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ELECTION: Benevento wants to lower taxes

Oct. 21, 2010

By Mariana Lamaison Sears
Observer correspondent
Mike Benevento

After being involved in the community for many years in diverse activities, Mike Benevento is ready to take his service and commitment to the next level: the Vermont House of Representatives.

“I’ve been helping out with the community all along. Montpelier will mean a greater impact,” Benevento said.

Benevento is running in the Nov. 2 election for his first legislative term. A Williston resident for 12 years and a former right wing columnist for the Observer, Benevento believes he has a personality suitable for the job.

“I’m a doer. I usually end up as the one in charge,” he said.

That is what Benevento said happened years ago when his boys, now 26 and 17, were young and he got involved with the Williston Little League. He ended up coordinating efforts to start the Babe Ruth league and continued to serve on the board of directors as umpires’ coordinator and Babe Ruth coordinator even though his children are no longer in the program.

“I spent three hours in a meeting last night,” Benevento said during last week’s interview with the Observer.

A former fighter jet navigation officer who served 16 years in the Air Force, Benevento also volunteers with the Vermont State Guard. The state guards help in civil emergencies if the Vermont National Guard is deployed to active duty. They train in catastrophe response, assist in military ceremonies and support families of deployed national guards, Benevento said.

“We do a lot of the little things that aren’t glamorous, but it helps the Guards because they don’t have to do it,” he said.

Glamorous and excessive government expenditures, on the other hand, are some of the cuts Benevento believes are needed to bring the state budget back to balance. If elected to the Legislature, he will look into the many government-funded programs to find out which ones are essential, he said.

“It’ll be nice to have a fancy sports car, but a Toyota Corolla or a Ford Explorer will take you there,” he said. “Nice-to-have programs may need to be eliminated.”

These are times of economic uncertainty and Vermonters can’t afford a fiscally irresponsible budget, Benevento said. The economy and the need to grow jobs are, in his opinion, the biggest issues facing Vermont and Williston.

“During these difficult times, many families live paycheck to paycheck. Many have experienced pay cuts, been laid off and have to work two jobs just to make ends meet,” Benevento said.

Benevento added that he his family experienced all that after he was laid off in 2004. Now he works full time as a supervisor for South Burlington-based EPS Inc., a service bureau for the subsidized housing industry.

To foster job growth, help the economy recover and balance the budget, Benevento believes in an old philosophy that he’ll try to apply in Montpelier: cutting taxes. Families and businesses will benefit from such a measure, he said.

“For families, fewer taxes mean they have more money to spend. Consumer spending can help drive the recovery and create more jobs,” he said.

“For businesses, less tax means they have more resources available to expand, to start taking risks, and to hire more employees.”

When asked about the future of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, Benevento said risks should not be taken in terms of safety. The plant should only operate if it’s safe, but that has yet to be determined by the Vermont Public Service Board, he said. Entergy Corp. has not had the best record of being honest, but the board still has not released an official statement saying the plant is unsafe, he said.

Benevento said that thanks to the nuclear plant, Vermont holds the title of being the greenest state in the nation. Vermont Yankee is also essential in keeping the electricity rate low; without it, studies show electricity will cost between 19 percent and 39 percent more, he said.

Renewable sources, including solar and wind, are needed parts of the energy picture, too, Benevento said. The technology should continue to develop until it can generate energy to replace nuclear power, he said.

“But that is not the case now and it will not be the case in two years,” Benevento said.

Benevento sees himself as a typical Vermonter, someone born and raised here who has to think of the bill of heating fuel he just got delivered at the old farmhouse he rents.

“I’m not a professional politician, I’m like everyone else,” he said.

He plans to use his everyday experience in combination with the research skills he gained after two years of writing his newspaper column to tackle problems at the state level.

“Some people say we pay high taxes because Vermont is beautiful. I say we don’t have to, we can do things better,” he concluded.