Add-2 Candidate Peter Conlon Q & A

HEALTH CARE: Health care is a critical role of government, and the Legislature should seek solutions the bring down the cost of health care and strive toward universal access. The “all-payer” model that pays providers for keeping people healthy rather paying per service provided is a step in the right direction. However, real solutions need to come from the federal government. Hopefully, a change in leadership in the Senate will restore a feature removed from the Affordable Care Act: the option to buy government-provided insurance similar to Medicare (the “public option”).
Health Connect has taught us that technically complex systems take time to figure out.
SCHOOLS: Our school systems need to turn out graduates who are motivated learners, strong communicators and engaged citizens for both work and continued learning. Employers tell me frequently that skills can be taught on the job, but finding young people who want to learn, can communicate well and are dependable is challenging. The same is true for college. Cost is a bigger problem, but I would support forgiving debt in return for service to rural areas. We also need to educate families about how to get the best bang for the buck in college. It is a complex maze that can prove very costly.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Promoting job growth means supporting the employers here now, and using government policy to stimulate the private sector. Supporting employers includes finding where government can ease regulatory burdens without jeopardizing important protections. Act 250, for example, sometimes forces developers to include different projects in the same town to fall under its permit rules, even if one project normally would not. Permit fees are also a growing disincentive. Government policy such as subsidizing energy efficiency and infrastructure improvements also stimulate job growth.
Again, turning out graduates who are motivated learners, good communicators and engaged citizens is job one in training. And while government has a role in providing skills to workers, that role used to be filled by employers through apprenticeships, internships, and on-the-job training. That burden has wrongfully started falling on government.
OPIATE ADDICTION: Over prescribing opiate pain killers and cheap available heroin are both problems government needs to address through better regulation of legal opiates and strong enforcement against drug dealers. But compassion and treatment for addicts — not prison — remains one of the most effective weapons. Fortunately, both are cheaper than prison. Services for addicts, including drug courts, need to be supported. I also look forward to learning more about the potential impact legal marijuana could have on reducing opiate addiction.
RENEWABLE ENERGY: The state continues to find the right balance between the rights of individual towns where solar or wind projects may be sited and those of the firms proposing them. Recent legislation giving towns a better “seat at the table” but not full veto power addresses this conflict well. Large renewable energy projects are important in solving global warming, and Vermont must do its part. Towns and their residents, however, deserve a strong voice in debating them.
AGRICULTURE: Agriculture is integral to Vermont culture, and must be encouraged and supported. Dairy farms — the vast majority of agriculture in Vermont — strive to be good stewards of the land, and they improve their practices constantly. I favor stronger support of manure-to-energy systems that provide steady baseload power, convert methane to much less dangerous greenhouse gases, and improve manure management to help water quality.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: The Addison-2 district of Cornwall, Leicester, Salisbury, Ripton, Goshen and Hancock, is rural. Many people commute long distances. Much of the district is part of the federal Green Mountain National Forest, which pays no taxes. The population of young people is on the decline. These issues and many others concerning our rural nature need to be remembered as the Legislature continues its work. Policies such as a carbon tax, where childcare funds are directed, walkable downtowns, etc. sometimes leave rural areas out. I hope to be a voice for those concerns.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: Yes, but not like Colorado.

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