Senate Candidate Christopher Bray Q & A
HEALTH CARE: In the past, we’ve had a purely private solution that’s left many millions of Americans without health care at all, and many others with only marginally affordable care. Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans system have been essential to providing care to many tens of millions of Americans. They should continue.
Vermont Health Connect is a computer system, not a health care program. It has been plagued with problems. We need professional project managers to lead on such complex projects. Meanwhile, let’s celebrate recent program changes that now provide health care to 94 percent of Vermonters.
SCHOOLS: In today’s job market, over 60 percent of positions require education beyond high school. To build a brighter future, we need to help more graduates go on to affordable additional training — in the form of technical training or 2-year or 4-year college.
Vermont already has programs to help high school students earn college credits at no cost, and, at UVM, 45 percent of Vermonters attend tuition-free. Even so, Vermont ranks near the bottom for level of state support to higher education. We need to rebuild that support to provide more grants and even lower cost loans where needed.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: With only modest state funding, our food, agriculture and energy programs have trained workers for a new and growing economy.
Through the Vermont Farm to Plate program that I started in 2009, Vermont has grown a more diverse and sustainable agriculture and food economy. For decades we were losing farms, now we are gaining. Since Farm to Plate began, we’ve added over 6,000 jobs and $100 million to our economy.
Our last two major energy bills, which I’ve led on in the Senate, have helped us save money through conservation and efficiency, reduce fossil fuel use and emissions, and create over 17,000 jobs — while giving towns a far greater voice in energy siting and planning. Our clean energy future is a great opportunity for jobs that keep our energy dollars in Vermont rather than send them out of state.
These programs provide sustainable economic development in our own long-term interest.
OPIATE ADDICTION: Opiate addiction is a disease, and we have two immediate needs to address it: more hospital beds in mental health units, and more recovery programs. Opiate addiction is also a symptom of other problems unique to each individual; these can include the lack of a good job, of family support, or secure food and housing.
The long-term answer to the opiate crisis includes both a compassionate and informed public health response and a community response that includes a stronger educational system and a stronger economy to reduce the incidence of opiate use.
RENEWABLE ENERGY: Numerous polls show that Vermonters strongly support the move to clean, renewable energy. This transformation of a century-old fossil-fuel-powered electrical system means that many of us are seeing, for the first time, local generation — typically solar arrays.
Prior law gave towns little control over energy projects. Act 174, just passed in June, provides towns with a far stronger voice in energy siting. This law is just getting started, and I am confident that towns will find it effective. Legislators must ensure it works as intended at the Public Service Board level.
AGRICULTURE: Addison County is the #1 agricultural county in Vermont and we’re still growing. This culture creates deep connections for all of us — from the beautiful open fields to a truly local economy creating cheese, milk, yogurt, ice cream, fruits, vegetables, meat, wine, cider, beer, and spirits.
Water is an irreplaceable resource held in public trust, and in 2015 I led the Senate in passing the Vermont Clean Water Act, whose motto was “Everybody In.” Communities and farmers alike have decades of work ahead, as we adopt water-improving practices that reduce run off and build healthy, stable soils that better hold nutrients.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: Equal Pay for Equal Work. It is a sad fact that now, more than 50 years after President Kennedy signed the Fair Pay Act into law, Vermont women earn, on average, 84 cents for each dollar that men earn.
I have been working on this issue and will introduce new legislation (1) to help us better understand, and legally document, these unfair practices, and (2) to require that all state monies flowing into loans, grants, and workforce training will come with a provision that recipients of such money must treat women and men equally in terms of pay and opportunity.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: One word? Depends … because of course my answer depends entirely upon what sort of bill is developed. My priority is public health and safety, and I will vote accordingly.