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.)
In the race for the Addison-2 House seat — which represents Cornwall, Goshen, Hancock, Leicester, Ripton and Salisbury — John “Ike” Hughes faces Willem Jewett.
HEALTH CARE: I believe that access to high quality and affordable health care is a right, not a privilege. Catamount has provided coverage for some but even with the Catamount in place we have not created a health care system that is accessible to all Vermonters at an affordable cost.
We need to fundamentally change the way doctors are paid for their work. Right now we pay them for each procedure and test they order after we get sick. Naturally, this kind of system results in spending a lot of money late in the game. Instead, we ought to be paying doctors, early on, for maintaining our health.
We have a long way to go before we have created a true health care system. Our work over the past few years has been hampered by a federal administration that has stubbornly resisted change. A new administration will help us move health care policy forward.
ELECTRICITY: Expiration of the Hydro Québec and Vermont Yankee contracts presents us with both challenges and opportunities. Both are large sources of power and so it is a bit daunting to consider their replacement. However, we can create significant economic opportunity if we extend our commitment to conservation and dedicate ourselves to increasing our renewable energy capacity.
Conservation represents the cheapest “source” of energy. Vermont has led in the past with its electric efficiency utility but we must not rest on those accomplishments. In contrast, Vermont has done little to promote renewable electric generation. We need the leadership to significantly increase our hydro, wind and bio-mass electric generation capacity.
Conservation and in-state renewable generation can get us to a point where Vermont Yankee is not needed. This kind of transformation will create many new, green collar, jobs. And, when we pay our bills, our money will not be shipped out of state.
AGRICULTURE: It is important for the state of Vermont to actively support and promote farmers. However, because I represent a district with a great deal of forest land (as well as farm land), I have been working to make sure that the we also support and promote forest landowners, forestry, and value added forest product manufacturing.
Farming and forestry are both critical to our open working landscape. Both provide important employment opportunities and contribute significantly to our state’s economy.
We can’t (and shouldn’t) directly subsidize farm or forest owners. But we can help them become more profitable. We can increase profitability by assisting in the development of value added “manufacturing” of agricultural and forest products; by helping farmers and forest product manufacturers find and enter new markets; and by continuing to promote the Vermont brand, the local food movement, and organic agriculture.
PROPERTY TAXES: Public education is one of the most fundamental and important services that government provides. Its mission to provide every child with opportunity powers both our economy and our democracy. Our investments in educating today’s children will pay dividends for decades to come.
The towns that I represent have provided strong financial support to their local schools. I want to make sure that any change in the state’s education funding system protects our ability to provide an excellent education to our children.
One of our greatest education finance challenges is demographics. For some time now our school aged population has been shrinking. We need to find creative ways of managing this problem so that costs don’t escalate beyond our control. We need to keep our focus on the known drivers of education cost — health care, energy, and special education.
HEATING: Last year we calculated that increases in the cost of oil had added $800 million (more than the total residential property tax) to the cost of heating our homes and businesses. I am proud to say that we made progress at reducing this crushing burden last session by passing the all fuels efficiency utility bill. Just as we have succeeded in limiting our electric usage through efficiency, this bill will allow Vermonters to stay warm using less heating fuel in the future.
In addition to efficiency, we should look to our forests for economical alternatives to heating with fossil fuels. Wood heat benefits us in many ways. Putting up the winter’s wood keeps us strong and healthy; it promotes our national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil; and it reduces our carbon footprint.
While we can’t reduce the cost of gas, we can continue to support public transportation.
ECONOMY: State spending is an important part of our economy. The budget cuts that we have made in the past and the ones that we will consider next year have a negative impact on our economy.
Managing the fallout from this challenging economy will dominate the upcoming legislative session. It is perhaps our primary duty to protect the fiscal integrity of the state so that Vermont can emerge from this crisis in a position of strength.
When the economy sours tax revenues fall and politicians inevitably start talking about tightening the state’s proverbial budget belt. Make no mistake though, when we tighten the state’s belt in these tough times it simply adds to the squeeze that many Vermonters are already experiencing. Our biggest challenge will be to live up to our rhetoric of protecting the most vulnerable among us.
SINGLE ISSUE/ PUBLIC SAFETY: I have been serving in the House Judiciary Committee for six years. In this committee we work to protect your constitutional rights; to maintain an accessible and fair court system; and to keep our communities safe.
This summer we have seen some troubling crimes around the state and here in Addison County. Whether it is working to eliminate illegal drugs from Addison County or protecting all of our citizens from sexual violence, I am eager to get back to work in January.