Meet your candidate: David Sharpe, Addison-4
HEALTH CARE: The use of private insurance to pay health care costs has brought the health care system to the brink of disaster, costing nearly 20 percent of the Vermont economy. We need change NOW not later. Currently, health care costs, which include insurance premiums, are double that of the next closest nation in the developed world; and with lower quality outcomes for our citizens. Since the federal government is not dealing with this issue, we need a Vermont solution that provides universal health care for all our citizens with the ability to reduce costs and deliver better outcomes.
SCHOOL FUNDING: We have two fundamental problems with the current high property taxes used to pay for the education of our children. First, we have 4.67 students for every paid educational adult in our schools. This is unacceptably low and must be raised. Secondly, we rely more heavily (68 percent vs. 40 percent) on property taxes in order to pay for education vs. the national average. We need to shift away from this heavy reliance on the property tax. The House passed several measures to address these problems last session, but the Senate did not act. It will be a priority for me again next session.
TRANSPARENCY: Transparency is a very important ingredient to a successful democracy. I am particularly concerned with the transparency in the rule making process the state uses after legislation is passed in order to fill in the details about how the law is put into practice. Some changes to the open meeting law may be appropriate for our small nonprofit community, including increasing the requirement to post minutes to 7 days. I will work to level the power imbalance between utilities and citizens in the Act 248 process so that it will become more open and transparent.
OPIATE ADDICTION: Vermont is fighting a nationwide drug problem. We have taken substantial measures to improve treatment of addicted Vermonters and we’ve increased enforcement against drug traffickers. We have also increased treatment and prevention efforts in Vermont and put limits on the amount of pain medication that can be prescribed in an effort to keep excess pills out of the black market. In the end, the real answer is reducing the demand for these drugs in our communities. Much is left to be done particularly with regard to reducing the market for drug dealers in order to take the profit out of subjecting our children to dangerous drugs.
HIGHER EDUCATION: Just like our k-12 education system our colleges and universities need to plan strategically for the demographic changes coming down the pike. The Legislature has provided for an ability to earn up to a full year of college credits during a student’s last year in high school. In addition, we have provided for Vermont students to have their last year of college paid for if they commit to staying and working in Vermont for a period of time after they complete college. This combination can cut college costs in half. We also need a growing number of qualified tradespeople in our communities. We need to bring more students into apprenticeship programs so they can find successful careers and earn decent wages. Ultimately our goal needs to be free training either in college or in an apprenticeship program which will lead to success for our students and growth in our economy.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: We invest tens of millions of dollars each year helping businesses start, locate, expand, and thrive in Vermont. We are doing better than most of the rest of the country partly because we have invested extensively in rebuilding our infrastructure, concentrated on energy efficiency, weatherized our state buildings and incentivized weatherizing private residences. We have continued to be a leader in renewable energy investment that has created thousands of jobs. I believe we can be more effective with the tax dollars that we spend in order to enhance business growth and I will work to that end. For example, I believe we can spend our tax dollars more effectively in cleaning up Lake Champlain, which will have a double effect: creating jobs and making Vermont lakes more attractive for recreational use by Vermonters and visitors to our state.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: I wish to reiterate my commitment to work to reduce Vermont’s dependence on property taxes used fund prek-12 education in Vermont and at the same time transform our educational system to better meet the needs of our children. Children from low-income households in many cases are not ready to enter school and we don’t inspire them to be the best they can be. We need to grow their aspirations for a better life and we need to better prepare all students for learning beyond high school, either at a college or trade program.
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