STATE BUDGET: It would be pure speculation at this point to say what I would and would not do about Vermont’s $120 million budget shortfall. What I can say is that it is important to protect the programs that assist Vermont’s most vulnerable citizens. It is important that we look at efficiency in all state agencies and government programs. We need to build our tax base by making Vermont business-friendly so that more businesses opt to bring their business to Vermont. One thing that has been made clear to me as I meet people in the Addison-Four district is that this is no time to raise taxes.
EDUCATION FUNDING: Act 68 is the fifth educational funding system Vermont has had in the last 27 years. Should we change the system? Act 68 should have greater transparency. I doubt most Vermonters understand how the property assessment equalization method, the non-property tax support funding and the rebate system work. The education fund generated by Act 68 has also been raided by the Legislature and the governor’s office to pay for other, non-educational, expenses. An Act 68 that is more transparent, protected from assault on its assets and with a focus on cost containment would be my goal.
ENERGY: The fate of Vermont Yankee’s (VY) license renewal should hinge on whether or not the plant is safe to operate in the future or not. When presented with unbiased facts on VY, I would vote accordingly. Regardless of the future of VY, we need to have an energy mix that is diverse, economical and environmentally responsible. We need energy sources that are reliable and we must develop and maintain the transmission lines necessary to deliver this power. With this in mind, I would continue to encourage incentives for developing in-state renewable energy. I would encourage the various regulatory agencies to coordinate their efforts and present a streamlined process to expedite the growth of in-state renewable energy and power transmission.
AGRICULTURE: How can the Vermont Legislature help our farmers? Three thoughts come to mind. First is aggressively branding Vermont milk. Cabot has created a wonderful image for its cheeses. Why not do the same for Vermont milk? Our milk tastes better. Let’s create a greater demand for it. Second, give incentives for cow power. Dairy farmers have proven that we can make energy with manure so let’s encourage more cow power. And finally, continue to support the land use program so that we can continue to provide working farms with property tax relief.
HEALTH CARE: Any major health care reform must address rising health care costs. I propose we implement a Uniform Payment Plan. A Uniform Payment Plan (UPP) is a system where medical payments to all health care providers are equal and negotiated by one agency. Currently, each provider negotiates payments to medical professionals and these can vary greatly. One payment amount negotiated by a central body would allow for more cost control. It would also eliminate much of the cost shift caused by lower Medicare and Medicaid payments. Administration costs would be reduced as well. This model is currently being used successfully in Maryland, where health care costs are below the national average. The establishment of a UPP board and the implementation of this plan would be low in cost when compared to a “Single Payer Plan” and it maintains the excellent medical care that we have come to rely on.
Single Payer Plan is a political term. We will all pay for a “Single Payer Plan”.
JOBS: Job creation and economic development are important if we are going to be able to pay for the programs and infrastructure we need. Here are some steps we can take: