Wagner to lead Senate local government committee

Jason Addy
  • State Sen. Scott Wagner will serve as chairman of the Senate's Local Government committee for the 2017-18 legislative session.
  • Wagner chaired the Urban Affairs and Housing committee in the last legislative session.

Scott Wagner’s influence in Harrisburg continues to grow at a rapid pace, with the state senator appointed Thursday to lead the Senate’s Local Government committee over the next two years.

Wagner, R-Spring Garden Township, who served as the chairman of the Senate’s Urban Affairs and Housing committee for the 2015-16 legislative session, will take over the position from Sen. Scott Hutchinson, R-Warren.

State Senator Scott Wagner speaks as the York County Heroin Task Force announces that it will now be governed by and an executive board as the York Regional Opiate Collaborative, naming Dr. Matthew Howie, of York City Bureau of Health, executive director at the York County Administrative Center in York City, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Wagner said he will meet with Hutchinson to better understand the issues faced by the committee and its role in improving communities across the state, according to a news release.

Among the issues Wagner expects to work through during the 2017-18 legislative session are municipal pension reform, property assessment procedure updates and the reduction of state mandates, the release states.

“Our local governments are an integral part of our commonwealth,” Wagner said. “Just as I am working to do at the state level, it is important that we in Harrisburg work with our local governments to improve efficiency, as well as manage and control costs, so they can provide the necessary services to residents without the burden of constant tax increases.”

Wagner will serve in his new role as Senate Local Government Committee chairman while running for governor in the 2018 elections.

Seeking Wolf’s seat: The local businessman-turned-lawmaker announced his campaign to unseat Gov. Tom Wolf less than a week after the 2016 elections, calling for fiscal conservatism focused on reduced spending in Harrisburg and fixing the pension and skilled-labor “crises” in the state.

“The pension crisis is the No. 1 problem that we have to solve, because about 66 cents of every new dollar that comes into the Treasury goes toward paying pensions. Simply, mathematically, we cannot sustain this,” Wagner told The York Dispatch in November.

Shortly after announcing his gubernatorial run, Wagner spent weeks in the headlines for his stance on closing Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation centers.

'Let them close down': Responding to reports that 600 state workers were set to be laid off after the Senate failed to vote on $57.5 million in additional funding for the centers, Wagner took full credit for the impending pink slips.

“I dug my foot in yesterday,” Wagner said of stopping a vote on the funding. “(Department of Labor and Industry officials) didn’t get the job done and need to be held accountable. Let them close down.”

600 layoffs expected after Senate dismisses without funding jobless centers

Wagner’s comments provoked many of the state workers, who organized multiple protests against the looming layoffs.

Workers rallied outside the Department of Labor and Industry building in Harrisburg and Wagner’s district office in York, among other locations across the state. People also gathered in front of the LSC Design building on North George Street to protest Wagner, who was holding a fundraiser inside.

Locals, state employees, rally against layoffs, Wagner

Two weeks later, around 20 state workers delivered Christmas cards to Wagner’s York City office, calling him “The Grinch.”

Labor workers visit 'Grinch' at Sen. Scott Wagner's office

Wagner has blamed Wolf for the layoffs and called for an investigation into the Department of Labor and Industry, filing a Right-to-Know request to see all correspondence relating to the layoffs and center closures.

Christmas gifts: Just days after more than 500 unemployment center workers were laid off, Wagner handed out around 100 cards to now-former state employees, some of which included $150 in cash. Wagner said the gesture was something small he could do for people he feels were “thrown under the bus.”

Wagner gives $150 to some furloughed employees

Ironically, the card-and-cash gifts would have been illegal if the recipients were still state workers because of a 2015 executive order from Wolf banning state employees from receiving gifts.