Dunbar touts record, fields questions in Penn Township

| Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

State Rep. George Dunbar emphasized his status as “a pretty independent thinker” in Harrisburg during a town hall with constituents in Penn Township last week.

Dunbar, who won his second term in November, reiterated his support for common Republican talking points like privatizing liquor sales, reducing the size of the Legislature and eliminating the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission.

But Dunbar, R-56, also spoke of trying to work across the aisle to get legislation passed through his participation in the new Government Reform Caucus, which was formed by a Democratic senator and Republican House member.

Earlier this year, Dunbar opposed a plan by Gov. Tom Corbett to lift the cap on the oil-company franchise tax. Critics have said that would lead to a 28.5-cent increase per gallon on gas taxes.

“I may have an ‘R' at the end of my name, the governor may be Republican, and I appreciate a lot of the work the governor has done, but this is one time I stood up and said, ‘No, I'm not voting for it. I refuse,'” Dunbar said.

“There's something dreadfully wrong when we tax at the highest level in the country, we spend at the highest level in the country, and still, the roads and bridges are in bad shape. You really have to question how efficient we've been with the money we've had.”

An audience of 25 people who were generally friendly to Dunbar attended the town hall at the Penn Township municipal building on Aug. 13.

One hard question came from Ed Blotzer, who challenged the wisdom of privatizing liquor sales. Blotzer said he spoke to representatives of three local beer stores who fear that move would put them out of business.

“Why do we want to put small businesses out of business?” Blotzer said.

While Dunbar conceded that some other proposals would have “seriously jeopardized” the business of beer distributors, he said the bill he supported that passed in the House in March would give distributors “a free run” at bidding on liquor licenses first at a fixed price.

Another resident, John Forte, said the state needs to eliminate the estate tax, an idea that Dunbar supports.

“When your family dies, you will get the biggest surprise of your life,” said Forte, who estimates he will face a tax bill of $50,000 to $100,000.

Meanwhile, Donna Allen sounded receptive to Dunbar's interest in capping an individual's donation to a political candidate in state races.

Dunbar said he was outspent by a 2-to-1 margin last year. No limit on individual contributions exists now.

“It's, like, overpowering to the citizens,” Allen said of the influence of money in elections. “I mean, do our voices even count anymore?”

Chris Foreman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8671, or cforeman@tribweb.com.

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