Meet your candidate: Addison-5, Harvey Smith
HEALTH CARE: Four years ago the Vermont Legislature passed health care reform which created the Green Mountain Care Board with the idea of a government run single payer health care system. To date there are still a lot of unanswered questions that we need more information on before we can clearly answer this question. We still do not have any basic idea how much this new system might cost, what it will cover, who it will cover, how it will be funded and who will be required to participate. Will the current insurance programs for our state workers, teachers, health care workers, state college employees, UVM employees and private companies be required to enroll in this system? We need answers to these questions before we can make informed decisions on a government run health care system vs. the health care system we currently have.
SCHOOL FUNDING: Education funding is increasing at a rate that is clearly unsustainable in the long term. This is evident by the defeat of 32 school budgets around the state this past year. The Legislature reacted to this on the house side by passing a school governance bill which would consolidate school boards at the district level. This is an admission that the funding levels are not sustainable but at the same time doing very little to control costs. I voted against this because it would create the false hope that funding would be controlled. It did however open the door for further discussion on the issue of cost containment. I look forward to further discussion on cost containment and an education delivery system that somehow ties school funding with student population levels.
TRANSPARENCY: I thought we had a very transparent system in the lLegislature in the past. But it keeps getting better. Using our new computerized system anyone can follow activities in any committee, minute by minute or day by day. Anyone can check on who testified and can review their testimony. Anyone can also review the latest draft of the bill we are working on. Most of our floor time is broadcast live, TV cameras tape segments of lively debates for news broadcasts. Anyone can visit any committee or the house floor debates at any time. Since I was first elected I have had an open invitation to anyone who wanted to visit the Statehouse. I provide the ride and an ear. I have had many take me up on this offer.
OPIATE ADDICTION: Vermont has recognized that we have an opiated addiction problem. As a society we need to accept that opiate addiction afflicts many in our community not just some stranger but a son, daughter, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, parent, spouse, friend or neighbor. We need to open our hearts to those in need of help and find ways to fund treatment options. Most importantly we need to accept the fact that opiate addiction treatment centers with follow up support are needed in our communities and help find ways to get them established.
HIGHER EDUCATION: The cost of higher education is increasing along with health care, food, home ownership, fuel, transportation and electricity at the same time average family income has been in a seven or eight year slump. None of this is sustainable in the long run. The solution is looking outside the box. The goal should be to prepare our students for a variety of work force opportunities without creating a very large debt upon graduation. One solution would be to create an alliance with the business community to develop an apprenticeship program.
This program would allow a student the option to have a full-time job and an educational program at the same time. The employer and college would develop a curriculum based on their job requirements with an eye on earning a degree based on college standards. The student would be paid competitive wages while earning a degree. Upon completion of this apprenticeship program the student would receive an associate or bachelor degree. Upon receiving this degree the student would have the option of staying with the same company earning a higher salary or moving on to other job options. In either case the student’s college debt would be very low or none at all.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Vermont needs to continue to attract new business opportunities as well as support existing business by providing consistencies in our regulatory and permitting programs, provide a cost effective energy sources, maintain and improve our infrastructure (roads, bridges, high speed Internet access, consistent broadband coverage) and create educational programs that help prepare our students for a wide variety of work force positions. These programs need to be at the high school and college level.
I would introduce new legislation to create:
(a) Employer/Government first-time home buyer program.
(b) Apprenticeship program centered around business needs and a students desire to earn a college degree while working to pay for college.
I have introduced:
(c) The Farm Viability Enhancement Program which is now the fastest growing agricultural program in the state providing business planning and value added grants to local farmers.
(d) The Agricultural Economic Development Program. This legislation helps farmers turn underutilized farm resources into energy production.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: The working landscape is a defining part of what makes Vermont so appealing to so many Vermonters and visitors alike. These open lands provide a base for food and fiber production, hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, birding and just a pleasant place to live, work and raise a family. These open spaces are also attracting renewable energy producers. Mostly solar electric energy production which is a worthy goal but currently these projects do not need to conform to locally adopted planning and zoning bylaws. We need to make legislative changes to allow for local input and respect for our local planning and zoning by laws.
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