Meet your 2018 Vermont House candidates
In an effort to help area voters get to know the local candidates for the Legislature and their stands on some important issues, the Addison Independent asked those running in contested elections for House seats to answer a short questionnaire.
Incumbent Democratic Reps. Amy Sheldon and Robin Scheu are running unopposed for the two seats in the Addison-1 House district, which encompasses Middlebury.
Incumbent Rep. Peter Conlon, a Democrat, is running unopposed for the one seat in the Addison-2 House district — which encompasses Cornwall, Goshen, Hancock, Leicester, Ripton and Salisbury.
In the Addison-3 House district — which has two seats representing the towns of Waltham, Panton, Ferrisburgh and Addison and the city of Vergennes — there are three candidates on the ballot: incumbent Democrat Diane Lanpher of Vergennes and incumbent Republican Warren Van Wyck of Ferrisburgh, plus Vergennes Democrat Matt Birong.
Incumbent Republican Fred Baser of Bristol is running for re-election in the two-seat Addison-4 district of Bristol, Lincoln, Monkton and Starksboro. He faces Republican Valerie Mullin of Monkton, Progressive/Democrat Mari Cordes of Lincoln and Democrat Caleb Elder of Starksboro.
The candidate running for the one seat in the Addison-5 House district — which represents Bridport, New Haven and Weybridge — is incumbent Republican Rep. Harvey Smith of New Haven.
There is a race in the Addison-Rutland-1 district of Shoreham, Orwell, Whiting and Benson, with Independent incumbent Rep. Terry Norris facing Democratic challenger Barb Wilson — both are Shoreham residents.
The following questions, along with a requested word limit, were asked of each local candidate. The questions are not repeated in the context of each candidate’s response, but are recalled by subject at the beginning of each answer.
Election Day is Nov. 6.
1) Agriculture: Dairy farms are in crisis; with low milk prices, high supply and not enough demand, Vermont is losing dairy farms. Any efforts Vermont makes to help our local farmers is done with the federal agriculture support system as a backdrop. What measures to help Vermont’s dairy farms would you propose if you’re elected? (150 words)
2) Water quality: The state Legislature has taken up the EPA’s offer to Vermont to come up with its own plan to clean up the Lake Champlain water basin before the feds impose their own solution on the state. What would you do to help farmers further address the phosphorus coming off their farms, and how would you address run-off from cities and municipal water treatment plants? How would you pay for your plans? (150 words)
3) Climate change: Do you support efforts to get 90 percent of Vermont’s energy from renewable sources by 2050? What measures do you see as appropriate to encourage Vermonters to reduce their carbon consumption? If you do not support the need to reduce carbon consumption, explain why. (150 words)
4) Education: What specific measures would you propose to get the best value out of our educational dollars? Would you seek to reduce total education spending as Vermont’s student population declines? Does Act 46 help contain education costs and improve educational opportunities for the smallest schools? (150 words)
5) Young families: Vermont has a shortage of early childcare providers (infants to 3 years old) that is placing a huge burden on young families. How do you propose to address this problem? Should the state establish its own early education programs? (100 words)
6) Affordability: Finding health care insurance and housing that average people can afford are important drivers for people determining whether to live in Vermont or start a business here. As a lawmaker, what measures would you propose to help make housing and health care insurance more affordable? (100 words)
7) CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: Comment on the topic of your choice. (100 words)
Fred Baser, Addison-4
AGRICULTURE: What are some steps to consider in making for better economic outcomes for our agricultural community?
a. Working closely with our Federal Legislative Delegation to address milk pricing
b. Make sure our farms have access to 3-stage power lines which are necessary for powering digesters (manure to electricity equipment) and robotics for milking.
c. Minimize fees assessed by the Department of Environmental Conservation for farm water quality issues.
d. Balance water quality regulations with farms financial abilities to meet these regulations and provide funding to assist compliance
e. Encourage agricultural diversification
f. If the minimum wage is accelerated, consider the impact on farms that employ workers (many provide housing) and develop an alternative wage schedule
g. Assist farmers with succession planning as farm families, along with the rest of our workforce, ages.
