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: I will not be satisfied until every Vermonter has access to affordable and portable health care. A true universal health care system is probably not possible without changes in federal law. We have made progress and we should continue to do what we can at the state level to move toward universal health care. This would help businesses be more competitive and individuals would be free to change jobs or to become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses. We also need to address the problems which increase the cost of health care to all of us such reducing administrative costs by requiring a single form for all insurance claims. We need to improve safety in the workplace in order to reduce worker compensation costs.
ELECTRICITY: I believe in conserving energy which could lighten the strain on our economy and on Vermont families. Our contract with Hydro Quebec is currently under negotiation with Vermont power companies and I hope we continue to be able to secure a substantial amount of electrical energy at a reasonable cost with them. We need to develop energy independence in Vermont by harnessing biomass, wind, and solar power available here. Students at Mt. Abe have started a grass pellet initiative which is exactly the kind of initiative that the state should support. I will only vote to extend Vermont Yankee’s license for a short period if and when it is found to be operating in a safe and reliable manner.
AGRICULTURE: I believe in conserving the land. The current use program has helped farmers keep land open and in useful production. We should put in place incentives to grow energy crops such as oil seed crops, grasses for pellet heat, and experimental crops such as sorghum for ethanol production. We need to support our dairy farmers because they remain the backbone of our agricultural heritage. We also need to support our organic farmers who provide us with locally grown food and are the fastest growing segment of our agriculture community. We need to continue to focus on buying local and keeping the agriculture dollars circulating in Vermont.
PROPERTY TAXES: I believe that we are facing a huge challenge in our public school education. Vermonters have been very supportive of their schools and recognize that our young people are our most important asset. I believe that we should conserve our education dollars by having the State Department of Education provide internet based courses so all children in Vermont can have access to a 21st century education. We also need to reduce the administrative demands on our local schools. Other states have controlled or reduced their school expenses by dividing their educational systems, subsidizing private education for those that can afford it and providing substandard public schools for the rest. This is not the Vermont way and we are challenged to find other ways to control costs without destroying quality public education.
HEATING: We need to move toward energy independence. We need to conserve the energy we use by purchasing energy efficient vehicles, weatherizing our homes, and updating our business equipment. We need to generate the energy we use with sustainable, in state sources. We need to develop and support wind power, solar power, pellet heating technology, cow power, and other innovative sources. State government can help by putting the appropriate incentives in place, applying appropriate permit procedures, and supporting innovative research and pilot projects to help us move away from dependence on foreign oil.
ECONOMY: We need to, once again, become leaders in new and innovative energy development. Vermont had the first wind farm in the US, now we lag far behind. Vermont has been the leader in energy efficiency with our conservation utility. The legislature instituted an “all fuels” conservation strategy last session despite strong opposition from the administration. We can develop new agricultural energy products for the future. If the last age was the information age the new age is the energy age. We can build our economy on this foundation.
SINGLE ISSUE: I am running on the three basic “e”s Energy, Economy, and Education as I have in the past. I have laid out some of the important issues in all three areas above and I will work hard to move these issues along. I believe in our ability to tackle tough problems and come up with Vermont solutions and we need to do that again in these tough times. Vermonters deserve a legislature that looks out for the wellbeing of its citizens and not the big corporations. Tax dollars should be used for our safety net and to foster innovation; not just as a give away to moneyed interests.