Add-5 Candidate Harvey Smith Q & A

HEALTH CARE: Government certainly has a role in health care both in regulation and programs that allow low income Vermonters to access appropriate health care services. Vermont Health Connect as an enrollment system has been a disaster and state government is responsible for fixing that. The policies that are available on VHC are dictated by federal and state law, and there is a range available with various services and price points but it’s the technology system that doesn’t work well. I do believe that the state could better examine what is driving up the costs of health care in an effort to make those policies more affordable and we should certainly be cautious about adding new programs that will increase the cost of health care.
SCHOOLS: Too many of our young people are leaving Vermont in search of better job opportunity and more affordable living costs. At the same time, many of our Vermont businesses, particularly in high tech, are finding it difficult to find people with skills and experience in science, technology, engineering, and math. The Vermont Futures Project estimates we must find as many as 11,000 people a year, to replace experienced workers who are retiring. The solution to these challenges lies in the cooperative efforts of business, schools, and government. We have a growing number of examples of how this can work, and upon which we can build for future success. One is GW Plastics, a Bethel manufacturer of health care plastic products, who is working with the Vocational Division of Randolph High School, and Vermont Tech, to create a pathway for Randolph students, upon graduation, to start working for GW Plastics, while at the same time going part time to Vermont Tech, with the result that they improve their skills, and advance their careers and income. This allows the graduating student to get a good job and GW Plastics to get the skilled workforce they require All done without accumulating unsustainable student debt. We should replicate this example throughout the state of Vermont.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: To promote job growth, we must understand the needs of our employers. The Vermont Futures Project has identified a workforce supply gap of nearly 11,000 new workers each year to meet the current and projected demand. While we need continual job creation for a healthy economy, we cannot neglect to recognize the other side of the equation that we need more workers and bigger talent pool for our employers. One piece of addressing this issue is strengthening the career ladder for those currently here through better and more efficient workforce training programs. The State should examine how they can partner with businesses to offer specialized training, as well as how they can directly connect with those willing to take advantage of more education and training. The demographics of our workforce are highly skewed over age 50 making this an issue we must address in the next fifteen years. Funding to address this issue should be prioritized from our existing revenue streams.
OPIATE ADDICTION: Opiate Addiction has most likely had some impact on most Vermont families, directly or indirectly. As I become more educated on opiate addiction I find that we need more education and awareness about the cause and the cure associated with addiction. We have some great resources in Addison county to help those in need of assistance but are lacking in some key areas. It’s my understanding that we only have two doctors in the county that provide medication-assisted treatments, not enough. We have some excellent mental health resources to assist those in need but most people do not see this as a mental health issue. We need recovery centers with peer-to-peer recovery support, it works. For those with addictions it is a life long journey to recovery, they need our support. I have spent some time with Bill Brim at the Turning Point Center. He is a great resource and would be willing to come talk to your group.
RENEWABLE ENERGY: Our towns deserve more of a say in the siting of solar and wind energy projects. The Legislation passed last year seems to say that the towns can participate in the approval process, but only if they agree pretty much to adopt the state plan. That doesn’t seem like true local control to me. I believe that the State Plan is tilted too far in favor of large developers of wind and solar, with too many exemptions that other businesses in other industries, do not have. So here’s an idea that I believe is worth pursuing. How about if we made the exemptions the same for all industries, energy or otherwise. This likely will mean stricter regulation of renewable energy, and more flexible regulation of other industries. That will create a more balanced regulation of all industries, and be better for growing the economy and creating energy both.
AGRICULTURE: I believe that Vermont agriculture has a very bright but challenging future.
We need to continue supporting the interest and growth in the buy local food movement, ag tourism, as well as our more traditional dairy sector. We need to start thinking in terms beyond the traditional production of food and fiber when looking at the future of agriculture. One example
The legislature passed the solid waste bill to help reduce the waste going into landfills. What now? Agriculture has the knowledge and expertise to change food waste into energy and soil amendments and generate income though tipping fees, the sale of electricity or gas plus the sale of soil amendments. With commodity prices currently very low an additional income stream would be greatly appreciably. This can all be done while improving water quality.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: Developing Legislation on any issue is not easy or simple. Most subjects are very complex and it takes a lot of research, education and public input to get it right. I take pride in the fact that I spend a great deal of time studying all issues that come before the legislature. I try to make a decision based on facts and science. I listen to both the pros and cons before I make a decision. There are no simple yes or no answers. Marijuana legislation is no exception.

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