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Primary Election Candidate Q&A

August 13, 2014 8:00 pm Category: News Leave a comment A+ / A-


The Vermont Standard reached out to candidates in contested primary races and asked them questions about business and school funding.


Donald Russell

Running for: Congress

Party: Republican

Age: 75

Why should you be your party’s pick? I decided to give up the ease of retirement, a retirement, by the way, that I was enjoying immensely, to go back into serving my state and my country. I decided to do this because I felt that:

• Vermont’s politics in the House of Representatives have been to the extreme left for more than 20 years, since the Republican Peter Smith served his one term of office there. I felt it was time for the political pendulum in Vermont to swing back toward the center or even slightly to the right of center. It is time to loosen restrictions on our freedoms, not restrict them farther as the Progressives desire to do.

• I believe the Liberal Democrats intrusion into our daily lives has become intolerable to someone who values freedom, and freedom is that which is being stripped from We the People every day. Obamacare is the prime example and Progressive Liberal’s such as Peter Shumlin, Patrick Leahy, Bernard Sanders and Peter Welch’s desire to place restrictions on our freedom to own and to bear firearms, anytime, anywhere and anyplace is unacceptable.

• I believe that We the People are being taxed too highly and the school taxes which rely on taxing the homeowners alone is unfair, especially to the retired elderly and to those young couples just beginning married life.

• I believe that I can and will do a better job at serving Vermont than any of the other candidates be they democrat, progressive, liberty union or republican. One advantage that age does give is the sagacity derived from living all of those years. It has taught me that what I thought was correct as a young man was not always true, that people who said they were friends proved to be or not to be real friends, and lastly that really there is nothing new in life. It just took almost all of the years I have lived to arrive at that conclusion. Do not try to reinvent the wheel, it has been reinvented many times and often by people much smarter than you and I.

Do you think the school funding formula is fair? What should be done?

As I have stated above I believe the school funding is unfair. While serving in the Army I was stationed in several states, and while living in Pennsylvania I found the state income taxes there were a flat rate tax of 2.2 percent and that covered the state’s budget. Every citizen paid their fair share of taxes and it did not place an unfair burden on anyone. I also believe that schools are best left in the hands of local school boards, rather than a statewide director or superintendent. I firmly believe that local school boards can make better decisions for their children at the town or city level than can some remote director at Montpelier. I do believe that the mainline subjects to be taught, subjects such as math, English, American and world history, civics, etc, should be taught the same at every school across the state, but that local disputes are best handled at the local school board level.

I have a plan for a K-16 education system for the state and for the country that would provide a four-year college degree to those who desired that level of education. This would occur while the students would be living at home which would save tremendously on what parents and students have to shell out for a college education. I envision that these college level institutions would be collocated with local high schools, but using separate buildings and of course professors equipped to teach at the college level. I go into this much deeper in my book. I have so many ideas that I included them in the book entitled, “Ride the Right Hobby Horse”, that I wrote in 2013 specifically for my campaign. There is not space here nor do I have time now to enumerate and then explain each and every one of them in this message today.

Woodstock business has gone through some serious ups and downs in the past two years. What can be done to improve the Vermont business climate?

Vermont as a state must become a small business friendly state, where old and new businesses alike will find an atmosphere conducive to operating a business and making a buck in the process. We can no longer afford to tax our businesses and our people out of the state. Our youth are leaving Vermont at an alarming rate and if not turned around Vermont will lose its future. For instance, South Carolina snagged the new Boeing Dreamliner plant by presenting a Right to Work friendly to business atmosphere and that tactic put several thousand Palmetto State citizens in good high paying and secure jobs, free of union interference and influence, while at the same time high tax rate state of Washington lost out on that plant because it was not friendly to businesses, large or small. Vermont must lower business taxes to where it can compete with Red states by replacing blue politicians that have only a tax and spend attitude that is not good for the state or for its people.



Mark Donka

Running for: Congress

Party: Republican

Age: 57

Why should you be your party’s pick? I have traveled around the state talking with people from within the party. They understand me and my platform and are supportive. I also have gained name recognition having run in 2012

Do you think the school funding formula is fair? What should be done? No it is not fair and needs to be addressed. Our cost for college has out-passed inflation by over 1,000 percent. My idea for college education is that any college that accepts government grants or monies must lower tuition 10 percent a year for 3 years if they want to continue receiving Federal monies. We also need to keep interest rates low so students can afford college.

