STARKSBORO — Dan Nugent considers problem-solving to be among his strong points, whether it be repairing a piece of equipment or helping draft a zoning ordinance as a member of the Starksboro Planning Commission.
“I’m known for being able to figure things out, and if I don’t know how, I ask people who do,” he said during an interview on Thursday.
Nugent, a Starksboro Republican, is now hoping for the opportunity to put his problem solving abilities to the test as a representative in the Vermont Statehouse, where there are no shortage of conundrums that need fixing.
But first, Nugent will have to get through two elections in the Addison-4 district that includes Bristol, Monkton, Starksboro and Lincoln. The first will be an Aug. 24 primary against fellow Republicans Fred Baser and John “Peeker” Heffernan, both of Bristol.
The top two finishers in that contest will then move on to the Nov. 2 general election and face incumbent Reps. Mike Fisher, D-Lincoln, and Dave Sharpe, D-Bristol.
Nugent, 46, is a self-employed construction worker and current member of the Starksboro’s planning commission and development review board. He and his wife Laura have two young children.
Asked what drew him to the race, Nugent said, “I’m concerned about the future, and spending.”
Specifically, Nugent believes state government must do a better job balancing its programs with what it has to spend. That, according to Nugent, means creating more jobs to produce a bigger tax base from which to generate revenues for essential programs.
“The state could use some job creation to support the programs it is offering,” said Nugent.
“At this time, our representatives do not appear to understand that we cannot continue to spend more than we bring in,” he wrote in a recent campaign letter to prospective supporters. “Overspending places a serious strain on the backbone of our economy, overburdens the working middle class, and mortgages our children’s futures.”
Nugent acknowledged that his family, during tougher times, received support through state offerings such as Catamount Health. He added that while Catamount Health worked well for his family, it was always their goal to wean themselves back on to private insurance, which they did. But Nugent noted it has become harder for families to obtain, and keep, private insurance in view of rising premiums and reduced competition among providers in Vermont.
The state adopted more rigid health insurance laws during the Howard Dean administration to prevent companies from simply insuring the healthiest Vermonters, a practice called “cherry picking” that left other insurers covering those Vermonters with the least healthy profiles. Nugent said he would like to see the state adopt polices that would bring additional insurance providers to better meet the diverse needs of Vermont families. He noted he was happy with a high-deductible ($4,000) health insurance plan that he owned when he was younger, a policy he said covered his medical costs when he broke his back.
Nugent is wary of the concept of a government-run, single-payer health care system.
“(State) government would be at the top of the food chain” in running such a system, Nugent said. “Who is going to watch them?”
On energy issues, Nugent said the state should pursue renewable energy sources. But while he believes the Legislature had rightfully soured on Vermont Yankee, he does not think the state should give up on nuclear energy altogether.
“I think we should be building a new reactor now while shutting down the old (Vermont Yankee) reactor,” Nugent said, adding the new facility should be more modern and perhaps recycle some material from the existing plant.
He is an unabashed fan of windmills and solar power.
“Weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels is great… Will be able to do that 100 percent? I’m not sure; it’s going to take a long time,” Nugent said.
If elected, Nugent vowed to work on new policies to help struggling dairy farmers, of which there are several in Starksboro. He is not a fan of the proposed “Dairy Market Stabilization Act,” unveiled last week by Vermont’s Congressional delegation. Under the legislation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, working with dairy farmers on a producer board, would set a rate for how much farmers could boost production over the same quarter the year before. There would be an assessment on farmers that exceed the growth rate while farmers that maintained stable production would qualify for USDA payments, according to Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt. The growth management initiative would end after three years unless farmers vote to continue it.
Nugent believes such a policy would hurt large farm operations that have found a way to thrive in spite of low milk prices.
“I’m not sure penalizing people who make money (dairying) is right; it doesn’t seem fair,” Nugent said.
“If we could find a way to run cars on milk, we would be golden,” Nugent said with a laugh.
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.