Add-4 Candidate Dave Sharpe Q & A
HEALTH CARE: Health care in America is the most convoluted mess one could imagine. I took a graduate course in health care policy at UVM in an effort to understand where we may go as a state. What we really need is universal health care for all Americans like Canada or France. What we might do as a state is move toward better health care by creating universal primary care. This might be affordable for taxpayers and reduce the overall cost of health care if we can get Vermonters the care they need before much more expensive care is required. The real challenge is reducing the cost of health care.
SCHOOLS: Our colleges need to continue to focus on reducing the real cost of college. We need to do a better job preparing our high school students to succeed in their studies after high school. We need to design co-op, intern, and apprenticeship programs where students learn and get paid at the same time. We must create efficient, accessible pathways for students to access the education they need to succeed. We must find ways to increase the state support of our public colleges and universities. And, we must find ways for students to complete their studies and get their diploma.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: There are many jobs available in Vermont right now. There are two problems: First, we are not providing the proper training for Vermont students to apply for the jobs that require higher skills, and secondly, wages are not high enough to keep or attract qualified people to stay or come to Vermont to apply for those jobs. We will need 300 plumbers in the next decade and we do not have apprentices in the pipeline to supply the need for this skilled profession or, in fact, for other skilled professions whose jobs cannot be exported out of the state or the country. We need to provide better pathways for students to get advanced training beyond high school, as well as increasing wages in Vermont. We must continue to repair and improve our infrastructure to support business activity. I believe we can accomplish this with no additional revenue.
OPIATE ADDICTION: We have moved toward limiting the number of opiate pills that can be prescribed, and we have put more resources in rehabilitation services. Both of these are good steps the Democratic legislature has enacted. In addition, we need a much broader approach to drug addiction. Our biggest successes have been with the reduction of tobacco smoking in Vermont and perhaps we should pursue drug addiction policies that use that model instead of the arrest and jail model that has not worked for the last 50 years. Incarceration does not address the root of the problem.
RENEWABLE ENERGY: The siting bill that passed the Democratic controlled legislature last spring is an excellent plan to have better siting of renewable energy facilities. We need to expand this to the siting of fossil fuel projects as well. The Public Service Board is charged with determining the public good for Vermont. The legislature must do a better job of defining what “in the public good” means. Industry development is, by its nature, charged with making money for its investors. Government regulation is needed to ensure balance between industrial profit and the public good.
AGRICULTURE: The fastest growing agricultural sector is organic farming. This is a perfect fit for Vermont and we need to make sure there are protections in place for its future growth. I am very concerned about the degradation of the soils by the scorched earth farming methods promoted by Monsanto and its sister companies. The use of best farming practices (including importing much less than the 40 tons of phosphorus that Vermont currently imports) is critical to a healthy agricultural system and improving the water quality on the surface and in the ground.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: The Democratic controlled legislature has made great strides in improving the lives and businesses of Vermonters since the great recession. According to the State Auditor, 7,900 businesses have started in Vermont since 2011, the median income is up, over 97 percent of Vermonters are covered by health insurance, and our unemployment rate is 3.2 percent. The Government Accountability Committee of which I was a member is forcing state government agencies to be more efficient by asking the question “Is anyone better off?” I will work hard to keep Vermont the best place to live, work, play, raise a family and retire.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: Yes