Wagner vows to investigate Pa. layoffs

Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner is filing a right-to-know request over the layoffs of several hundred employees of Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania Senate)

Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner is filing a right-to-know request over the layoffs of several hundred employees of Pennsylvania. (Pennsylvania Senate)

Republican state Sen. Scott Wagner is filing a right-to-know request over the layoffs of several hundred employees of Pennsylvania.

The York County lawmaker is blamed by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and union leaders as a major cause of the layoffs.

But Wagner contends that Wolf is at fault.

At the end of the 2016 legislative session last month, the GOP-led Senate decided not to vote on a funding bill for the state’s unemployment compensation program.

Without it, the governor and the Department of Labor and Industry said more than 500 workers would have to be furloughed, and three of the state’s seven jobless call centers will close.

Wagner, who plans to run for governor, prominently took credit for blocking the funding, calling it an irresponsible use of resources.

He said the layoffs are a political move on Wolf’s part.

“Because I chose to speak out on behalf of the taxpayers of the commonwealth, and because of Gov. Wolf’s sagging poll numbers, Gov. Wolf and the public-sector unions that he panders to are spreading misinformation,” he said at a Monday news conference he held in the Capitol in Harrisburg.

Wagner said he found out that the three centers slated for closure stopped taking calls more than two weeks ago and that one would likely have closed in June regardless of the funding bill.

He said the situation merits more investigation, which is why he’s filing the right-to-know request.

In a statement, the Department of Labor and Industries said there was no decision to close any centers prior to last month.

A spokeswoman confirmed that calls have stopped at the jobless centers that are closing because work is being shifted to other centers. She said employees continue to process claims online.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.