Voters in Bolton, Hudson, Maynard, and Stow will have a second chance to choose between state Representative Kate Hogan, a Democrat, and Republican Chuck S. Kuniewich Jr., who is trying to unseat the two-term incumbent in the Third Middlesex District after an unsuccessful run two years ago.
While Hogan said putting a regional transportation system in place is an important reason to send her back to Beacon Hill, Kuniewich said cutting the sales tax and unnecessary programs from government will be his focus. In addition, the two candidates see improving the climate for small business in the area as a key issue, but have different views on how to make that happen.
Kuniewich blames an increase in the state sales tax for the demise of his pet store near the Rhode Island border, and has made lowering the tax and eliminating many regulations on small business a focus of his campaign.
He said his store, Office Aquariums in Norton, drew many of its customers from Rhode Island, where the state sales tax remained at 5 percent after Massachusetts raised its to 6.25 percent in July 2009.
“My Rhode Island customers decided it wasn’t worth crossing the line to make purchases,” the 52-year-old Hudson resident said. “My numbers just kept going down, down, down, and it’s directly related to the sales tax — we couldn’t make any money.”
Along with rolling the state sales tax back to 5 percent, Kuniewich said other measures he would take to relieve some of the burdens preventing Bay State businesses from thriving are abolishing the tax on inventory, which would open the doors for more warehouses, and eliminating the requirement that teenage workers be paid the minimum wage.
“I couldn’t afford to hire high school kids to help clean fish tanks and sweep the floor,” he said.
To offset these tax reductions, Kuniewich, who now has a business maintaining home and office aquariums, said he would begin by taking a look at exactly where the money is being spent.
“There’s no income problem, there’s a priorities problem,” he said.
Kuniewich said until the state “confronts the fact that our immigration policy doesn’t work,” and that it spends too much money on programs for people here illegally, legislators need to make cuts in programs, and cited several that he said are not vital.
He questioned the need for a state boxing commission and a state archeologist. “What is the real cost of having government provide us with recreational activities?” he asked. “We have to look at which agencies have outlived their purpose.”
Hogan, 55, said one of her major second-term accomplishments was her role in getting an energy bill passed in July that will allow the state to maintain the benefits of the Green Communities Act by making a number of improvements to the original legislation.
“As a member of the conference committee I was able to work on the final drafts until the last hours of the session to get this legislation passed,” she said. “I’m proud of the work we did.”
She also cites her push to secure state transportation funds for three projects in the district, including repairs to the Cox Street and Houghton Street bridges in Hudson, and a first-phase study of the intersection of Route 27 and Concord Street in Maynard.
“Now we’ll be able to look back and see that these long-term problems have been resolved,” she said.
Hogan, who spent 25 years in small business and publishing before being elected state representative, is the chairwoman of the Library Caucus at the State House.
“I believe in public libraries, they are essentially community centers,” she said, adding that she is an advocate for funding of library programs and building projects.
She also chairs the Elder Caucus, and called herself a “strong advocate” on behalf of councils on aging.
Moving forward, Hogan said, the biggest challenge is “an uncertain economic world.”
“Massachusetts is doing very well compared to other states, but it’s delicate,” she said. “There is going to be good news, and there is going to be bad news.”
She said she will continue to make jobs a priority, making sure people are ready for the jobs available in the 21st century, and said improving the climate for small business is also important.
“The Legislature has to find out what works and what doesn’t, what is obsolete,” she said, adding that approximately 200 rules and regulations have been eliminated or changed by the Patrick administration in an effort to spur job growth.
Hogan is hosting a forum next month that will be attended by other state officials to hear from constituents and small business owners in an effort to get a better understanding of what is needed.
For Hogan, that already includes a regional public transportation system, which she said is not only a key to economic growth in her district, but also a quality of life issue that would benefit people of all ages who find themselves without access to a car or without the ability to drive.
“It is very, very important, and I will continue to work with the stakeholders in this district and this region to put a plan in place,” she said.Ellen Ishkanian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.