candidate for re-election
“I love this job. It's the best job I've ever had.” Those were Peter Durant's first words as we started our conversation. “I would say it's a lifestyle,” he continued. “There's never a moment you're not on the job.”
Mr. Durant, a Republican from Spencer, is the incumbent state representative for the 6th Worcester District, which will now include the towns of Dudley, Southbridge, three precincts in Charlton and one in Spencer. His Democratic challenger for the seat is Charlton Selectwoman Kathleen Walker.
The composition of the 6th Worcester District changed dramatically with last year's redistricting, when it included Southbridge, Charlton, East Brookfield, one precinct in Oxford and two in Spencer.
Mr. Durant is one of the newest members in the state house, having been elected in May of 2011 in a redo of the November 2010 election in which he beat incumbent Democrat Gerald Alicea by one vote.
That was a difficult election, he says, but the redistricting makes this one difficult too. He's referring to the fact that he's had to represent the towns in the old district, while campaigning in the new towns. “It's hard to do all that work and still find time for family, he said.
The jobs issue is he what hears most about from constituents. This is the hardest part of the job, he said. People will stop him on the street and tell him their stories about how first they lost their job, then their unemployment ran out, and finally they became dependent on the system. “It's disheartening,” he said.”There seems to be a progression. People are frustrated, become angry, then accept. it. And that's the biggest danger. It becomes a vicious cycle, because if you're out of work for two years, you become unemployable. It's like credit, to get it you have to have it. So the long-term unemployed are feeling the economic downturn more.
What can a state rep do to help the matter? Federal policies have a lot do with a recovery, and regardless of who wins the presidency, a solution has to be hammered out at the federal level. “The state is a little bit hostage to that,” he said. “But we can give businesses incentives to expand here in Massachusetts, and to hire the long term unemployed.” One idea he has for an incentive might be this: “Hire two people, pay unemployment taxes for one.”
This summer the legislature passed a economic development bill just two days before the end of the session. In it was a provision for a waiver of the corporate minimum tax of $456 for the first three years of a new business's existence. “That may not seem like a lot of money, but for a small business, it's a huge amount,” he said, and argued for the waiver on the floor of the house. The bill passed, but Governor Deval Patrick vetoed that section.
Mr. Durant was also a proponent of a provision in the bill that would have allowed businesses to pay their estimated taxes on a quarterly basis evenly over the course of the year, rather than requiring about three-quarters to be paid early in the year. The governor vetoed that item as well.
In the next term, Mr. Durant would like to see more state aid returned to cities and towns, as he believes that town government is the most efficient and effective in determining how money should be spent. “Selectmen have to answer directly to their residents,“ he said..
“Dudley is a well-run town,” he continued, “and the fact that they have to consider turning off streetlights for budget reasons is a failure of state government.” He considers part of his job to find the money to give to cities and towns by looking for waste on Beacon Hill. He recounts a proposed line item in a $50 million spending bill that included $10 million for a youth violence problem. “We're all for reducing youth violence, but we already have programs to address that. Why do we need a new program at the state level. Why not give the money to cities and towns?”
We asked Mr. Durant his opinion on the November ballot questions. On allowing the medical use of marijuana, he believes that while he understands that this might be help some people, the way this question is written is too broad."It needs to be more narrowly defined."
On allowing the prescription of medication to end life, his answer is no is well. He cites the moral aspect of it and said, “It's a gut feeling. It just doesn't feel right to do this.”
Mr. Durant was born in Spencer and has lived there all his life. In fact, he lives today in a house next to the one he grew up in. He was a selectman in Spencer for six years until he was elected state rep. He also served on the finance committee.
His business career included ownership of a small business, Excell Control Systems, which he founded in 1987 and sold in 1999. He learned a lot about the ups and downs that are part of running a small business. “Some years we were fantastically successful, other years we faced going out of business. I can tell you from experience that it's painful when a small business has to lay off employees.”
After selling his small business, Mr. Durant went on to become the service manager at Yankee Technology in Ludlow, a temperature controls contractor, resigning when he became the new state representative. He conceded that he had to take a pay cut when he took the job, “a fact not lost on my wife.” To help make that up a little, he's doing some training for his old company.
Mr. Durant is a graduate of Northeastern University and has been married to his wife Lisa for 24 years.
- Wednesday, 17 October 2012
- Posted in Categories: : Letter From the Editor