Ex-auditor Wagner blasts lawmakers on transportation funding - abc27 WHTM

Ex-auditor Wagner blasts lawmakers on transportation funding

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The Capitol was all but closed for Veterans Day.

A sign behind the Rotunda said, "Closed to Visitors."

The escalator wasn't working.

It served as the perfect backdrop for Jack Wagner, the former Auditor General, who held a news conference to say state government isn't working; most notably on its inability to agree on a transportation funding plan.

"We lead the nation in structurally deficient bridges and something needs to be done," Wagner said, "but nothing is being done."

As Auditor General, and over several years, Wagner called on lawmakers to properly fund a fix for roads, bridges and mass transit in Pennsylvania.

A $2.5 billion plan passed the state Senate but has been held up in the House. Wagner reiterated that if a deal isn't done in the next few weeks, it likely doesn't get done until the next governor. That's because controversial issues rarely pass in an election year, which 2014 will be for all 203 House seats and 25 of 50 Senate seats.

"What are we waiting for in state government?" Wagner asked. "Are we waiting for a major catastrophe where people are killed? Are we waiting for a school bus to go across a bridge that collapses?

Political analysts wonder what Wagner's waiting for. Why hasn't he merged into the crowded road of Democrats steering toward the governor's mansion? Wagner says he's seriously considering a run and he would be the ninth Democrat to jump in, but he would be the only candidate from western Pennsylvania.

"Geography, I guess, does make a difference," he said. "It's a decision I have not yet made but realistically I need to make relatively soon if I choose to run for governor."

Wagner said he'll make the decision in the next few weeks, so perhaps another news conference is forthcoming.

On transportation, Wagner dismissed House conservatives who worry the transportation bill would increase prices at the pump and increase ire among constituents.

"We are elected to make decisions and if you can't make those kind of decisions you shouldn't be in Harrisburg," he said.

I suggested that his strong comments, and the Capitol setting, looked very gubernatorial.

Wagner hesitated.

After thinking with a serious look on his face he then said simply, "possibly."

He then broke into a hearty laugh.

Wagner recently lost his run for mayor of Pittsburgh. In 2010, he was a Democratic candidate for governor, but lost to Dan Onorato.


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