Meet your candidate: Addison Senate, Christopher Bray
HEALTH CARE: Government’s appropriate role is to do for ourselves what we cannot do, or cannot do as well, on our own. In health care, this means ensuring that every Vermonter has access to affordable basic health care through a program with the absolute dependability of a program like Social Security. When first introduced, Social Security was opposed by some people as government intrusion, but now virtually every American accepts and counts on these benefits — because Social Security provides a basic, necessary service.
Similarly, state government should develop a strategy to ensure basic health care security for every Vermonter. We should investigate “single payer,” as well as partnerships with other states and the federal government.
SCHOOL FUNDING: Taxpayers have, through their vote on Town Meeting Day, control over their local school budgets, and the vast majority of school budgets are passed. At the same time, many Vermonters feel that their property taxes, which are the main source of education funds, are too high. In short, there is a critical disconnect between how people feel about property taxes and how they vote their school budgets. Local control is both a power and a responsibility.
In support of such local control, Montpelier needs to revise the education funding formula to more tightly link local school budgets to local school taxes, so that when voters do reduce their local school spending they don’t get hit with education tax increases nonetheless.
TRANSPARENCY: I supported recent changes to our open meeting laws, and I think they work well to ensure that meetings are properly warned, and agendas and minutes are posted in a timely and accessible way. Interested citizens have good access to meetings, government records, and their elected officials — particularly at the local level.
At the state level, we have similar access, but it is difficult for most citizens to engage in the same direct manner because doing so often means a day away from work. Therefore, as the vice chair of the Legislative Information Technology Committee, I have been and will continue to work to enhance the legislative web site, enabling citizens to have online access to agendas, minutes, bills, and testimony.
OPIATE ADDICTION: Vermont has stepped up its efforts to recognize and address opiate addiction, though the problem remains a huge challenge. To address this growing problem, we need to act, not just as government, but as families, communities, and groups, such as churches and civic organizations.
There is a personal responsibility aspect of drug use that is underemphasized and underappreciated that needs to be explored further. Friends and family members must be willing to speak directly to people choosing drugs to help them make better choices and convey the message that drug use is unhealthy and unacceptable. Similarly, schools and workplaces need to enforce this same message.
For those who’ve already begun using drugs, we need shorter waiting times to get into recovery programs and all the social supports described above so that post-rehab individuals can stay drug-free.
HIGHER EDUCATION: Higher education — in the form of both college and training programs — remain cost-effective investments in building a more financially secure life. This has very positive benefits for the individual and for society at large. Vermont needs to continue to work to keep post-secondary education affordable by controlling tuition costs at public schools and by offering more affordable financial support to Vermonters who study in Vermont.
In addition, we can help students pay back student loans through debt forgiveness as part of in-state employment after graduation; this could be implemented both through private employment or via community service through a program such as AmeriCorps.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Government’s essential role in economic development is to create conditions that foster the growth and development of a healthy economy using three tools: smart spending, taxing, and regulating.
In spending, I have supported and will continue to support the creation of an educated, trained workforce.
In taxation, I have supported and will continue to develop fair, predictable taxation that is tied to state goals, not simply state budgets, which always appear to be in shortfall.
In regulation, I have supported and will continue to promote regulation where we see a compelling social interest, such as to protect community safety, or to prevent consumer fraud or environmental damage.
My personal model for economic development is reflected in Vermont’s Farm to Plate program, which I introduced in 2009, and which has helped create over 2,000 jobs. We accomplished this by listening carefully to Vermonters and then helping them organize and act in their own self-interest. We can take this approach to other sectors of our economy, including computer software, energy, and manufacturing.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: We are profoundly lucky to live in the Green Mountain state. With this good fortune, comes a profound responsibility: We are stewards of a natural world that we have a moral obligation to pass on to others in good condition.
Climate change is damaging Vermont and the world. While we cannot readily fix the world, we can do our part here at home.
I would like to see Vermonters directly engaged, possibly through their town energy committees and a statewide series of Energy Summits, in creating a vision of our energy future. What kind of energy choices do you want? What steps are you willing to take?
We need an energy future that is grounded in this vision and supported by a mutual commitment to good stewardship.
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