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Meet your candidate: Addison Senate, Claire Ayer

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Posted on October 23, 2014 |
By Claire Ayer



Ayer, Claire 06.jpg
Claire Ayer

HEALTH CARE: It is the role of the government to ensure that all Vermonters have access to high quality, appropriate, and affordable healthcare and to promote public health. The hard part is figuring out a sustainable and fair way to pay for it.

Every other industrialized democracy in the world treats healthcare as a public good, just as we do our roads and our schools, and provides better care for far less money. Surely America can do this, but Vermont may have to lead the way (again).

SCHOOL FUNDING: In the mix of education funding mechanisms, I would retain the fairness of tax rates between communities of disparate wealth. If a town spends 25 percent more than the average cost per student, they can expect to pay a tax rate that is 25 percent higher. The challenge is less in the funding mechanism and more in the costs of operating schools. Consolidation is a proposed solution for which a number of incentives are in place. There are few takers and many skeptics regarding the cost/benefit analysis of consolidation. Unless it’s mandatory and until it’s cost prohibitive, most small towns will keep their elementary schools.

TRANSPARENCY: As a lawmaker, I insist on transparency. All of my committee meetings are recorded, CDs are available upon request, and meetings are open to the public. All meeting agendas are posted in advance, all witnesses listed, and all material organized on the website that can be searched by date, witness, or topic. All Senate sessions are broadcast live on VPR. My campaign finance disclosures are filed with the secretary of state and are posted on the state website. We will have a searchable data base in time for the 2016 elections.

OPIATE ADDICTION: It’s hard to quantify how well we’re doing on opiate, or any substance, addiction. We treat more Vermonters than ever for substance abuse, but can’t know the number of folks cured until they’ve stayed substance free for an extended period. We are working with the court and human services systems to intercept folks earlier for treatment. There are still waiting lists for drug treatment, but our waiting lists are getting shorter. Having treatment available in each county greatly enhances the ability to keep a job or take care of one’s children while under treatment and the thus the likelihood of success.

HIGHER EDUCATION: Until Vermont puts more tax money into the support of higher education in Vermont, we can expect high sticker prices. The amount of financial support that the state of Vermont invests in its higher education system is pathetically low — among the lowest in the nation. State colleges are working more closely with the business community, with coordination and assistance from state agency folks, to align educational offerings with job opportunities in Vermont. Colleges are also designing internships to help students focus on potential career opportunities.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: One example of a highly successful Vermont business sector is the captive insurance industry. Participants cite Vermont’s predictable and understandable regulations, highly professional agency administrators, and a strong support work force as reasons that they locate in Vermont. Our state administrators provide such great service that even companies who have left Vermont for better prices come back. Achieving excellence in customer service and predictability in regulation could go a long way toward encouraging businesses to locate and grow here.

CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: In the ’90s, I worked with farm, state, and federal folks to support farmers who operated in ways that preserved local water quality and made economic sense. While many of our local farmers remain leaders in that work, Lake Champlain has further deteriorated. I find that I’m having the same conversations with the same people 20 years later. It’s time to enforce policies and laws that have been in place for years and to educate non farmers that we have important impacts on water quality. If Lake Champlain were a Vermont business, it would be too big to fail.

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