WATER QUALITY: Impervious surfaces cover a lot of space in many large communities. Municipal water treatment facilities need modernization. Some Chittenden County towns and cities have created Storm Water Utilities to develop funding and manage their community run off. Encouragement of these Utilities on a statewide basis (i.e. Regional Planning Commissions) would be one way we could manage impervious surface runoff.
The Federal Government and the State are making favorable loan programs available to assist communities to modernize their water treatment facilities. We need to continue to fund this resource.
Act 64, the Clean Water Act, spells out the practices the agricultural community must adhere to to mitigate unwanted runoff in our waterways. The legislature has fully funded the Act 64 through FY 2020. There is a 90%-10% funding split to assist phosphorous mitigation production projects and a 50%-50% funding split available on non-production projects. Many farms are adding practices like winter cover crops, manure injection, no-till practices, and buffers to reduce phosphorous pollution and improve soil quality. Maintaining funding and education on these positive agricultural practices is vital.
CLIMATE CHANGE: I support efforts to meet the renewable goals set for 2050. Three areas to focus on are electricity generation, home heating and transportation.
Financial incentives for renewable power generation have allowed us to make great strides towards the goal. This is the most promising sector and incentives should continue.
We have incentives for homeowners to purchase heat pumps. And we have home weatherization programs like Energy Efficiency Vermont, the Heat Squad and CVOEO to tighten up our homes. Accelerating home weatherization, especially for homeowners of modest means, with grants and low-cost loan programs, will save Vermonters money and reduce reliance on heating oil.
In transportation, we have federal tax credits to purchase electric cars. The state will begin a grant program for the creation of electric vehicle charging stations next month. Educating Vermonters and encouraging them to take advantage of all the offerings is critical.
EDUCATION: Many feel that the state, not communities, is responsible for public education. I do not feel that way. Our local School Boards and educators hold the keys for good education and getting the “best value” from our education dollars.
One effort that Montpelier can make is modifying the education funding formula. Vermonters know their property taxes fund education but ask them to equate their school budget vote with how their taxes are impacted and their eyes glaze over. The Ways and Means Committee has tried to modify the formula. One thought is creating an income tax for education funding and reducing property taxes by what is raised.
Act 46 was never touted as a near-term cost reduction measure. The hope is for better education outcomes and long-term efficiencies. It would be beneficial if education budgets decreased as enrollment decreased but that’s easier said than done.
YOUNG FAMILIES: Child/infant care is important for giving new parents the flexibility to work. It is also important for workforce development. I have two ideas to bolster infant childcare. One, pass a Paid Family Leave bill. This would give new parents several months after childbirth (3 months as considered) to care for their child. Second is to encourage employers to establish or increase day care operations for employees.
According to our district’s Early Childhood Education coordinator we are doing a great job of providing Early Childhood Education to the children in Addison County. I feel continued local control of Early Education, with state funding assistance, is a preferable way to go.
AFFORDABILITY: For more affordable housing, minimize regulations and permit requirements. This can be done without sacrificing environmental integrity. Encourage the formation of city, town, village centers that qualify for relief from Act 250. Encourage Private/Public Affordable Housing building projects.
Twice in recent memory state leaders have scrapped a Vermont Universal Health Insurance plan. The cost to Vermonters and the risk of doing this alone were two major reasons things did not move forward. Cost controls would be best achieved on a national level. There is no quick fix to this conundrum.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: Making changes to the way we pay for public education is one of my priorities for the new biennium. The concept is adding an income tax feature to Education funding and reducing property taxes by what is raised by the income tax. The goal will be to make Education funding more transparent and as fair as possible. It will also be my goal to keep funding decisions local.
