Ripton man confirms Senate bid
RIPTON — Ripton resident Robert Wagner confirmed on Thursday that he will run as an independent candidate for one of Addison County and Brandon’s two seats in the Vermont Senate.
Wagner, 46 describes himself as fiscal conservative who is liberal on social issues. He is running as an independent because he doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the major, established parties on a variety of issues, ranging from taxation to the future of Vermont’s statehood.
“As a legislator, I would like to put on the table the possibility of Vermont going back to an independent republic,” Wagner said during an interview at the Addison Independent. “Vermont joined the union in 1791 and not been much more than a resource colony ever since.”
Wagner, a technology consultant who works primarily with businesses in the architecture industry, is the first declared candidate for one of the two seats currently held by Sens. Claire Ayer, D-Weybridge, and Harold Giard, D-Bridport. A New York City native, this is Wagner’s first foray into Vermont politics. He has lived in Ripton for the past two years and resided in Shoreham for a similar amount of time before that.
Wagner said he decided to run this year in part out of frustration that the presidential/congressional elections of November 2008 didn’t bring “the promised change” that had been advertised.
Rather than run for federal office, Wagner decided to try and effect change at the state level.
“I believe real power rests in the Legislature,” Wagner said. “The Legislature is the (body) that makes the rules.”
He believes the Legislature should begin considering some new rules, specifically in the area of economic development. Wagner said the state does not have a budget problem, but rather a wrong approach in how it gains revenues. He believes the state should tax businesses on the natural resources they consume, a strategy he said would help Vermont balance its books and ensure that programs for the neediest citizens are preserved. As an example, Wagner said Omya Inc., could be taxed on the calcium carbonate resources it extracts from its pit in Middlebury.
“There is no budget crisis,” Wagner said. “The Legislature has chosen not to tax corporations for resources extraction. There is about $1 billion per year that is taxable. But the Legislature does not want to go up against corporations like Omya and Nestle.”
Wagner rejected the notion that corporations would avoid Vermont or hire fewer people if they were subjected to a resource extraction tax. He cited Norway as an example of a country with such a tax.
Wagner has been following the legislative debate about the re-licensing of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant beyond 2012. He said he visited Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1998 and saw firsthand the consequences of a nuclear accident there.
“The price of potentially losing our clear air and water is too high,” said Wagner, who favors closing the Vernon-based nuclear power plant.
He supports a single-payer, universal health care system.
“Vermont is already leading the whole country in health; we are the healthiest,” Wagner said.
“We have some great programs that need to be better funded so they are accessible to everyone,” he said of the strides the state has made thus far in health care reform.
Wagner plans to formally launch his campaign on April 10, with a potluck event beginning at 5 p.m. at the Ripton Community House. The Bayley-Hazen Boys will provide bluegrass music for the event. In the meantime, he will be sharing his views on his Web site, www.senatorwagner.com.
John Flowers is at [email protected].