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Meet your candidate: Addison-2, Willem Jewett

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Posted on October 23, 2014 |
By Willem Jewett



Jewett, Willem 09.jpg
Willem Jewett

HEALTH CARE: Medicare and Medicaid have been providing health care to the elderly and needy for decades. In Vermont, Dr. Dynasaur (Medicaid expansion) has provided health care to all children. These programs are cornerstones in our health care system.

Right now we are in a challenged roll out of Vermont Health Connect; our federal health care exchange. These challenges are largely technical. The exchange has delivered considerable financial relief to many Vermonters.

As we fix the Vermont Health Connect website and consider further (state-based reforms) I am focused on containing the cost of care. No health care system will succeed unless we can control inflationary pressures.

SCHOOL FUNDING: Education finance (how we raise money to pay for public education) cannot be tackled in a vacuum; it needs to be a part of more ambitious educational reform.

Our goal must be to utilize our assets (teaching professionals and the buildings they work in) efficiently and effectively.

To do this we are going to have to address declining enrollments and the pressure they place on the spending side of the equation.

I would also like to see us “modernize” both the education material delivered in our schools and the method by which it is delivered.

To succeed we will have to stand against a number of interests that protect the status quo.

TRANSPARENCY: We have provided much better access to our legislative committee process through our committee pages on the web. I’d like to get to the point where we can live stream our committee work.

We passed legislation requiring that local board meeting agendas and minutes be posted on the web if the town maintains a web presence. We’ve been getting push-back on this one and may need to make adjustments this coming year.

We continue working on bringing order to our public records exemptions. Our experience in this multi-year effort suggests that everyone is for transparency until their exemption is being discussed.

OPIATE ADDICTION: Last year we invested over $10 million in new addiction treatment and recovery services. Our rapid intervention bill (based on a successful pilot run in Chittenden County) made adjustments to our criminal justice system in order to target services to drug abusing offenders at the most effective times.

In theory we have a lot of control over prescription drugs. Access to the “market” is fully regulated by the FDA. Even after they are approved for use these drugs don’t get into the hands of a patient without a prescription written by a licensed professional. And yet, our communities are, literally, drowning in their abuse. I want to work with medical professional organizations to find ways to reduce the sheer volume of these drugs being sent into our collective medicine chests.

HIGHER EDUCATION: I understand this problem first hand as Jean and I have just sent our oldest off to college. Within our state budget higher ed. has been unable to successfully compete with other funding priorities. This problem has developed over decades. The current tight fiscal environment suggests that readjustment of our state budget support is going to take time.

But there are other things we can do:

We can continue to blur the boundaries between high school and college. Dual enrollment now allows high school students to bank up to 6 college credits before they graduate.

We can continue to expand debt forgiveness in fields where we need employees and starting pay is modest. We need to take a look at how Vermont Scholars is rolling out and decide whether expansion is a good idea and, if so, in what direction.

And we can continue to reduce costs through on-line learning. This methodology is still evolving but it has a lot of potential for maximizing affordability.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Government assisted economic development is all around us.

Direct government spending creates and sustains many jobs.

•    Over $600 million is being spent this year on our roads and bridges alone.

•    There is considerable debate about our current level of spending on education. However, every one of those dollars is spent to support our future workforce (they also support a good number of current jobs).

Healthy communities are places where people can start and grow their families and their businesses. Take public safety, for instance; government responds to community threats presented by crime and drug use by funding police, courts, drug treatment, and jail.

Our commitment to renewable energy and efficiency has paid double dividends by saving home and business owners money and creating jobs.

I think that we need to focus on access to capital. Our banks and other lending institutions need help understanding how to lend in the new, knowledge based, economy.

CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: Climate change — It may be different elsewhere but here in Vermont there is strong support for action steps in addressing climate change.

I don’t think there is any reason that the state of Vermont needs to perpetuate and support the carbon economy by investing in its stocks. I will advocate for divestment of our pension funds from carbon stocks.

Some will say that investment performance will suffer. The trouble is that there is data to show that past investment performance would have been better if we had taken this action years ago.

Perhaps by doing this here in Vermont we can demonstrate to other (larger) states that this is actually a winning investment strategy.

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