STATE BUDGET: I anticipate sitting on the House Appropriations Committee once again. I fully expect the governor to send us a balanced budget recommendation without any call for new/increased taxes or cuts in personnel. I can support a reduction in staff based on attrition to save dollars. There will most likely be administration recommendations for increases in fees where one-third of all fees are looked at every third year; I will look at each one and pass judgment at that time. We on House Appropriations, as opposed to other House members, have the unique opportunity to hear the pros/cons on each line item in the budget before we vote on each one. Therefore, I am not prejudging where cuts should be made nor do I intend to raise taxes.
EDUCATION FUNDING: Few people in the state can explain how the property tax for education for each homeowner is achieved; therefore, the education funding mechanism must be simplified. With the valuation of homes decreasing and the CLA (common level of appraisal) based on a three-year rolling average, it is going to be very difficult to explain to people why their property taxes may be increasing. With that said, I strongly believe in local decision making.
However, we must make the connection between local spending decisions and local tax consequences more clear. We should have monetary incentives for school districts that (1) reduce or do not increase spending or; (2) achieve a specified student/ teacher ratio or; (3) establish regional purchasing agreements or teacher contracts. We must also have disincentives for schools that spend above the state average per student or have a very low student/teacher ratio.
ENERGY: I will vote to close Vermont Yankee if it is determined to be unsafe by the regulatory authorities, otherwise I want the experts on the Public Service Board to make the determination whether or not it is in the public interest of the people of Vermont to renew the plant’s license. In addition to fully supporting contracts for power from Hydro-Quebec, I will support utility contracts with in-state and out-of-state sources to achieve what is best for ratepayers. I support wind, hydro and solar, but I do not want to force utilities to buy power from these sources to the disadvantage of ratepayers.
AGRICULTURE: First, I would do no further harm to farmers by ensuring that any new legislation affecting farmers will require state agencies to make a cost/benefit analysis and include farmers in the discussion of any new regulations that may result. Secondly, I would like to create a program whereby foreign workers can come to work at a specified farm for a specified period with a worker’s permit, so they would not be considered illegal workers.
HEALTH CARE: Given that at least three options are to be provided to the Legislature in January 2011 by a commission the Legislature established this past session, I think it’s prudent to wait and see what these experts recommend. I also think that the Legislature must work with the administration to ensure that anything Vermont does is in compliance with the new federal health-care law. Also, I do not want our employers to be concerned about what the impact may be on their businesses as we seek waivers from the federal law, which would take months. I also want to ensure that our employers do not face increased taxes, penalties and costs resulting from overlapping or conflicting state and federal regulations.
JOBS: Support our existing employers by not raising the cost of doing business and endeavoring to reduce the cost of doing business. That is, do not increase taxes or create new taxes, provide incentives for investment and workforce training, eliminate redundancies in the permit process and involve the business community in the implementation of rules and regulations that may affect them. If our existing businesses prosper, I think they will hire more people and other entrepreneurs will follow.