Matt Birong, Addison-3
AGRICULTURE: Vermont’s dairy farming industry is an important thread in the fabric of our state. However, the growth of mass production and corporate farming, coupled with the decline of dairy consumption has created a crisis of oversupply. Vermont’s family dairy farmers deserve to be paid fairly for the products they produce to nourish our families. I believe we have an opportunity in Vermont to invest in sustainable farming practices and to help family farmers diversify their production. In Vermont, we have the opportunity to support transitional farming. It’s time we start looking toward the future and doing a better job managing production to meet market demands. In the same way I worked with the Secretary of State’s office to develop a small business support portal, we should work to develop a resource for family farmers who are working to diversify and develop sustainable farming practices.
WATER QUALITY: We must invest in responsible agriculture, and that means supporting farmers as they invest in more sustainable practices to protect one of our most precious resources: water. This is going to be hard work and require a lot of time and resources, but if we don’t take the time to work on this now, it will be too late. Healthy waters underpin our tourism and recreation economies, thriving businesses, our favorite paddling, swimming, and fishing holes, and safe drinking water. We must work with individual cities and municipalities to get run-off under control and increase capacities of wastewater treatment where needed. I support establishing a publicly accountable Clean Water Authority to set budgets, collect revenue, and get money on the ground for prioritized clean water projects across the state. I will also work to establish a long-term, dedicated funding source to make a permanent investment in our water quality across the state.
CLIMATE CHANGE: The technology for renewable energy is there, and we ought to be using it. We can start by thinking locally, 100 percent of the fossil fuels we use for transportation and heating are imported, which means all money spent on this energy source is leaving our state. By investing in renewable energies to power our grids, including wind and solar, we can keep more dollars in our local economy. As a largely rural state, many of us rely on cars for transportation. I support holding car manufacturers retailing in our state to even higher clean emissions standards. Car manufacturers can afford to make these upgrades, but no one is holding them accountable. We should use funding from the Volkswagen settlement to spur a renewable transportation initiative.
EDUCATION: It’s been nearly two decades since Vermont rethought how we fund our schools. It’s time to find a new solution that upholds our support for great public schools, with local accountability and with all Vermonters contributing their fair share, including the wealthiest. Strong public schools are the best investment we can make in our future generations. Act 46 has not delivered on its promises and has left some of our most vulnerable students in an even worse position. We need to think about how to use resources most effectively, but we must also be thinking about early care and learning as well as post-secondary opportunities.
YOUNG FAMILIES: We need to stop thinking about education in such a segmented fashion. Every moment of a child or young person’s life is an opportunity for learning – we need to take each stage and step seriously. We can start by increasing access to high quality and affordable childcare and expanding access to pre-kindergarten for every child. We need a paid family and medical leave insurance program so parents can afford to stay home with their children in those critical first weeks. We need to ensure that quality childcare is available and accessible to all Vermont families.
AFFORDABILITY: Healthy communities start with access to health care, but it doesn’t end there. I support publicly financed health care, because I believe that no matter who you are or where you work, you should have access to the care you need but this conversation will be more viable at the national level. As a small business owner, I know how much of a barrier the lack of access creates for so many who might seek employment with Vermont’s local small employers and those who would boost our economy by setting out on their own to start a small business. I also support reforming Act 250 to increase development of workforce housing.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: I entered this race because I believe there is more that could be done to elevate the voices of Vermont’s small business economy. For the past few years, I have been working to make sure the voices of my fellow small businesses and employees were being registered in Montpelier. We are lucky to have a true citizen legislature here in Vermont, and if elected, I will continue to be the voice of my neighbors, employees and fellow business owners.
Mari Cordes, Addison-4
AGRICULTURE: Vermont’s ag future will depend on supporting diversification, smaller operations, and regenerative farming practices.
We can help by following the lead of farmers/food producers with support for the following:
• Whether in the dairy business or transitioning out, keep ag development centered in local and state community.
