Senate Candidate Claire Ayer Q & A
HEALTH CARE: Nearly every economically developed country in the world provides healthcare to all of its citizens at much less cost per person and of quality higher than ours in the United States. We should be able to do that. While Vermont is not in a position to go it alone right now, we are working to contain the costs of healthcare and improve access to care in Vermont. Vermont learned from Vermont Health Connect that we don’t do well overseeing huge technology projects, especially when on short, mandated timeline.
SCHOOLS: Students need more opportunities for career explorations and preparation through vocational programs and apprenticeships. We need plumbers, electricians, and similar professions that pay good wages but don’t require college degrees.
Vermont ranks near the bottom for contributions to its state colleges and universities. Increasing state support would be a good start toward decreasing Vermont student borrowing. I would also revisit loan abatement programs for professionals needed in Vermont who agree to stay for a designated amount of time in certain career fields and locations.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: The problem I hear most often is that businesses can’t find employees to fill their needs. Worker training can be coordinated and cost-shared with employers to re-tool and recruit workers. As federal funds dry up, Vermont pays more for this. I’d explore an option for employers to cost share training with the state and for those who gain new jobs to pay a portion of their wages back to the state that goes directly to workforce training funds.
OPIATE ADDICTION: A large portion of addiction starts with legally prescribed drugs. Working with prescribers, we have just passed rules to place medically sensible guidelines on the amounts of drugs that should be initially prescribed for minor procedures. These do not apply to certain conditions and have built in safe guards for patients. The exploration and documentation of non-pharmaceutical pain relief measures is also built into the new bill in an effort to get ahead of addiction. If proven effective, they should be covered by insurance. We also need to recruit more providers to treat those already addicted.
RENEWABLE ENERGY: Vermont towns now have “substantial deference” in hearings at the public service board regarding energy production siting. Town and regional planning boards have received assistance in energy planning although I’ve heard from at least one town that the planning requirements are onerous. The legislature needs to monitor the on-the-ground results of these hearings and of requirements of energy planning as they occur to determine what and if more needs to be done.
AGRICULTURE: Vermont dairy operations produce a product for which there is a shrinking market and prices that don’t cover the farmers’ costs. State efforts should focus on value-added and Vermont branded dairy products to expand markets and on assistance in transitions to other sorts of agriculture. Technical assistance from the state should also reduce the amount of high phosphorus feed and fertilizer imported into Vermont.
For Vermont meat producers, qualified slaughterhouses are essential but scarce. We need to summarize and re-examine our efforts to date and look for alternatives to support new and existing facilities.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: One of the biggest obstacles to a robust workforce in Vermont is that many parents can’t afford to be in it. The parents of 80 percent of Addison County toddlers and infants are challenged to find high quality childcare at any price. After all the ordinary expenses of living, a parent still needs to spend an average of $12,000 per child each year for such care if they can find it. I will work to increase funding for childcare, including before and afterschool programs. It’s a high return investment in our economy from any perspective.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: I voted to legalize marijuana last session.