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Candidates for Dillsburg-area House seat debate

Greg Gross
505-5433/@ggrossyd

Three Republican candidates for a northern York County state House seat met in the first debate of the election season Thursday night and offered up their opinions on how to fix long-term budget issues plaguing the state.

Lawmakers need to look at how to cut spending and also address pension reform, said candidate Kraig Bruder, 29.

“It's not going to be easy, and it's not going to take five years or 10 years,” he said, adding there has to be a long-term solution.

The debate, hosted by the Northern York County Republican Club, was held at the American Legion Post 26, 301 Route 15, near Dillsburg.

Running for the seat currently held by state Rep. Mike Regan are Anthony Pugliese, a former government lobbyist from Fairview Township; Franklin Township resident Dawn Keefer, whose consulting firm raises money for candidates; and Bruder, an account representative from Newberry Township. All are Republicans, and with no Democrats in the race, the winner could be decided in next month's primary, barring a campaign by a write-in candidate.

Regan is not seeking re-election because he's running for the 31st Senate District seat. Current seat holder Sen. Pat Vance is retiring after this year.

From left;  Dawn Keefer, gives a brief introduction, while candidates Kraig Bruder and Anthony Pugliese listen during the 92nd House District debate Thursday, March 24, 2016, at American Legion in Dillsburg. Amanda J. Cain photo

Budget: With Pennsylvania poised to finally have a budget after Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday said he'll allow the last of the GOP-crafted $30 billion spending plan become law, the candidates were asked how they'd address the $2 billion structural deficit.

Pugliese, 29, said there are various ways to shrink the deficit. One would be to decrease the corporate net income tax. That would attract more business to the state, which would increase the tax base.

The Legislature also needs to pass a pension reform bill and use a fair funding formula to distribute state education dollars to districts, he said.

"We need someone who understands what causes the deficit to spike," Pugliese said.

How the state creates a budget also needs to be looked at, Keefer, 43, said. She previously said she wants to see the state use zero-balance budgeting, which is when each line item starts with a zero balance and each request for funding is thoroughly vetted. That's opposed to using the previous year's allocation as a baseline.

"We can't continue to spend and ask for more money," she said.

Lighter fare: Not all the questions were hard-hitting and issue-driven. One the more lighthearted questions was: "What your favorite movie?" Here's what how the candidates responded:

  • Pugliese: "Happy Gilmore." "I'm not ashamed of it. It's a classic."
  • Bruder: "The Godfather." "I've probably seen it 150 times."
  • Keefer: "Steel Magnolias." "There's a lot of good one-liners."

The district: The 92nd state House District includes a large swath of northern York County, from Fairview Township in the north to Washington Township in the south. It also includes Monroe Township in Cumberland County.

A second debate, which will also include the four candidates for the 31st Senate District, will be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 19, at the Fairview Township Fire Station, 340 Lewisberry Road.

The primary is Tuesday, April 26. The last day to register to vote in the primary is Monday.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.