Woodstock business has gone through some serious ups and downs in the past two years. What can be done to improve the Vermont business climate? Many company’s especially new company’s are concerned with the uncertainty with health care.  We need to make Vermont more business friendly by doing away with the over regulating company’s. We need to find ways to lower taxes in Vermont. One of the ways is to get our spending under control. Vermont is facing a $31 million shortfall and the Governor is telling us it is not a problem. If this is not causing a problem we should have cut that amount from the budget to start with. The only way to lower taxes is to get our spending under control. Vermonters and Vermont businesses cannot afford higher taxes.


Donald Nolte

Running for: Congress

Party: Republican

Age: 69

Why should you be your party’s pick?

1. I have studied and I understand the main issues.

2. I have the integrity and courage to do what must be done.

Do you think the school funding formula is fair? What should be done?

A. Large increases in budgets in spite of falling enrollment must stop.

B. The percentage increase in school budgets should not exceed the increase in Social Security Retirement checks (about 1 percent).

C. The source of educational funds should be gathered from multiple sources, such as income tax, sales tax, property tax.

D. The control of local education must remain with the local residents in that school district.

Woodstock business has gone through some serious ups and downs in the past two years. What can be done to improve the Vermont business climate?

The best ways to encourage small/medium-sized businesses is to ease the stress caused by large unknowns, such as:

a. Replace failed health policies and programs (you know what they are).

b. Instead, provide sensible and rational health-insurance options that help the individual, but do not hurt the business.

c. Give businesses a tax break (not a handout), so they can plan a few years ahead.




Emily Peyton

Running For: Governor

Party: Republican

Age: 56 years

Why should you be your party’s pick?

I don’t care if I am not my parties pick, I would like to be the people’s pick. It is to the people, after all, that my allegiance is pledged.

The majority of people want a leader who is fair and square and cannot be bought. They want to get money out of politics, and back into circulation where it’s needed. The majority recognizes that good health is dependent on an environment, air and water that is not compromised by toxins. AS the rest of the county wakes up to the cost of toxicity, we will find we are sitting on a gold mine. The majority can see that adversarial party politics have created the problems we have. Leadership should not pick sides. I am an independent looking to offer my services in a system poorly designed for true democracy.

Some ask, why are you seeking to be governor and not senator or house member? To which I respond with another question, why crew on a ship headed for an iceberg?

Do you think the school funding formula is fair? What should be done?

No. We are stupidly wasting enormous sums on education and burdening people with taxation for those costs and winding up with not much to be proud of for their sacrifice.

Money should follow the pupil, we need more school choice, not less, more independent schools where the money can follow the pupil, including to the homeschooler.  We need to recognize that federal mandates are extremely dangerous to our individuation, upon which our country was built. We need to end drugging of children for compliant behavior and inappropriate demands on uniformity of progress.  The homeschooling community is turning out the best and brightest in this state for the reason that in that setting the one goal is to nurture and encourage the student’s desire to learn.  Mandates oppose that goal.

I would block any moratorium on school choice, and provide a template for an independent charter school gleaning best practices from Montesorri and other successful educational approaches and offer communities a number of choices.

The set of predicaments we face in the coming generations are unique, we need uniquely qualified individuals to cope with them. Raw genius will be more useful to Vermont, than homogenized mediocrity. Apprenticeships/mentorships should be experienced by every high school student, and at a collegiate level we need to inspire more competition for solutions, offer service trade for education, and encourage research and development of agricultural hemp products, and more. We need to offer state contracts to Vermonters, training them or supporting the development of worker owned cooperatives where needed to accomplish our needs.

Woodstock business has gone through some serious ups and downs in the past two years. What can be done to improve the Vermont business climate?

Here are my brief policy stances:

State contracts to Vermonters, end taxation on Vermont products, make it easier for self regulated IRAs to be invested in Vermont, support for worker owned cooperatives and other small business ventures over undue concern for huge enterprise. Huge enterprise holds Vermont hostage, small biz is flexible to changing economic demands. Move state revenue into a State Reserve bank thereby increasing the value of money through leveraging it optimally for the needs of Vermonters and local Vermont banks.  Perma-Farm policy which increases our organic goods and decreases our social services costs.  No tax on state made items, and school choice inclusive of independent school encouragement.  Money to follow the pupil to lower property taxes.  Homeschooling included. More efficient and economical use of taxes, an entirely new approach to health care that includes moving the environmental, educational, financial neglectfulness that cause stress and therefore poor health of Vermonters.

