October 1, 2014

Quaid seeks return to House

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Former Rep. emphasizes affordability

By Kim Howard
Observer staff

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of profiles of the four candidates running for Williston’s two open seats in the Vermont House of Representatives.

Mike Quaid is on board with Gov. Jim Douglas’ re-election platform.

Capping property taxes, allowing Vermonters to purchase out-of-state health insurance, and requiring voter approval of tax increases would be among Quaid’s top legislative priorities if elected, he said. Those priorities are a reflection of Douglas’ proposals to reign in taxes and control the cost of living, according to Quaid.

“The principal reason I’m running is that I believe a lot in what Jim Douglas is trying to accomplish in Vermont,” Quaid said. “Without some help in the Legislature, he can’t get his programs passed.”

Getting the Circumferential Highway finished is another top priority of Quaid’s if elected.

Quaid is one of four candidates running to represent Williston in the Vermont House of Representatives. Incumbents Jim McCullough and Mary Peterson, both Democrats, and Republican Deb Beckett also are running in the Nov. 7 election. The four will be vying for two seats.

Quaid, a Republican, represented Williston in the Vermont House for two terms, from 1999 to 2002. He lost his seat by 75 votes in November 2002, when Peterson and McCullough were first elected. Quaid made an unsuccessful bid for the Vermont Senate in 2004.

Taxes and school funding

If elected, Quaid said he will advocate that voters must approve any income, sales or property tax increases.

“The polls I’ve seen (say) that people would like the chance to vote on that, and I trust the wisdom of the voters when it comes to stuff like that,” Quaid said.

Quaid gave as an example a House proposal this spring to increase the state gasoline tax by four cents.

“I can’t believe they (House representatives) actually believed that a majority of people supported a gas tax increase,” Quaid said.

Quaid also supports the governor’s proposal to cap property tax increases at the rate of inflation unless 60 percent of town voters approve higher taxes to pay for school and town budgets.

Quaid said the high threshold required for approval does not mean the state is assuming control of local government decisions, even though few school budgets in Vermont are approved by such a wide margin.

“The state isn’t saying ‘you can’t do it,’” Quaid said. “They’re saying ‘we have to get a handle on this somehow, and nothing else has worked, so a hard cap is what we have left to try here.’ If something in a town is so important that they need it, there’s an escape valve there, the 60 percent approval threshold.”

Quaid said he is not a proponent of what he calls “wealth transfer” between towns, as in Vermont’s current education financing laws, though he could live with it if parents could send their children to any public or private school they chose. He does support more parental accountability in education funding, while making allowances for parents with fewer financial resources.

“You should have some responsibility to pay for your children,” Quaid said. “Right now everybody pays the same whether you have kids or not.”

Getting bills into law

Quaid acknowledges that despite his focus on taxes, he can’t take credit for any tax legislation that passed while in office.

“My two years in (the) Ways and Means (committee) I found extremely frustrating,” Quaid said. “We had a 7-4 Republican to Democrat committee and the majority of the time … I was usually on the losing side of 8-3 votes, which I find frustrating on a Republican-stacked committee.”

Nevertheless, Quaid points to legislation that he is proud of personally introducing and getting passed.

“Two things I got passed: Getting towns a density bonus for affordable housing,” he said earlier this year. “I also got a bill passed to allow the highway department to lease out state property for cell towers.” Though Quaid said he hasn’t yet seen it put into use, the law allows for greater cell coverage for Vermont, helpful not only for business but also in emergencies, he said.

Health care is not a right

Though Quaid supports much of the Douglas agenda, he said he would not be an automatic “yes man” for the governor if elected.

“I wasn’t too happy he signed that health care bill,” Quaid said, referring to Douglas’ support of health care reform this spring. “I don’t believe government has any business being involved in health care at all. … I wouldn’t have voted for it.”

Quaid said guaranteed medical care to all citizens is not the responsibility of state government.

“You can’t have a right to anything that has to be provided by somebody else because then you’re infringing on their rights,” Quaid said. “That’s the basic problem I have with government-sponsored health care in the first place.”

Socially conservative

Quaid is a social conservative according to his voting record and responses to political surveys.

During both of his House terms, Quaid co-sponsored bills forbidding two women or two men to marry. He also co-sponsored a resolution urging Congress to amend the U.S. Constitution to prohibit destruction of the American flag.

Quaid’s responses to a 2004 Project Vote Smart survey also point to conservative values: He supports abortion only when the mother’s health is in danger; he supports abstinence-only sex education; and he supports implementing the death penalty in Vermont. Quaid said none of these are topics on which he plans to introduce legislation.

Quaid also said he would have opposed a bill this spring passed by the House and Senate, but vetoed by the governor, that included gender identity as a protected category in employment discrimination. Proponents of the bill have said it was the only time a sitting Vermont governor had opposed civil rights legislation.

“I fundamentally disagree with the whole raft of anti-discrimination legislation, except where it pertains to government,” Quaid said. “When we try to impose those regulations on the private sector, on private individuals, I believe we’re going outside the bounds of what a limited government should be doing.”

A question of character?

In January, Quaid was fired from the Williston Observer for plagiarism after a 13-month stint as a freelance columnist. Quaid had written a bi-weekly conservative column until a reader wrote to the Observer pointing to similarities between Quaid and Wall Street Journal columnist Stephen Moore.

Quaid admitted this week that it was plagiarism, but that he has no comments beyond a 300-word statement he wrote that ran in the Observer in January.

“ ‘I always tried to give editorial acknowledgment when I brought ideas of great thinkers into my columns,’” Quaid wrote in the statement. “ ‘I now realize that I should have been more direct and transparent, and given greater credit to the writers who inspired me.’”

In a criminal records check of political candidates in 2004, the Observer learned that Quaid was convicted of driving while intoxicated in 1999. A Chittenden County criminal court records check last month revealed no criminal convictions among the other House candidates.

“Agenda of affordability”

Quaid said he most wants Williston voters to know that he supports what the governor is calling an “agenda of affordability” and that he signed the taxpayer protection pledge promising to vote against tax increases.

Quaid said what he appreciates most about being a representative of Williston is the following: “It’s the opportunity to be involved in the major decisions that will influence the future of Vermont.”

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