• Farm to table, Farm to school, Farm to hospital/clinic (e.g. ACORN HealthCare Shares)
• Access to capital
• Develop Vermont-based infrastructure production/marketing/distribution
° Example: Center for Agricultural Economy
• Shared resources/equipment for commercial food processing
• Workforce training
• Community revolving loan funds
° Broadband/high speed internet
° Protect and support migrant farming population and the organizations that support them
° Education on regenerative farming practices and other tech ed
• VEGI (Vermont Employment Growth Incentive)
° Make it transparent
° Direct the dollars to small businesses, not Dr. Pepper and Anheuser-Busch
• Develop regional food systems plan
WATER QUALITY: The 2017 Clean Water Report outlines comprehensive short and long term methodology and revenue streams for water clean up. This report was the result of many hours of work from experts and stakeholders. This report should therefore be foundational in how we move forward with clean water initiatives. At a minimum, it must be a shared responsibility between private and public sector, and municipalities, and should be approached with a combination of incentives and disincentives. Municipal and private development must include fees for wastewater and storm runoff management. There are many possible revenue sources, of which the following are just a few: optional line item on state income tax, surcharge on property transfers, parcel fees, large development fees, loan forgiveness and other incentives for ag sector, and utilization of biodigesters to process manure to create energy. User fees for recreational areas are a possibility, with income sensitivity planned in.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Yes. Here’s how:
Raise conservation awareness.
Incentivize reduction of single occupancy vehicle travel.
Equitable access to broadband.
Prioritize low income housing energy audits/weatherization.
End new fossil fuel infrastructure.
Focus development into community centers to reduce need to travel.
Teach regenerative farming: keep carbon in soil.
Develop local/regional (REMI) renewable energy projects, ensure regulation for community energy projects meet goals without creating impassable barriers.
Grants/low interest loan programs for home/community renewable projects.
Budgets are statements of priorities. $600 heating bill from rising fossil fuel cost is regressive. Cut taxes elsewhere, put a price on carbon pollution, shift revenues to invest in equitable comprehensive energy efficiency. Shift resources from fossil fuels that export millions of dollars out of state, to renewables jobs, dividends to individuals, electric bill and EV subsidies/rebates. Well-designed carbon pricing that protects the vulnerable (elderly, low income) has nearly unanimous support by economists.
EDUCATION: We are already getting great value out of education dollars, and Vermont has high education quality ratings. The cost of health insurance is what is driving up the cost of education. We must create a publicly financed health care system.
We can share school space to provide other services such as health, dental and social services, meanwhile more deeply integrating our communities, and support internships with state colleges and local businesses/trades people.
Act 46 itself points to a larger problem – how we fund public education in Vermont. It remains to be seen if it will create equity. The cost savings from consolidation are mostly one time savings.
We need a progressive tax system where everyone pays their fair share. We need to reduce administration [top-heaviness] and focus our resources at the school level, where education professionals know best what our children need.
YOUNG FAMILIES: Most early education professionals are women, with low wages, high turnover and inadequate training opportunities. Because childrearing and childcare most often fall on the shoulders of women, policies concerning childcare services are of paramount concern to women. And women are far more likely put their careers on hold to stay home with the kids when affordable, quality childcare is not available.
Development is most rapid in the earliest ages. Investing in our children is investing in all of our futures — in a stronger economy through increased labor force participation and disposable income, in gender equality, and better long term health outcomes.
• Eliminate the Child Care Financial Assistance Program (CCFAP) funding gap.
• Address shortage of early educators by adequately funding workforce education and training programs that meet state quality and regulation requirements.
• Support the great policy work already being done by education professionals in Addison County.
• Pass Family Leave legislation.
AFFORDABILITY: As a nurse, I know people are sicker and care much costlier with financial barriers to health care. We need a health care system that decouples health care from employment. We should partner with other states working toward a universal publicly financed system. I support Universal Primary Care as a step toward this system.
