State GOP officials accused Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner of “political grandstanding” on Thursday for calling a news conference to criticize Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed cuts in this year’s state budget.
Wagner, a former Democratic state representative who was elected controller last year and took office in January, said Corbett intends to slash $2.5 million in funding for Pittsburgh Municipal Courts and $7.5 million for the county police and Medical Examiner’s Office. She accused the governor, a Shaler resident, of “pouring salt in the wounds of Allegheny County residents.”
Corbett spokesman Kevin Harley said Wagner’s claims were incorrect. He said the state has not budgeted money for city courts for more than 10 years and that a grant for county police and the medical examiner ended years before Corbett took office.
“It’s total political grandstanding,” Harley said. “This is the same woman who as a state legislator voted for over a billion (dollars) in new spending.”
Wagner is the county’s chief financial officer. Her duties include oversight of revenue and spending and preparation of an annual financial report. Standing in the courtyard of the county courthouse with various union representatives, she said it was time for the governor and local Republican legislators to “take care of their own.”
“As controller it’s my responsibility to protect the residents and also look out for the tax dollars,” she said. “Gov. Corbett is trying to pull one on the residents of Allegheny County, and we’re not going to stand for it.”
Wagner called on Corbett and House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, to restore funding, including a proposed 20 percent cut for county human services programs.
Turzai said the state spends more than $10 billion annually, not counting federal subsidies, for public welfare programs.
“Chelsa Wagner is the person who was double-dipping,” he said. “She was collecting her state salary (as a legislator) and controller’s salary at the same time.”
County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, a Democrat who has also criticized budget cuts, said he was aware of Wagner’s news conference but did not participate. He said he has had his own discussions with state officials about budget issues impacting the county.
“She did that on her own,” he said.