WHITING — Whiting Republican Joy Jones hadn’t given serious thought to running for the Addison-Rutland-1 House seat until a week before the Aug. 24 primary, when she was unable to recruit a challenger to face incumbent Rep. Will Stevens, an independent who lives in Shoreham.
The folks she approached explained they were too busy with work, family and other commitments to run for office and, if elected, serve five months in Montpelier. The Addison-Rutland-1 district includes Orwell, Shoreham, Benson and Whiting.
So Jones, a certified math teacher who home-schools her three children, decided to throw her own hat into the ring. Jones is also director of a 4-H drama group and directs the women’s, children’s and music ministries at the Whiting Community Church, where her husband, Billy Jones, is pastor.
“It was never something I had thought about doing,” said Jones, 34, a self-described fiscal conservative. “But it’s exciting.”
Jones and her supporters had little time to urge at least 25 people to write in her name on the Aug. 24 primary ballot, the minimum number of tallies required to get a belated candidate on the Nov. 2 ballot. Jones ended up garnering a comfortable 53 votes.
Now Jones is getting out a campaign message emphasizing lower taxes, permit reform and school choice.
She believes Vermont must find a way to reduce property taxes, and she believes the state could do so — in part — by enacting school choice.
“I think we are doing a disservice to our students and parents by not allowing them (school) choice,” she said.
Jones supports vouchers for public, private and religious schools.
“We need to fund education and we want to have quality education, but it is ridiculous the prices we are paying,” said Jones, who claimed private schools can provide services at half the cost of public schools.
“We are spending $12,000 per child,” Jones said of the state’s public school system. “I can’t even imagine what I could do with $12,000 for all three of my children.”
Jones intends to keep on home-schooling her children regardless of any sweeping changes that might be made to the state’s school system or its financing. She said she does not believe the state should mandate key education decisions, including whether schools should merge due to low enrollment numbers. The state recently passed legislation encouraging voluntary consolidations among school districts.
“I support local control,” Jones said.
Jones doesn’t favor raising any taxes to cover an estimated $120 million shortfall in next year’s general fund budget. That will mean cutting, which Jones believes could be accomplished through such strategies as requiring greater oversight over human services benefits (to prevent cheating) and hiring a consultant to go through the state budget, line by line, to identify unessential programs.
“Challenges for Change was a good start,” she said of the $30 million cost-cutting exercise the Legislature undertook this past session.
Along with budget cutting, Jones believes the state should more aggressively boost its tax base by making it business development easier. With that in mind, Jones is advocating for a more streamlined permitting process.
While some lawmakers are calling for the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant to close when its license is up in 2012, Jones said re-licensure should not be ruled out.
“If (the plant) is not safe, why aren’t we closing it today?” she said. “I don’t believe legislators are the ones who should be making the decision.”
Jones said state and federal regulators should make the call on the Vernon-based reactor’s fate. In the meantime, Jones said she favors development of renewable energy alternatives, but believes solar, hydro and wind options remain very costly and are not likely to fill the power void left by Vermont Yankee.
On the issue of health care, Jones believes the state should open up its borders to more insurers to reduce the rise in premiums. She does not favor the adoption of a single-payer health system, which she believes would lead to cost-overruns and waste.
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.