We must work to eliminate poverty and spur economic growth with dignified, livable wages.
High development costs favor high rent development – through bonds and other assistance with the regulatory process, developers would have more incentive to build affordable housing. Zoning should support multi-family dwellings and co-housing.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: It’s time for all of us to come together. For Vermont to work best, we must invest in people, and our natural resources. A budget is a statement of priorities, and a moral and social commitment we make with one another for universal access to education, health care, jobs, healthy food, and affordable housing. It’s exactly those commitments—those investments—that produce wealth in our communities for everyone, not just a few.
It’s also time for us to stop saying “we can’t” – multiple crises demand that we not delay. With visionary, inclusive and principled leadership, we can solve seemingly inconceivable challenges.
Caleb Elder, Addison-4
AGRICULTURE: We need a better financial backstop for farmers when liquid milk prices plummet. The sustained low prices over the past several years have already forced many farms to close. It doesn’t appear that a new Farm Bill, which might contain help for the dairy industry nationwide, is anywhere close to passage in Washington, D.C.. The federal insurance program designed to protect against extremely low milk prices provides some protection for farmers, and the State of Vermont is currently helping to subsidize payments for the associated premiums. I think this type of support is appropriate and should continue in the short term. But in the longer term, we have to find creative ways to help farmers add new revenue and value streams. I believe there is more potential for profitable farm methane projects, and I am impressed with the progress that has already taken place with on farm energy generation.
WATER QUALITY: The passage of Act 64 in 2015 was an important first step: a plan to clean up Vermont’s waters. Three years later it appears progress is being made, specifically in the implementation of new farm, forest and road management practices. It is critical over the next few years to determine whether incremental phosphorus reductions, anticipated under the law, are being achieved.
Identifying new revenue streams for the Vermont Clean Water Fund is a vitally important challenge right now. A 2-year diversion of money from the general fund is going to end, and the state treasurer projects that the cost to clean up the lake over the next 20 years is $1 billion. As a legislator I would be willing to consider parcel fees (as previously proposed), recreational or commercial use fees, as well as outside-the-box concepts such as a lake-floor transmission line or phosphorus extraction and removal.
CLIMATE CHANGE: We need to transition our energy use away from fossil fuels, and quickly! That means we should continue investing in local energy sources such as solar, biogas, wind and wood. We have cultivated a vibrant solar industry in Vermont over the past decade, in part through streamlined regulation and permitting, but it requires continued support. Addressing traditional electric loads alone isn’t enough, so we’ll continue electrifying our heating and transportation sectors. Existing efficiency and energy conservation efforts are hugely important for homeowners and businesses and should be expanded. This can also boost our local building economy. Energy renovation in an older home can make it possible to use electric heating, which can be powered in turn by renewables. We can reduce our transportation energy usage by increasing remote work opportunities statewide, and by recategorizing certain roads to better serve low speed electric vehicles, bike commuters and pedestrians.
EDUCATION: We already have good schools and get a great value for our education spending in many ways. Of course there is need for improvement, but I think it’s important to recognize how much local schools offer students and families. There’s no denying our school budgets are strained by the reality of declining enrollments, but this downward trend won’t continue forever. I think it’s possible we’ll see school populations rebound in the not-too-distant future, but for now we are adapting to the needs of a smaller student population.
Act 46 provides an opportunity for consolidation of services and administrative costs, and some merged districts are already seeing the advantages of these changes. Even with consolidated administration, schools still need the commitment of their local communities to provide funding and support. We need to make sure that district mergers don’t result in a loss of this local identity and strength.
YOUNG FAMILIES: The scarcity and high cost of childcare stand in perplexing opposition to the low wages and low profitability experienced by those working at or operating such businesses in Vermont. You’d think that with the demand, competitive options would emerge to serve the need but with childcare this does not appear to be happening often or quickly enough.
