STATE BUDGET: I believe the Legislature has worked hard addressing this monumental budget shortfall during the serious downturn in our state and nation’s economy. They have worked with budget cuts, reductions in services and negotiations with state employees. There may still be areas to eke out money but we will never be able to make up the $120 million shortfall without serious repercussions. I will stand up for the most vulnerable Vermonters and work to keep those budgets intact. This maybe the time to dip into the Rainy Day Fund and put Vermonters to work building and repairing our ever crumbling transportation infrastructure.
EDUCATION FUNDING: I am proud of the high ranking of our Vermont students. I feel it is the responsibility of a civilized society to educate its children but that comes with a price. Act 60 and Act 68 was put into place to share the cost of all Vermont schools equally and to share the advantages of a good education among all Vermont students, not just a good education for children in wealthy communities. Act 60 and Act 68 is good legislation. It may need a sharper look but I do not think it is broken.
ENERGY: I don’t know about you, but I do not tolerate being lied to and that is exactly what has happened with Vermont Yankee. They didn’t have underground pipes, yes they did; they didn’t leak, yes they did. Nuclear energy is neither clean (radioactive half life of thousands of years) nor cheap (under-funded decommissioning cost? environmental cleanup? the cost to build a new plant in dollars and years?). By investing in conservation, alternative energy, Hydro Quebec and the New England Grid we should be able make up the difference and beside, VY hasn’t locked in a price for its power after 2012.
Shut it down.
AGRICULTURE: Vermont agriculture includes conventional and organic milk, fruits and vegetables assorted cheese, seeds, wool, beef, chicken, eggs, bees, apples, even wine and more. Our farmers keep Vermont beautiful as well as keep us feed. We all can support them by buying locally through CSAs, farmer’s markets, local farm stands and grocery stores. I would support and encourage our schools, hospitals and state institutions to buy locally. Our farms are the Vermont trademark and I would work to combine agriculture and tourism by possibly working some of the tax generated from tourism back into agriculture through revolving loan funds and grants.
HEALTH CARE: The cost of health care is out of control for many reasons, some are beyond state control. The good news, Vermont has taken steps forward. The bad news, income eligibility levels are extremely low. Vermont children have access to healthcare through GreenMountainCare; Catamount Health Plan is available to low-income Vermonters, Addison County has the Open Door Clinic; Vermont law requires pharmacies to substitute less expensive generic prescription drugs when possible. Yet basic health insurance is out of reach for many of our working middle class.
Health care costs every one of us insured or not and 60,000 Vermonters are not insured! I will support legislation that provides basic healthcare to all Vermonters. Without it we will continue to see more folks fall into the uninsured trap that continues to increase costs to all. The ever increasing costs of healthcare effect budgets in our schools, towns and state through increased taxes. It increases business expenses creating a difficult business climate and it causes higher premiums for those that can afford insurance. I support single payer, universal healthcare.
JOBS: It is not the role of Vermont government to create jobs but we do look to government to make Vermont a welcoming place to do business. Although Act 250 has been the guiding force that has kept Vermont pristine, working through that maze of bureaucracy can be a nightmare. Businesses should have a point person to help them navigate the complex system to get to the answers. Broadband access is imperative. We are in a tech world and Vermont is lagging. There are many job opportunities in the growing alternative energy market.
I would support incentives, possibly the Rainy Day Fund, that encourage businesses to use solar, wind, geothermal, cow power and other alternative energy, this a huge new job market where Vermont should be in the lead. Health insurance premiums are crushing businesses. The expense of employee health insurance is an albatross around the necks of business and stifles job growth. I support single payer, universal health care. See No. 5.