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October 30, 2014

Vermont Senate candidates from Rutland County square off at forum

Vermont Senate candidates from Rutland County square off at forum

By Cristina Kumka
PEGTV held a Senate Candidate Forum Oct. 2 and asked the seven candidates for Vermont Senate questions, selected by a panel of PEGTV board members and staff. The following are excerpts from that forum. There are three open Senate seats from Rutland County, which these seven candidates are vying for. All incumbents (Flory, French and Mullin) are running to be re-seated.

Question: If elected, what specific steps would you take to combat the drug problem?
PEG FLORY (R-PITTSFORD):
We need to come up with more and better treatment programs and hold people accountable…those who go into treatment need to stay in treatment and a couple of weeks doesn’t do it. The drug dealers, we need to get tough on.
KELLY SOCIA (Vermont Politically Incorrect – WALLINGFORD):
We need to allow law enforcement agencies to act quicker and better. Something has got to change, if you know there is a problem, you need to eradicate the problem. You need better and more law enforcement.
KEVIN MULLIN (R- RUTLAND TOWN):
We have to stem the tide. The key is to create opportunities for people…good afterschool programs for youth and into adulthood, good quality jobs.
ANISSA DELAURI (D-RUTLAND):
More support for Project VISION and making it clear to drug dealers we don’t want them here… stricter laws, stricter sentences and law enforcement needs to have the means to conduct the investigations and make arrests.
WILLIAM TRACY CARRIS (D- POULTNEY):
Currently, our insurance only covers 15 days. Treatment needs to be 30 to 60 days followed by a halfway house or work farm for 6 to 8 months. Pressure need to be put on judges to make lengthier sentences. You can get the message out to drug dealers that they will not be tolerated in Rutland County.
BRIAN COLLAMORE (R-RUTLAND TOWN):
I  would support reallocating funds for people trapped in this situation. If you can decrease the demand, eventually there wouldn’t be a reason for people to come here and sell it. Project VISION is a great first step and I would agree we should continue to support a program like that.
ELDRED FRENCH (D-SHREWSBURY): 
We need to look at investments upstream. It’s a societal issue and it’s bigger than…treatment and law enforcement. We have to really focus our resources and our investments earlier on. We have to do it with pediatricians and nurses. We have to break the cycle so there is enough education so we don’t have more and more families with drug addicted children in the system. The recognition that addiction is a disease is very important but I think our efforts need to be focused further upstream.
Question: If elected, what do you think should be done to spur economic development and bring business, jobs and economic strength to Rutland County?
PEG FLORY (R-PITTSFORD):
A recent Rutland Regional Planning Commission forum showed that we need to evaluate our area and find out what our strength is. Involve the schools and train our youth for a job in the county or the state. Government doesn’t make jobs but the private industry makes jobs and in the last few years all I’ve seen is growth in government jobs. I want government to get out of the way and encourage businesses.
KELLY SOCIA (Vermont Politically Incorrect – WALLINGFORD):
I know how hard it is to try and build a business in an economic recession. Little guys like me are not going to grow the jobs in Vermont. We do need to give economic incentives for larger employers who want to come into the state.
KEVIN MULLIN (R- RUTLAND TOWN):
This is the single biggest and most important issue facing us over the next few years. The average Vermonter is making $1,000 less, we have 3,000 more people in poverty in the last year and a decline in the population in Vermont. Government needs to start realizing that sometimes government needs to get out of the way for entrepreneurs to succeed. We need to make it easier for people to do business in the state of Vermont. We have to make it easier to access capital and obtain permits and stop putting barriers in front of entrepreneurs and let them do what they do best and that’s create jobs.
ANISSA DELAURI (D-RUTLAND):
From my standpoint, tax breaks and loan incentives for new business, reaching out to business we would like to come to our community and reaching out to them and asking them what barriers they have here. The people of Rutland County are unwilling to allow business to come in. If we are going to be successful we need to open our minds and stop fighting for every little thing.
WILLIAM TRACY CARRIS (D- POULTNEY):
Workman’s compensation is twice in Vermont, utilities are double here what they are out West, Act 250 causes problems and consistent results are needed between counties. As far as creating jobs, we need to shift gears from strictly manufacturing as we are challenged by inadequate transportation. We can put in infrastructure for high tech firms and create public and private partnerships and that’s where government can come in…to create an incubator for software development,
BRIAN COLLAMORE (R-RUTLAND TOWN):
We need to take the bad business climate here and change it and provide workforce training for those coming up. We need to re-ignite existing business resource centers and re-create development and review committees among community members and meet time lines and costs for developers coming in. They need to happen when they are supposed to happen. I also support tax stabilization and partnerships between towns and developers.
ELDRED FRENCH (D-SHREWSBURY):
It’s a much sounder policy to play to your strengths rather than your weaknesses and work with entrepreneurs in this state and small businesses. Taxation and permitting are very low on the list of reasons people come to the state to start a business. What’s higher on the list is quality of life and government’s job is to create good schools and a good environment.

