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-4 district — which includes the towns of Bristol, Monkton, Lincoln and Starksboro — are Michael Fisher, John “Peeker” Heffernan, Barbara Rainville and David Sharpe. Heffernan chose not to respond to the Independent’s questions.
HEALTHCARE: The Catamount Health Plan has yet to enroll all of its target audience and is already about $50 million in debt — a debt the state of Vermont taxpayers will have to pay off in these economically tough times. Several other options for Vermonters should be considered before more money is dumped into a collapsing program. The state needs to start by fully funding the Medicaid/Medicare reimbursements. By fully funding existing programs overall health care costs will go down because “payers” will not have to make up the state share. Fully funding reimbursement also may earn Vermont more allocated federal dollars. Another option has to be the opening of the health insurance market to allow more choice for Vermonters. Getting health insurance for what they need and not for what they don’t need.
ELECTRICITY: We should start by renegotiating a Hydro Quebec contract. While it would not be such a sweet deal for Vermonters, it will provide a constant source of base power. Vermont Yankee should be evaluated and put through the paces for re-licensing keeping in mind that knee-jerk reactions to nuclear power aren’t hard facts and sciences. We then need to get serious about renewable energy — water, solar and wind projects. There are opportunities for hydro and solar projects using emerging technology across the state. We do need to get real about wind farms and small scale/personal windmill projects. The process of sighting windmills has to be streamlined. We can not continue to say, “not in my backyard” and say, “we need a sustainable renewable energy source.”
AGRICULTURE: I would support family farms by supporting policies that allowed for farm diversification — composting, organic, bio-mass, bio-fuels and other such projects that allow farmers to continue the wonderful farming tradition in Vermont. I would support more progress the workmen’s compensation programs that were started in last year’s legislative session. Health care is also a pressing issue for farmers and I would support opening up the health insurance market so farmers can get competitive coverage for themselves and their families.
PROPERTY TAXES: By now it is obvious that money doesn’t educate children. We pay far more to educate our children now then we did only 10 years ago with not improving results. At Mount Abraham Union High School, 60 percent of the students are deficit in their knowledge of math and science, this deficiency doesn’t come from lack of money going to the schools it comes from a lack of focus on the reasons way students are in school in the first place. Students are in school to get an education and prepare them for the next step whether it is college or the work force. Students are not in school to be friends with the teachers and staff, not in school to be part of a social experiment, and certainly not in school to be “junior activist.”
Schools need to be run more like a business — make cuts in the areas that don’t work, produce, or are inefficient and reward those areas that are succeeding. Some of the poorest schools are turning out some of the best students of our time.
HEATING: Continuing to support efficiency programs — giving possible tax credits to those that install high efficient furnaces, hot water heaters, windows and improvements on the house in general. Encouraging Vermonters to attend the many “button-up” seminars throughout the state.
ECONOMY: The state government has to create policies that are business friendly — better workmen’s compensation laws, a property tax structure that makes sense for businesses, and health care programs that are sustainable and affordable. The state also needs to work on better school to work programs. The state also needs to continue to improve our infrastructure. Safe highways, roads and bridges are paramount to improving the states economy. Also the continued improvement in the cell and high speed internet coverage across the state, especially if the state wants to attract more “green” industries.
SINGLE ISSUE: I don’t have a single issue; I want to be the voice of my constituents and work on their concerns in Montpelier.