We should work with childcare providers to understand the barriers to expansion in Vermont. I would also like to explore the possibility of a tax credit for childcare spending as a way to lessen costs for parents and stimulate the local childcare economy.
AFFORDABILITY: I support efforts to pass a universal primary care bill. This would bring all Vermonters into one pool of primary care recipients, many of whom would experience improved access to primary care at a lower cost. Additionally, a single payer for primary care might encourage more providers to operate in Vermont.
Affordable housing is a challenge in Vermont, particularly due to a lack of supply. I would like to see a streamlined development process for affordable housing projects, so long as they meet certain standards of energy performance and price. We need to attract private investment for local affordable housing.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: I would like to address the topic of partisanship, since it has been on my mind throughout this election. First off, I’ll acknowledge that political parties can be responsible, useful actors within our legislative and electoral process. They help to accumulate disparate voices and broadly shared values into concrete policy goals. Parties can also be divisive, particularly when the goals of opposing platforms appear to be mutually exclusive. For me, it’s about reasonable expectations. An ideal can serve as a north star during negotiations, but if we can’t bridge the gap between our ideal and its opposite, our democracy falters.
Diane Lanpher, Addison-3
AGRICULTURE: Vermont has a robust farming industry and I have been a supporter of advancing the agricultural products that enrich our Vermont brand globally. It is important to invest in what is working well: Working Lands grants, Farm to School, Farm to Plate, and Farm scholarships. The tremendous growth within the cheese and meat industries requires additional inspectors in order to keep up with the growth. This is work for next session.
The dairy industry has suffered from a combination of difficult issues and has received the attention of both the federal and state government. In the 2019 state budget the Legislature recognized the financial needs of Vermont’s dairy industry and allocated one-time dollars to provide interest buy-down assistance on dairy farmer VEDA loans. Additional one-time dollars were allocated in the state budget to help dairy farmers with their 2018 premium insurance assistance payments under the new federal Margin Protection Program.
WATER QUALITY: The Legislature and Vermont agencies are working to assist in coordination of millions of dollars devoted to hundreds of clean water projects ranging from sewer or treatment plant upgrades to roadside ditching, crop land set asides, stream buffer easements or farmyard drainage projects. For decades the waters of Vermont have slowly degraded. It will take decades to reverse that trend. Currently bonded dollars (credit card) have been the bulk of the funds allocated for these projects. The agencies, along with the farming industry and local municipalities are all working to advance the EPA mandates. It is now up to the Legislature and the Governor who must act and pass a long-term funding source for these required projects. The Clean Water Report required by Act 64 of 2015 is a very good starting point for consideration. Clean Water is a necessity and must be achieved.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Vermonters have a long history of desired independence and self-determination, which is why as a state together we have supported renewable energy goals. I have supported the goals found in Vermont’s Comprehensive Energy Plan and currently support the work of the Governor’s VT Climate Action Commission. All five of their recommendations in the 2019 budget are supported: wood heat, weatherization, study decarbonization mechanisms, support for climate economy and assistance with electrifying the transportation system.
This month a UN climate panel, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released their report on the impacts of global warming. Their call is for unprecedented action within the next 12 years. Climate change is occurring and it is going to take action by everyone, and your state government must respond with action. Incentives along with deterrents must be a part of the solutions. We must evolve with the changing times and meet our climate challenges.
EDUCATION: Throughout the past decade I have been a part of supporting and directing significant changes to Vermont’s education system from Montpelier. Act 46 has now resulted in 2/3 of Vermont districts consolidating and our district has benefited from the maximum allowable tax credits. Local school boards have made all the difference. Additional structural shifts occurred in 2018 with the passage of (H.897) which changes how Special Education is funded. Provisions over the next five years will ultimately improve services and save money. Goal is to provide more flexibility in how money and services are targeted, reduce paperwork and reporting requirements, and offer professional support and training. Financial changes start in 2019 with 100 percent of Sales & Use tax and 25 percent of Meals & Rooms tax now dedicated to education. Looking into the future, I believe our County just might be ready to discuss the benefits of a single county district.
