Wagner embarks on town hall tour, Wolf deploys defense

Scott Wagner hosted a town hall on Thursday night in Cumberland County. (Marc Levy/AP Photo, file)

Scott Wagner hosted a town hall on Thursday night in Cumberland County. (Marc Levy/AP Photo, file)

GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Wagner spent much of his first town hall Thursday night hammering Democratic Governor Tom Wolf on his refusal, so far, to commit to debating him.

It was a day full of one-upmanship between Wolf and Wagner’s campaigns–with both candidates deploying their running mates to counter each other’s talking points ahead of the event.

Wolf deputy John Fetterman dredged up–in some cases extrapolated on–Wagner’s old remarks, like a 2015 comment the state could lay off 10 percent of its teachers and not miss them.

“Why does Scott Wagner say he would immediately, right off the top, lay off ten percent of the teachers in Pennsylvania?” Fetterman asked.

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At the town hall, Wagner stuck largely to talking points–promising to axe school property taxes, cut regulations and flush out superfluous spending.

Several audience questions focused on how he’d fill the roughly $14 billion hole that would come from getting rid of property taxes.

Wagner said broad-based tax hikes are a last resort. He advocated paying down pension debt, though gave few specifics. And he said he thinks school funding may be being wasted.

“Again, we need to figure out, where is the money going into the classrooms, supposedly?” he asked.

Wolf and his campaign have frequently sought to paint Wagner as a politician inclined to drastically cut school spending.

Wagner insists he’s not.

But he said as governor, he would seek to figure out where exactly school money is going–noting schools “can’t keep doing what they’re doing.”

“We’ll figure it out,” he said repeatedly.

Wagner has 5 more town halls scheduled around the state and has committed to 12 debates.

So far Wolf hasn’t said whether he’ll attend any–though Fetterman said those plans will be made soon.

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