Monetary reward value on personal responsible behavior for optimal health.

If there is one crop that will bring young people to Vermont and new business, it is hemp, and also marijuana. The former is safe in every instance and totally green, the latter should be free to grow, and researched for replacement of opiate prescription practice.


Scott Milne

Running For: Governor

Party: Republican

Age: 55

Why should you be your party’s pick?

I think I have the best chance of changing the ultra progressive radical administration over the Shumlin Administration and making it a clear choice for Vermont between whether we want a more moderate course or move on with the Shumlin Administration’s agenda.

Do you think the school funding formula is fair? What should be done?

I think that the desires and goals of Act 60 as mandated by the Brigham’s decision are important and have been good for many less affluent school districts in Vermont, but what we need to do is clearly come up with a system that takes into account that folks can’t afford to pay the local property taxes. We need to come up with something that’s going to enable the spirit and the law requirements of Brigham ie. Where you live in Vermont shouldn’t determine whether you get a quality education or not. We have a lot of work to do. I’m not going to have a solution to that prior to the election, but the Governor Shumlin has had two years as senate pro-tempore and four years as governor and he hasn’t even put a solution on the table or a proposal on the table. I’ll have a proposal on the table. I’ll work with the house and senate to get a proposal on the table by the first half of next year’s biennial.

Woodstock business has gone through some serious ups and downs in the past two years. What can be done to improve the Vermont business climate?

Change the tone at the top from the Shumlin Administration. You look at Killington is trying to expand and the Shumlin Administration has Two Rivers and other agencies of commerce gaining up on the developers of Killington, forcing them to study traffic intersection 100 miles up and down Route 100. If you look at the tone of the top, I’m in the ski business and I’m sitting at a board meeting looking at where I’m going to invest money in ski areas around the world to get a return on investment and people start cracking jokes about the food industry, the governor who called the IBM guy a liar, the tone of Vermont Yankee and on top of that we’re studying intersections, while 40 miles away from our ski area just to get an expansion approval in Vermont where in another state all we got to do is show up and pull out the red carpet and they’ll work cordially and corporately with us to get it done. We’ve got to change that.



Brooke Paige

Running for: Governor and Attorney General

Party: Democrat

Age: 61

Why should you be your party’s pick? I think a better question in my case is: “why didn’t any well known democrats (or republicans) choose to challenge Peter Shumlin in 2014?” Many Democrats must be wondering: “Why isn’t Shapleigh Smith or John Campbell on the ballot?” Likewise, Republicans must be pondering why: Randy Brock, Heidi Scheuermann or Joe Benning hasn’t challenged Shumlin. I decided to run after no serious candidates stepped forward to question Gov. Shumlin’s reckless authoritarian reign. Acting more like an emperor or potentate than the Governor of Vermont, Shumlin seem to be herding his fellow citizens toward uncertain and troubled “waters” without regard for their needs or desires. I have ventured into the breach to make sure that the issues are raised and questioned with hopes (really prayers) that by some act of divine intervention I might be able to “best” Mr. Shumlin in the primary election and go on to challenge the remaining five opponents in the general election. My desire was (is) to run a campaign on the issues to demonstrate the difference between governing for the “common interest” instead of the “special interest”. Further to prove that, at least in state politics, it isn’t “all about the money” even if the “press” believes it is and measures political success by the size of the candidate’s war chest! Of course, the press has already chosen their “golden boy” and is doing everything in their power to deride, diminish and dismiss those who dare to challenge Emperor Shumlin. Who cares about issues and solutions?

In fact all of the citizens of Vermont have the opportunity to vote for me (over my Shumlin) in the Primary election. Each voter is given ballots for each of the parties involved in the primary process (democratic, republican, progressive and liberty-union) and in the privacy of the voting booth select the ballot that they wish to submit. I believe that there are many Vermonters who are tired of the idealistic plans and self-serving schemes of t he incumbent governor who will vote for me in the primary in order to assure that Mr. Shumlin will not be involved in the general election in November. Beyond the wide spread discontent over Mr. Shumlin’s antics – I believe that Vermonters will understand and agree with my strategy for getting Vermont beyond our current difficulties and restoring the reputation and financial health of the State. I believe that on the morning of Aug. 27; Vermonters will (hopefully) awake to the news that Mr. Shumlin has been defeated in the primary and the state will shortly be free of his authoritarian reign. Of course, I will still have to compete with the other five candidates — interestingly without Shumlin in the mix, a wider diversity of viewpoints will be presented to the voters as I am committed to assuring that all gubernatorial candidates are included in the debates and panel discussions.