YOUNG FAMILIES: The stress on today’s families is enormous and they are under pressure from almost every direction. Nothing is more important to a family then their children. I have supported and will continue to support investments into our childcare programs, with my voice on the budget committee and as chair of the Advisory Council on Child Poverty and Strengthening Families. I actively engage with research groups, state agencies whom oversee the early education programs, and make legislative recommendations www.letsgrowkids.org/stalled-start. The 2016 recommendations found within the Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care, here Legislators can find direction. buildingbrightfutures.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/VT-BRC-Final-Report-1.pdf.
AFFORDABILITY: The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board with additional partners came together and built twelve VERMOD homes in Waltham, with the latest in energy efficiency, each has its own solar array and smart backup power. During a power outage the system can continue to power homes from batteries by automatically disconnecting the home from the grid. This is the kind of innovation that changes the housing costs for all Vermonters and I am proud to have supported housing investments.
Holding Health Care insurance costs affordable against diminishing federal supports is a fiscal focus with a promise to protect the most vulnerable.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: I am committed to the people living in Addison-3. I am also committed to Vermont, and bring a positive position that balances the desires of the people with responsible financial choices. It is a pleasure to work for you and to be a part of your closest personal issues. I pledge to continue to show up ready, willing to engage, and listen on your behalf. Together we will construct our future and it will be as bright as we build it.
I am honored to be your Representative and ask for your continued support this election. Thank you. [email protected].
Valerie Mullin, Addison-4
AGRICULTURE: The fact that out of state dairy products are able to be sold in Vermont at a lower cost, even with transportation cost, shows other states have a lower cost of doing business. Vermont Farmers face high taxes, regulations and are challenged to find workers. Nationally, immigration reform would make it easier for work visas for workers on farms without fear of deportation. I’d support federal and state trade efforts and assist farms with best practice standards while encouraging cost effective pollution control efforts. With Canada’s market opening to dairy products, hopefully Vermont can benefit.
Having lived on a dairy farm I know how hard farmers work and not being able to make a profit is the death of not just our dairy farms but the death of a way of life our state’s history was built upon. We should make every effort to support farming of all types.
WATER QUALITY: I see as a priority, true cooperation with the state of New York regarding the cleaning of the lake. Whether the lake receives paper mill pollutants from Ticonderoga Paper mill or municipal sewage from our own towns and cities, our lake waters are suffering. Farmers also want clean water and most are currently working with the state for best practice. Expanding cover crops where ever possible can be a good environmental approach to help control runoff. I’d like to see farmers assisted with cost effective ways to meet water quality standards and pollution control systems.
Municipal water treatment should be a top priority and towns must face this reality. I realize it’s a multi-level project as pipes which feed the plants are also antiquated in many cases.
CLIMATE CHANGE: I support efforts to have Vermont’s energy come from renewable sources however that energy must be efficient, reliable and economical. I support efforts to stay vigilant regarding all new forms of energy production as technology is constantly improving. I’m a strong supporter of energy conservation and efficiency. Proudly, Vermont emissions are the lowest in the nation, except for the District of Columbia. Technology in heating sources, electric usage and car mileage are better every year and having a clean environment is a goal I think every Vermonter cares about. I do not however support a carbon tax. Vermonters are already struggling financially and with our district being especially rural, it will hurt us more than those who live close to jobs and activities.
