he calls “the beginning of a change journey for the state.”

Last week, the gubernatorial candidate gave supporters a sneak peak at a 36-page policy agenda that includes aggressive plans to cut taxes and to challenge public schools.

“I’m the only candidate in the race that has a vision,” said Mr. Mango, a healthcare consultant.

Mr. Mango, who has never run for office, joins state Sen. Scott Wagner, R-York, in seeking to challenge incumbent Democrat Tom Wolf next year.

Some conservatives cheered his outline, while state Democrats said the “change” it offered was cribbed from “the same Harrisburg playbook that has held Pennsylvania back for too long.” The proposal, said a Democratic statement, would “would slash education” and “give special tax breaks to big corporations.”

The agenda includes a reduction in the corporate tax rate of 9.99 percent to 3.07 percent — the same level individuals pay. It also calls for eliminating property taxes to fund schools, which would have to either cut costs or raise wage taxes to offset the lost revenue.

Mr. Mango said that while he broadly wants to reduce state mandates and empower local leaders, barring school property taxes outright is “the only way to make sure we don’t wind up with both” higher property and other taxes.

He also seeks to encourage alternatives to public schools, in part by allowing charter schools to be authorized by entities other than local school boards, who can see charters as a threat.

In other states, Mr. Mango said, charters can be authorized by “universities, community colleges, and in some cases corporations. So why not?”

The Commonwealth Foundation, a Harrisburg think tank that espouses laissez faire economic policies, hailed those ideas. Senior Policy Analyst Bob Dick called the corporate tax cut “fairly aggressive compared to current and past proposals,” and said it “would help jumpstart Pennsylvania’s economy.”

“It’s a beautifully packaged piece, but the details are the same old-time religion,” countered Marc Stier, director of the left-of-center Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. While the center is nonpartisan, Mr. Stier said he worried that Mr. Mango’s plan “says nothing about how to pay for” corporate and other tax cuts.

Ultimately, Mr. Mango’s agenda predicts that the lost tax revenue will be offset by future economic growth. But in the first two or three years, it foresees a shortfall of up to $4 billion — which it said could be covered by “savings, efficiencies, or one-time cash generation.”

The report identifies few such savings, and Mr. Stier noted that Mr. Mango’s consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., had been hired by Mr. Wolf to come up with some $2 billion in efficiencies. “Why was he holding back these other ideas?” said Mr. Stier, half-seriously.

Mr. Mango noted that he had not worked on the state contract, but as governor he would devise efficiencies in part by consulting with local officials and community leaders. “The innovations and entrepreneurship of Pennsylvanians is … what I’m counting on,” he said.

On healthcare matters, the plan also draws on proposals by other Republicans. While Mr. Mango opposes an “Obamacare” requirement to purchase health insurance or pay a tax penalty, he favors a national proposal to raise premiums on individuals who sign up for insurance after letting coverage lapse.

“If you’re going to leave and come back in, maybe you pay a bit of a premium [that] represents the time you were out.”

Mr. Mango also pledged a more robust response to the national opioid crisis, starting with his declaration of a “statewide public health emergency,” that would create the “leadership focus, sense of urgency and resource commitment” needed to address the problem.

A spokesman for Mr. Wolf, JJ Abbott, said the administration was reviewing whether to declare a public emergency, but noted Mr. Wolf had signed bills limiting the prescription of opioids, while meeting with health experts and other leaders statewide

“It’s just inaccurate to suggest that Pennsylvania [leaders] don’t have a … sense of urgency in combating this crisis,” Mr. Abbott said.

But Mr. Mango said the state could do better.

“We have the right to be very optimistic about our economic future,” he said. “I just don’t believe in hierarchical, outdated government.”

Chris Potter:

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