Do you think the [current] school funding formula is fair?  What should be done?

The real question is how we can reduce the cost of operating our locally governed schools. Most of the ever escalating costs of public schools can be traced directly to unfunded state and federally mandated policies and requirements, especially those related to special education and main streaming of special needs students. While these requirements fulfill worthy objectives, it should be the government agencies that impose the mandates that should accept the financial responsibility relating to those requirements. Recent studies have confirmed what most involved in local schools and school boards have always known, Consolidation of local schools, especially kindergarten and elementary classes will not reduce the costs (and may well further increase costs). In addition, such consolidation may destabilize the early education experience as small children are transported farther away from home  – increasing their risk of injury in-transit and making it more difficult for parents (especially poorer parents who lack transportation) to quickly come to the aid of their children who may need them, in the event of illness or injury, during the school day.  The current taxation system that relies upon property taxes, moderated by Act 60 (and Acts 68 and 130) and further supplemented by the Vermont Lottery provides an equitable mechanism for education financing. Other approaches currently under consideration, most notably financing through personal income tax, are ill conceived and will only act to drive taxpayers, especially retirees and the wealthy from the state.

We must look at the current education model and seek new innovative ways to invigorate the educational experience and outcomes while reduce costs if possible.

Woodstock businesses have gone through some serious ups and downs in the past two years. What can be done to improve the Vermont business climate?

In the past year, the press has labeled Vermont as unfriendly toward business, with a high cost of living and burdensome property taxes. Governor Shumlin has added to this unattractive climate by heralding the state difficulties with Heroin Capital of New England and the moniker of the “Brown Mountain State.”  Of course all of this is perception, perception, which can be reversed by effectively communicating the actual business and social atmosphere here.

Additionally, there are real conditions that can be changed in order to invigorate the job and business climate here in Vermont. We must work to reduce both business and personal tax rates, while at the same working diligently to reduce expenditures by the state. I am convinced that 20-2 percent savings can be found by eliminating waste, corruption (cronyism) and fraud within the state government. We must demand that all purchases are made through the bid and RFP process and improve coordination between state and local entities on purchasing to gain the advantages group buying. The state must aggressively market Vermont for business relocation – stressing our skilled workforce, superior schools and safe, secure communities.  Tax incentives must be reserved for the most worth and advantageous business prospects, with a view toward encouraging many “right size” businesses rather than putting “all of our eggs in one basket” and expending all of our resources in an effort to attract or retain one large employer.

Irrespective of the dim picture painted by the national press further complicated by our governor’s ill advised drug publicity, Vermont is a wonderful place to live and work and it is the responsibility of all Vermonters to communicate this fact.


Steve Berry

Running For: Governor

Party: Republican

Age: 73.

Do you think the (current) school funding formula is fair?  What should be done?

It’s terrible. This consolidation of schools is the worst thing that we could ever do. This is going to destroy one of the oldest laws on the books. We have 100 villages throughout the whole state that have school choice but you know the average person in those towns only believe that the choice is from only from public choice to another, but they have the choice to go to a private school. They have been misinformed and I believe that was intentional. They have discouraged entrepreneurs to go into these towns to set up private schools and compete with the public school. I will turn that around. Right now there’s $13,000 going per student (this is a rough estimate). I believe that a private sector could cut that in half and save tax payers a lot of money and it will put competition into the school system which would turn things right around.

Woodstock businesses have gone through some serious ups and downs in the past two years. What can be done to improve the Vermont business climate?

One of the first things I would do is repeal ACT 250 and those other acts that are constantly putting up road blocks for anybody who wants to set up shop in Vermont. Seventy plus percent of all businesses in Vermont is 50 employees are under. That is the bread and butter of the economy and they are being beaten to death.

Primary Election Candidate Q&A Reviewed by on .   The Vermont Standard reached out to candidates in contested primary races and asked them questions about business and school funding.   Donald Russell Ru   The Vermont Standard reached out to candidates in contested primary races and asked them questions about business and school funding.   Donald Russell Ru Rating:

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