NEWPORT, VT â€“ Mark Donka, a full-time police officer, said he can relate to the middle class. Donka, a Republican, is facing off against Democrat Peter Welch for Vermontâ€™s lone House seat.
Donka is running because he is scared of the direction the country is going.
â€śI just think weâ€™re unsustainable at the rate weâ€™re going,â€ť he said. â€śWeâ€™re $16 trillion in debt, our economy is doing terrible and unemployment has been over eight percent for three-plus years. Our bond rating and our borrowing rating has dropped down from what it should be so itâ€™s costing us more to borrow.â€ť
Lawmakers need to address the issue,Â and it will not happen overnight, but they can stop it from growing. He is clear that he doesnâ€™t want to throw people out on the street, but said entitlement programs need to be reformed. The waste in the country and government from when lawmakers write bills is amazing, he said. Many bills are long and convoluted because they have things attached that have nothing to do with the bill.
â€śIf youâ€™re going to have a farm bill, make it about farmers,â€ť said Donka. But thatâ€™s not the way the current farm bill is. â€śMost of the bill has to do with food stamps. Why donâ€™t we have a food stamp bill and a farm bill?
Donka would like to see the healthcare bill reformed, because he doesnâ€™t believe itâ€™s sustainable.Â â€śYou canâ€™t give something to somebody without taking from someone else,â€ť said Donka. â€śItâ€™s impossible. You've got to take from somewhere.â€ť
Donka does not deny healthcare needs to be reformed, but said there are ways to do it without making it a national system. He pointed out that healthcare is 20 percent of the United States economy. He also said the federal government doesnâ€™t have a good track record at running things or the country wouldnâ€™t have such a huge debt. Instead, there needs to be more competition, which is what will lower prices.
There are plans in place for people who need healthcare. Donka also likes free clinics.
Lawmakers need to look at benefit programs like Social Security, welfare, Medicaid and Medicare, said Donka, who believes in Social Security, but is against the cap for people who make over $110,000.
Federal unemployment figures are not accurate, Donka said. The numbers are actually between 14 and 16 percent, because people not collecting unemployment or are underemployed are not part of the unemployment statistics. The solution to unemployment is the United States needs to become more competitive globally.Â
The United States imports many products from China, but when the United States tries to export to China, China hits the U.S. with tariffs and taxes. The solution, he said, is to tell other countries to make it fair or start taxing imports. The United States also needs to market itself and let the world know that something made in the U.S.A. is a good product.
Donka believes in lower taxes and feels the country needs to revamp the tax system. He said there is no reason a person has to be an accountant to pay his or her taxes. Donka called a flat tax a great idea. â€śIf you take away a lot of the deductions and you lower the rate down, maybe it can work,â€ť said Donka.
Donka believes the country needs to look at nuclear energy and said that nuclear green energy does not pollute, but it has a by-product the country needs to and can deal with. Technology has gotten to where the plants can be built smaller and safer.Â
Donka also wants to open more areas for drilling oil.
â€śThe United States is not going to stop its thirst for oil overnight,â€ť he said.Â â€śItâ€™s going to be a process of training people and slowly doing it.â€ť
Donka is 30-year police officer. He recently became an EMT. He is a former volunteer firefighter. He also holds a commercial driverâ€™s license. Donka, who grew up in New Jersey, moved to Vermont in 1980; he used to visit the state a child. He also served on the Hartford Select Board for one term. Donka owns a number of stand-alone ATMs.