Voter Guide: State Rep. Candidate L. Scott Laugenour
Lee Scott Laugenour
Q1: Right to Repair: Yes.
Q2: Assisted Suicide: Yes
Q3: Medical Marijuana: Yes
That piece of advice was given to Laugenour years ago from the owner of the Marriott Hotels, where Laugenour worked for 25 years, moving up from the front desk to a regional vice president. The California native found his way to the Berkshires in 1993, when he was attracted by the cultural scene. He started as part-time resident and later moved to Lenox full time.
Now, he is mounting his second attempt to represent the 4th Berkshire District in the state House of Representatives as a "fresh voice" for a government he feels is no longer working. On Beacon Hill, he is hoping to push out "corporate interest" that is keeping the government from fully serving the people.
"I don't believe our government is working," Laugenour said on Friday, just days before the election. "I think a number of people want to see some change."
Laugenour says he is going to be the "one voice" in the State House for that change for those who want things to run differently. Particularly, Laugenour wants to revamp the tax system, have the state to take over health care, increase green energy use and bring more money into cities, towns and the education system.
"We have an unfair tax system right now," the Green-Rainbow candidate said. "We are losing money."
Laugenour says he'd create a "fair tax" system by increasing the exemption for income tax to $46,000 — thus creating a more progressive tax. By taxing income more than $46,000 at about 8 percent, Laugenour says it will increase revenue for the state as well as create more of a "net" fairness because lower incomes would be paying less.
Increasing the exemption avoids going through a constitutional amendment, which would otherwise would be required to create a progressive tax, he said. Additionally, Laugenour says there are too many tax exemptions and the state should close some of those to increase revenue.
While opponents could argue that it would drive business away, Laugenour said he'd incentive businesses to move to the state by removing health-care costs. Laugenour advocated for the state to put aside 5 percent of gross incomes to pay for all of the state's health care needs.
"Universal health care is as important as roads and bridges," Laugenour said, adding that other countries he has lived in have been successful in creating universal systems. But in the United States, he says lobbyists have derailed that conversation.
The increased revenue gained from a new tax system would allow the state to provide investments in education, cities and towns, and public transportation, he said. He recalled when he was going to school, his music teachers had a closet full of instruments that he could borrow, which triggered his interest in music and eventually led him to the Berkshires.
Now, he said, many students don't have those options and those type of extracurricular classes require parents to pay a fee, which does not provide equality across economic levels. As a former English teacher in Japan, Laugenour said he highly regards public education and wants to raise the level here.
Another service role the government could play would be to allow municipalities to own their own utilities, he said, and would encourage undoing a law that outlaws that type of ownership. In the 20 or so communities that do still own their electrical services, the storm response has been stronger and the rates are lower, he said.
With ownership of energy, Laugenour hopes that it would increase the use of solar, wind, hydro and conservation to decrease the state's carbon footprint. He believes that all of those options need to be utilized but it'll be up to the towns to decide which projects they want.
While some argued that the recently spiked wind-siting bill would streamline and encourage wind power, Laugenour says he does not support that bill because it opens the door for more corruption.
Instead of a three-member appointed panel to make the decision for a town, Laugenour said those projects should go to town meeting. That will create more openness in the process because any "secretive" deals could be voted down, he said.
"There are some projects at town meeting that will be supported," Laugenour said. "There are projects I'd vote for and there are projects I'd vote against here... every project is different."
To increase conservation, Laugenour also says public transportation needs to be expanded across the state.