Question: What is your stance on solar developments and education taxes?
PEG FLORY (R-PITTSFORD):
On solar: You can’t say you are against renewables. All of us support it but it needs to be done carefully. Solar is part of the mix, not the full answer. We n need to do solar carefully and locally so it isn’t an eyesore in our community. We need to take the community’s thoughts to properly manage solar, like we do everything else.
On education taxes: Act 60 needs to be changed completely…the funding mechanism needs to be done like the county tax is done. Wages are different by county but if we allocated education taxes in line with how our county tax is, taxes might be more fair and school choice should happen within those areas. And stop sending unfunded mandates down from the top and expect school budgets to go down.
KELLY SOCIA (Vermont Politically Incorrect – WALLINGFORD):
On solar: As of yet, I haven’t seen solar fields be a large detraction from tourism. I’m not against solar energy but we need subsidies for residential solar and it will enrich Vermonters’ lives across the state.
On education taxes: Families need to take more responsibility for their children’s success. More industry in Vermont would alleviate the burden on taxpayers for education.
KEVIN MULLIN (R- RUTLAND TOWN):
On solar: There’s a very powerful lobby in Montpelier for renewables and they get whatever they want. I’m not anti-solar, in fact, I have a site-inspector coming to my property next week. I think there is tremendous opportunities for growth in this field and Rutland can lead the the nation and state but I do believe you need to have common decency for your neighbors and you have to do it in a way that doesn’t destroy some else’s view. We can invest in the future of energy but in a way that doesn’t allow our neighbors to view a barrage of panels.
On education taxes: We are spending over $16,500 per student. We cannot afford the path we are on. We need to start supervisory union consolidation and stop rewarding inefficiency and that’s what we do in the state of Vermont. Instead, we have to create incentives to those who increase class sizes and figure out how we can do things collectively in the education system.
ANISSA DELAURI (D-RUTLAND):
On solar: I agree with Kevin. We need to get away from fossil fuels. The oil problems are much worse than unsightly solar panels, but we can put them in places not so obvious. More education needs to be done to figure out our energy problem.
On education taxes: Tax reform for Act 60 needs to happen. Local control of schools is a good thing, that would cut back on the overhead, and stop mandating programs outside of schools. Until we can get our finances in order we need to stop mandating things.
WILLIAM TRACY CARRIS (D- POULTNEY):
On solar: This is a whole “Not in my backyard” issue. Green Mountain Power buys the power from these developers. I am in support of solar development but siting solar should be done through the local level through zoning. Hydro-electric has potential in Vermont, large potential and minimal disadvantage.
On education taxes: Everything has to be on the table when it comes to lowering our taxes on the education side and we need to be able to have different choices so we can maintain and keep our taxes lower.
BRIAN COLLAMORE (R-RUTLAND TOWN):
On solar: At some point, solar needs to stand on its own merits, including wind and natural gas, and it needs to be economically feasible.
On education taxes: I’m not swayed that school consolidation is the answer. There are other ways to do it – teacher to student ratio needs to be adjusted upward, there can be speciality schools and there has to be a large increase in school choice.
ELDRED FRENCH (D-SHREWSBURY):
On solar: We need to make sure businesses are not simply taking advantage of incentives and putting these panels up just because of them. Solar siting is of the utmost importance. Oil and gas and everything gets subsidies from the federal government. We need to start moving toward renewables. For full disclosure I have solar panels and my last electric bill was a negative $405. But we need to make sure we aren’t giving away the farm to people who are making money doing it.
On education taxes: Other sources of income need to be considered. Consolidation is not favorable. I plan to introduce legislation that would make small schools more autonomous.

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