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GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner holds Greensburg town hall

Wes Venteicher
| Wednesday, July 11, 2018, 9:39 p.m.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner told a town hall audience that his business background would help him balance spending and reduce waste in state government, on Wednesday, July 11, 2018, at the Garden and Civic Center Auditorium in Greensburg.
Wes Venteicher | Tribune-Review
Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner told a town hall audience that his business background would help him balance spending and reduce waste in state government, on Wednesday, July 11, 2018, at the Garden and Civic Center Auditorium in Greensburg.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner took questions from a mostly-friendly crowd in Greensburg on Wednesday night, reaffirming his positions on bread-and-butter issues ranging from cutting regulations to reforming pensions.

His town hall at the Garden and Civic Center Auditorium was the fourth of six stops on the first tour of Wagner’s general election campaign.

He railed against Gov. Tom Wolf’s leadership, saying he would bring his background as a businessman to state government, balancing spending and reducing waste.

The most asked-about topic was natural gas. Asked what can be done to expand natural gas development and jobs, Wagner said the state and the region need more pipelines, more cracker plants like the one under development in Beaver County and to grow the industry of manufacturing plastic from natural gas products.

He said the state needs a governor who is more willing to sit down with energy companies and clear the way for development.

“We don’t need any more hearings,” he said. “I’m tired of hearings and task forces.”

Asked about fracking near schools in places like Fox Chapel and Mars and potential health impacts to teachers and children, he said he hadn’t yet received questions specifically about the development near schools and would research the issue.

“We want to make sure that everyone is safe; that everyone is compliant,” he said.

He blamed state Department of Environmental Protection regulations for sewer and water rate increases, repeating a favorite phrase, “The people of Pennsylvania are being nickel-and-dimed to death,” and pledging to do something about it.

Paul Verostko, 58, of Scottsdale asked Wagner whether he would eliminate school property taxes. Wagner promised he would, adding that he has ideas to bring in $2 billion to $4 billion in new revenue without specifying where that money would come from.

Wagner touched on Pennsylvania’s high gas tax but said that as a business owner he doesn’t mind paying the tax if the roads are in good shape — but they’re not, he said. He blamed ice-melt for an increase in potholes, saying the state should reduce the brine getting into cracks in the road.

“You don’t need 75 engineers at PennDOT to make that decision; hell, a garbage man can make that decision,” he said, referring to the trash-hauling business he founded and made millions of dollars in in York.

He kicked off the event with a pre-emptive deflection of any questions related to climate change, saying, “Are we electing a governor or are we hiring a scientist?”

In response to a question on the death penalty, Wagner promised to reverse Wolf’s moratorium on executions within 48 hours of becoming governor and signing death warrants for criminals who he said deserve the penalty.

Wagner left his state Senate seat five weeks ago to campaign full time. He said he has been doing four to eight campaign events a day.

Wesley Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Wesley at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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