The following seven questions, along with a requested word limit, were asked of each local candidate for the Vermont House.
The questions are not repeated in the context of each candidate’s response, but are recalled by subject at the beginning of each answer.
Election Day is Nov. 4.
1) HEALTHCARE: The state’s Catamount Health plan is up and running, are you satisfied that it is meeting its goals and, if not, what additional steps should the state take to expand health care coverage? (Maximum 150 words.)
2) ELECTRICITY: The expiration of Vermont’s contracts with its two big electricity providers, Hydro-Quebec and Vermont Yankee, is looming. And there are concerns about re-licensing Yankee. What should Vermont do to meet its energy needs? (150 words.)
3) AGRICULTURE: What state-level supports and policies regarding family farms would you promote as a legislator? (150 words.)
4) PROPERTY TAXES: The idea of a property tax cap to limit the rise in school spending has been suggested, but such reductions in funds could diminish the quality of education in our schools over time. How do you solve that dilemma? (150 words.)
5) HEATING: Vermonters are worried about how they will pay to heat their homes and gas up their cars this winter. What can the Legislature and state government do to help? (150 words.)
6) ECONOMY: State government is cutting back as tax revenues fall short of expectations. What can state government do to improve the Vermont economy? (150 words.)
7) SINGLE ISSUE: Discuss an issue of importance to you that you would work to address if elected. (100 words.)
The four candidates running for the two seats in the Addison-3 House district — which includes Vergennes, Addison, Panton, Waltham and Ferrisburgh — are Greg Clark, Diane Lanpher, Kitty Oxholm and Jean Richardson.
HEALTHCARE: We know we have many healthcare issues in Vermont. I’ve listened to constituents concerns and have been able to assist some of them, though far from all of them. They are looking for relief from high costs of prescription drugs, high insurance deductibles and expensive doctor and hospital visits. Many of those I talk to have inadequate and costly insurance coverage made more costly by those who have no insurance. The Catamount Health Plan was created to ease the burden on our health system by providing an insurance plan for those who were uninsured. The idea was that the cost burden would be more evenly distributed if everyone participated in a plan.
Catamount is having some success. There are thousands of Vermonters who have signed up, but many remain uninsured. We need to give the program more time to work, we need to encourage all the uninsured to sign up and we need to make sure that everyone in need of assistance can readily access the program. Funding will be the major issue in the next legislative term. We’re deficit spending now and I see no easy funding solution in the near future, however during my legislative term I am committed to insuring every Vermonter will have access to a comprehensive, affordable health care plan.
ELECTRICITY: Exploring new sources of energy without negatively impacting the environment is important to Vermonters. I believe our energy future is bright because we have the spirit and the talent to create clean power. Several Vermont companies are currently providing successful clean energy models that utilize solar, produce electricity from wind and are providing wood chips and pellets for home and business use. These businesses and others on the drawing board should be given tax incentives to continue their development.
As for Vermont Yankee, we must be sure of the facility’s safety first. I will await the current audit being done to determine the safety of the plant before I decide to vote on extending Yankee’s license. Whatever agreement is struck with Vermont Yankee and Hydro-Quebec must include a continuing effort to provide Vermonters and Vermont businesses with affordable electric rates.
AGRICULTURE: All of Vermont has made a commitment to keeping the family farm alive and operating. We all appreciate the effort of our Vermont farmers who work hard to provide a variety of foodstuffs for our table. They model a strong work ethic and provide a sense of stability and longing for a bygone era. I believe there is great opportunity for Vermont’s family farmer as we look for new sources of energy and new farm products.
The Vermont-made label means something in many parts of the world so I’m supportive of the marketing of Vermont farm products. I will continue to support the current use program, the farm viability program, the buy locally and farm to school programs. I have several concerns that I intend to work on. One is the workers compensation problem.
The cost to farmers is way out of line compared to farmers in other New England states. The house Agriculture Committee has spent time discussing the issue and I hope to see some progress on the bill next year. My other concern is around providing good teacher/mentors to young people who show an interest in agriculture. We know that some school-based programs struggle to provide qualified teachers for their farm programs. House Bill 711 addresses the concern and more work needs to be done before it passes.
Our young folks are the key to the future of Vermont agriculture so let’s encourage their participation in agriculture programs at school and keep the FFA alive.
PROPERTY TAXES: This is the hottest issue I’ve heard about on the campaign trail. Folks are fed up with the property tax burden, yet are generally supportive of our schools, with good reason. There’s not a tougher job in the area than school director. The legislature toyed with caps but there was little support for any cap proposal. Paying completely by income didn’t fair any better because of its fluid nature.
Now, because of our current economic climate, there is, I believe, an opportunity to make some changes that might make a difference. Act 60 and Act 68 should be revisited and incentives provided for schools that hold their costs down. Now, we have a system that can penalize a school’s frugality if its cost per pupil runs higher than the State average. This becomes a disincentive for schools to hold down costs.
Consolidation of school districts is another idea worthy of further discussion. I wouldn’t expect immediate cost savings, but as our student population declines we need to consider alternatives in our structures and our delivery system.
HEATING: The legislature can continue its commitment to public transportation and weatherization program. The feds and the legislature are providing funds to help Vermonters pay their fuel bills. We can continue our push to develop new and renewable energy sources that satisfy the heating and travel needs of all Vermonters while keeping our carbon footprint to a minimum.
The best thing any of us can do is check on our neighbors to make sure they’re not cold. That’s not a legislative thing, that’s a good neighbor thing.
ECONOMY: The most important thing the legislature can do is work together and with the Governor to promote programs that create jobs. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in Vermont. This spirit needs to be encouraged and rewarded for being successful.
I support Gov. Douglas’s economic growth plan, which rewards new ideas and products. Vermont needs to ride the wave of energy technology and develop new and more energy efficient engines as one example. Innovations in software and biomedical companies can be created here in Vermont. Green growth zones that promote renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric promote new thinking and new businesses.
The Legislature should also continue to work on permit reform and broadband infrastructure. Any clean company that wants to settle in Vermont should have a streamlined permit process, and access to broadband. Vermont offers beauty, serenity and clean air. We need good jobs so we can afford to stay in Vermont and enjoy all she has to offer.
SINGLE ISSUE: There are several issues I plan to pursue like revisiting the sexual predatory laws. I’m one of many who are promoting a Vermont Jessica’s law. I want our prosecutors to have the tools they need to increase convictions such as being able to introduce past crimes that show a similar pattern of behavior in the case at hand. I also plan to support a civil confinement bill and an extension of the sexual predator registry. We owe it to our children and their families to keep these predators under wraps.