ADDISON — Peter Briggs firmly believes that if you see a problem, you should work to become part of the solution.
So when Briggs, 23, noticed a vacant GOP slot in the race for the two Vermont House seats representing Addison-3, the Addison Republican decided to wage a write-in campaign for the Tuesday, Aug. 26, primary in an effort to get onto the Nov. 4 General Election ballot.
“I’m not one to just complain; I want to get involved,” said Briggs, an Addison Development Review Board member who works on his family’s dairy farm off Otter Creek Road. “I wouldn’t want to ask someone to do something I wouldn’t be willing to do.”
Briggs needs at least 25 voters to write his name on the Aug. 26 primary ballot in order to move on to the General Election. He would then vie for one of the two available seats with incumbent Reps. Diane Lanpher, D-Vergennes, and Warren Van Wyck, R-Ferrisburgh, along with Addison Democrat John Spencer. The Addison-3 House district encompasses the communities of Vergennes, Ferrisburgh, Addison, Panton and Waltham.
“Back when it was petition time, I just wasn’t thinking about running for this seat,” Briggs said, citing the rigors of farming. “After having been encouraged to run for it and explained what was involved, I decided it was something I could do at this time.”
So Briggs has been reaching out to family, friends and acquaintances to remind them to vote next week and write down his name so that he can be in the running for a job he said he would take very seriously. He places himself within the younger generation of Vermonters who are finding it challenging to remain in the Green Mountain State amid increasing taxes, the high cost of housing, and an impending sea change in the health care system. Consequently, many Vermont high school and college graduates continue to leave the state for job opportunities and a lower cost of living in other states.
“My generation really has a lot to lose if things don’t improve in this state,” Briggs said. “I’ve been very frustrated by the way the current leadership seems to be more interested in special interest groups and not necessarily what’s good for everybody. I’m hoping to better represent your average Vermonter.”
Briggs contends current Democratic leadership in the state’s legislative and executive branches seems “out of touch” with the needs and troubles facing working class citizens.
As an example, he cited the increasing tax burden on Vermonters — particularly in the form of property taxes. The annual property tax levy on residences is making it tougher for young families to purchase and keep a home, according to Briggs. He said Act 60, the state’s education finance law, seemed like a good way to equalize the property tax burden among Vermonters in different towns and of different incomes. But Briggs said the law has now lost much of its luster as school budgets continue to increase even as the student population declines in many Vermont communities.
Briggs chastised legislative leadership for not revising or replacing the education funding law last session.
“We obviously need to lower the tax burden,” Briggs said. “To take as much revenue out of a shrinking economy as we are is completely unsustainable.”
Asked where he might cut governmental services to lower the tax burden, Briggs said, “The two largest line items are education and health and human services. Seeing as they are the two largest, they would be obvious places to look into.”
Briggs was homeschooled, but has some definite opinions on public education.
He is not a fan of school consolidation, believing such a move might dilute the level of input that people currently have in their schools at the local board level. Briggs believes parents and children deserve more education choice and not fewer school options. For that reason, he said he would support efforts to expand public school choice in Vermont, allowing families to choose where they’d like to send their kids. Right now, the state has limited school choice among schools within the same region.
“We need more choices for parents and students, so that they can choose what’s best for them,” Briggs said. “That’s one way we can actually reform education and keep it economical and of quality: increasing competition in the system.
“With monopolies, it’s always tough to keep (education) quality up.”
If elected, Briggs vowed to support efforts to boost the business climate in the state. He is particularly in tune with the agricultural economy and the pressures that farmers are facing every day to make ends meet. Briggs believes farmers have already done a lot, by introducing new manure management practices and implementing new technology, to reduce phosphorous runoff into the state’s waterways. He hopes farmers are not subjected to any major new rules that might severely curtail their operations.
“I’m confident it’s only a matter of time until farms are not a factor in the pollution equation,” Briggs said, speaking of the efficacy of current rules.
On the issue of health care, Briggs believes the Legislature’s ongoing effort to lead the state to a single-payer system is doomed to failure. As a result, he believes the General Assembly beginning next year should focus on a fallback health care plan.
“What’s going to happen when Vermont Health Connect goes belly-up because it is not sustainable?” Briggs asked.
Briggs vowed to spend the coming days meeting as many people as possible to ensure that he get at least the 25 write-in votes he needs on primary day.
“I certainly hope that since my generation has a lot at stake here, that more people will become involved to fix the problems and not leave it to everyone else,” he said.
Reporter John Flowers is at firstname.lastname@example.org.