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.)
Will Stevens and John Hill are the candidates for the seat in the Addison-Rutland-1 district, which includes Orwell, Shoreham, Whiting and Benson.
HEALTHCARE: Catamount is a step toward providing health insurance for all residents. We need to stress personal responsibility and let all residents know that they are responsible for obtaining coverage. Catamount enrollment to date has been disappointing because advertising promotes the program as totally voluntary. The expectations that government should do everything for us are in the past. The days of personal responsibility have begun and extend forward. We have to continue assisting low income residents, the young and, the elderly with health care costs. Plus we have to make it clear to all other residents that they are responsible for their health care. Catamount should remain an option for residents who don’t have access to group health plans.
Catamount fails to provide reasonably priced coverage for those whose income exceeds the maximum in the plan. Catamount also fails to address the underlying problem, rapidly increasing health care costs. We have to develop policies to control and reduce health care costs and change current policies to lower health care premiums for younger healthy Vermonters, and revise insurance regulations to increase competition in individual and small group health plans.
ELECTRICITY: We need to do everything possible to renew contracts with Hydro-Quebec and close Vermont Yankee ASAP. We can offset the power lost from closing Vermont Yankee by increasing energy efficiency/conservation programs, and developing wind, solar, wood, hydro, and biomass generating capacity.
We accomplish this developing a program to loan funds to home owners to make their homes more energy efficient. Loans would be paid back though savings in monthly utility bills. This program has worked in other states, it can work in Vermont. Secondly, we encourage private enterprise to develop wind, solar, hydro, and biomass generating capacity. We need to simplify permit requirements, commit to purchase power from new plants, and offer tax incentives for power generation.
AGRICULTURE: “Family farms” is a term used to describe a wide variety of farms, ranging from a dairy farm milking several hundred head to a vegetable and fruit farmer with a few acres of land. Their needs and problems are as different as the farms themselves. I believe that dairy farms need a change in the milk pricing system so that they can be paid a price that covers the cost of production, and a return for their labor. (Unfortunately, that is not an issue that can be addressed on the state level.) We need to promote dairy farming in schools and especially in voc-tech programs, encouraging young people to consider careers in dairy farming as employees and future farm owners.
We need to encourage opening of additional slaughterhouses and processing capacity for meat and poultry farmers, local commercial kitchens where fruit and vegetable farmers can rent time, and a regional processing plant for vegetables. I believe we can encourage private business to build and operate slaughterhouses and processing plants to assist farmers in adding value to their products.
PROPERTY TAXES: First, I believe we need to fund education through an income based tax. Regardless of how we fund education, we are still have a system with costs increasing faster than the rate of inflation (and faster than our incomes), declining enrollment, and poor test scores. As taxpayers, we pay more every year to support an education system that, “fails to meet the minimum standards,” in my opinion. Quality of education depends on teachers, parents, and the community. Too many people feel that we solve a problem by spending money on it. Problems with the education system will be solved by people, not by spending money. We need to set and enforce strict standards for a student to advance to the next grade, reward teachers for performance, maximize learning time and minimize testing and other nonproductive time, and recognize that the needs of the vast majority of students in a classroom should take precedence over one child. We need to instill a desire for excellence in teachers, administrator’s, parents, and students. We have to state loudly and clearly that we will not accept anything less than students’ best possible efforts.
HEATING: The Legislature won’t convene until part way through the winter. At that time, about the only thing we could possibly do to assist Vermonters in paying for heat and gasoline is to pass emergency funding to help those in need. According to the most recent revenue projections, there are no available funds available to finance an emergency appropriation, other than possibly withdrawing money form the Rainy Day Fund.
The Legislature needs to move away from reacting to crises and begin planning to prevent crises. We need a long term plan to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, utilize local, renewable energy sources, increase energy efficiency in homes and commercial buildings, get rid of our gas-guzzling cars and purchase more fuel efficient vehicles, and promote car pools/ride sharing. The plan needs to set goals for improvements, target dates improvements are needed by, and provide a means to fund the plan. The Legislature and the governor’s office are the branches of state government responsible for the future of the state. We need to stop looking backward and start looking forward to build a prosperous Vermont with minimum dependence on outside energy sources.
ECONOMY: On a short term basis (within six months), one way we can improve the Vermont economy is to encourage tourism in Vermont. Millions of people in the northeastern U.S. are less than a tank full of gas away from a Vermont vacation. Both Vermont residents and people from other states can enjoy great recreational and vacation opportunities in Vermont, help the State’s economy, and save money, compared to vacations further away. In addition, we can encourage people to buy locally, and offer incentives in state bids to companies that will create local jobs.
Long term, we need to bring manufacturing and high tech jobs to Vermont. We can accomplish this by getting our heads out of the sand, and promoting the many qualities that Vermont offers to businesses, encouraging them to move to Vermont. True, our taxes our higher than many other states, but we offer a quality of life not available in large metropolitan areas, great hunting, fishing, boating, skiing, and other recreational opportunities, a good work force, lower cost property than metropolitan areas, and exceptional scenery. We need to focus on the many positive aspects of living and working in Vermont. It’s time to adopt a new attitude toward attracting businesses to the state by focusing on the good, rather than negative aspects of moving businesses to Vermont.
SINGLE ISSUE: I will do everything I can, if elected, to change Vermont government, simplify regulations, reduce inefficiency, lower the cost of government, and make government the friend of the people again. While out talking with voters over the last several weeks, I’ve heard too many stories about experiences with state employees where the voter feels the state employee is arrogant, self centered, and not attempting to help them with their problems. One state employee told a small business owner that he (the state employee) made and enforced the rules, and that he didn’t care that his rules might possibly be illegal under the U.S. Constitution.
Government and its employees are the servants of the people. There is no room in Vermont government for employees who believe the people are their servants.