For Scott Wagner, Pennsylvania's financial challenges have little to do with revenue.

"We have a spending problem," said Wagner, president and owner of local Penn Waste. "We have to bring government under control."

Wagner, 58, a Republican and Spring Garden Township resident, participated in the local NAACP candidates forum with Democrat Linda Small, 53, and State Rep. Ron Miller, R-Jacobus, 62,who are all vying for the 28th Senate District seat, left vacant by incumbent Mike Waugh, a Republican, who resigned last month.

The forum was held Tuesday at the Crispus Attucks Community Center in York City.

Miller and Small were selected by their parties to be on the ballot for the special election on March 18, while Wagner has launched a write-in campaign. Another candidate, Republican Zach Hearn, 37, of Windsor, did not attend the event.

Candidates answer: During the forum, Wagner, Small and Miller answered questions about a variety of topics, including tax reform, health care, community and school safety, crime, voting laws, welfare reform and local and state economy.

While discussing the state's financial issues, Small said that the Pennsylvania government could turn around the economy by stopping giving corporations huge tax breaks.

"The state has to meet its responsibilities," said Small, a retired Navy master chief. "Tell the corporations, 'You had your good times. It's time to pay your fair share. The taxpayers cannot keep paying more.'"

Miller said that some municipalities are to blame for their economic woes, as they did not properly handle dollars received from their taxpayers and the state.

"Should we have standardized tax in every community and municipality? I say no," he said. "There a some municipalities that handle their finances better. All taxes levied across the state are equitable."

Special interest: When asked about how they would handle special interest groups as a senator, Wagner said he would only meet with their representatives in his office during business hours.

"I'd meet with them in a professional setting, not for lunch, dinner or cocktails," he said. "It could impair decision making."

Small said she doesn't like that lobbyists are more likely than regular constituents to get an audience with legislators because they represent corporations with a lot of money.

"I stand up for the little people," she said. "You do that by standing up to the special interest (groups)."

Miller said he would take time to meet and learn about issues from lobbyists' perspectives, though he would be careful to interact properly with them.

"I believe I was invited here tonight (Tuesday) by a special interest group," Miller said, referring to the NAACP.

At the start of the forum, NAACP president attorney Sandra Thompson told the audience — about 40 people — that the event gave the community an opportunity to see and hear from the candidates.

"We want to get the word out to the community about the issues," she said. "We didn't want an election to go by without a forum and the community not have a chance to be knowledgable about the (candidates)."

The 28th Senate District seat still will be up for election in the May 20 primary and in the November general election, with the winner of the general election filling the seat for a full two-year term.

The district includes close to 50 municipalities, among them Chanceford, Shrewsbury and Spring Garden townships, Wrightsville and York City.

—Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at emcmillan@yorkdispatch.com.