EDUCATION: Too often heavy handed superintendents are imposing mandates onto teachers rather than working with them. I’d like to merge paperwork and administration efforts statewide. The experience of most school district consolidations shows that “increased efficiencies” are illusory. Salaries and benefits are generally leveled up to the most generous contract with increased transportation costs. Maine’s experience with consolidation shows virtually no savings over ten years. In Vermont, schools that could consolidate with benefits have done so. Even if we have zero increase in budgets, our taxes will rise as our merger financial incentives are lowered until they’re gone. It’s time to hit the pause button, collect data state-wide on outcomes and efficiencies and get a better understanding of actual costs vs. benefits before we force more mergers of communities who see damage resulting from a merger. We’ve already taken $31 million from the Ed. Fund to pay for this. That’s enough.
YOUNG FAMILIES: Part of Vermont’s shortage of childcare providers has been caused by the impositions of state mandates and regulations on provider’s activities, making them either too costly or too complex to run their operations. Many providers simply left the field. Current providers are working with less than optimum adult/child ratios. The state subsidizes childcare to parents who don’t work. This lack of accountability decreases the availability of services to working parents driving up cost. I’d rather see these subsidies go to offset cost of parents who work. Education taxes are already too high so I don’t support added tax payer funded programs.
AFFORDABILITY: Being able to purchase insurance across state lines, subsiding rates for pre-existing conditions and making UVMMC give the millions they over charged Vermonters back to us in reduced rates can rein in cost. Even though there was a surplus, Montpelier still raised taxes on non-residential property. It wasn’t just “the rich” who were impacted, it impacted businesses that had less to pay employees and landlords who needed to raise rents just to stay even. Montpelier’s appetite for spending needs to be controlled to bring affordability back to our state while stabilizing business costs to then attract more into our state.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: I’m a 7th generation Vermonter, graduate of Mt. Abraham, wife of a career firefighter and local first responder, Mother of three, all have left the state due to Vermont’s lack of affordability lack of good paying jobs. My husband saves people, I save dogs through my rescue work and I own a small business. I have met Vermonters of all means and listen to their stories. If elected I will be an independent voice with common sense solutions to quality schools and health care. I will work to offer volunteer first responders incentives to offset some the cost to serve communities. I will strive to create an animal abuse registry. I will to keep budgets and regulations that will create an affordable Vermont. I also call on Addison representatives, from all parties to meet on a regular basis, drop our affiliation at the door to work on projects and funding options which further the benefit of our county, the people of our district deserve this.
Terry Norris, Addison-Rutland
AGRICULTURE: The stress of dairy farming today is like never before. Going into a five year low of below cost of production price has put dairy farmers near the breaking point. Much has to be done at the federal level, Senator Sanders has proposed a diversion program to help with the immediate crisis but for the long run the time is now for a “base excess plan”. This quota system has been discussed in the past but I think farmers know that the time is now for this to happen. Again this has to happen on the federal level to work. We have discussed this on the House Ag & Forestry Committee and found little that we could do at the state level, Margin Protection Program premiums and reconvening the Milk Commission to find some answers but sadly there is just more milk produced than consumed.
WATER QUALITY: I have served on the Ag & Forestry Committee the past biennium and have heard and witnessed the many ways our hard working farmers have addressed the runoff from their fields. Champlain Valley Farmers Coalition has been on the forefront to educate and monitor their member farmers. The use of no-till planting and cover crops as well as manure injection is a big step in the right direction. I believe it is time for our cities to step up and do their part. I am encouraged that Burlington has that on the ballot in November. The closing of the beaches is not from manure runoff. I would be interested to see how the per parcel fee is worded before I could support it. At some point a permanent way of funding will need to be found.
CLIMATE CHANGE: 90 percent by 2050 is a lofty goal but one to reach for. In the Ag & Forestry Committee we looked for many ways to use wood chips for heating. Wood chips are used to heat over 40 public schools around the state, 4 college campuses, 2 state office complexes, and 5 other state facilities. Among these are the state capital complex and several municipal buildings in downtown Montpelier. In addition, wood pellet fuel is used in 10 schools, 14 multi-family housing complexes, and 2 state buildings. Biomass energy is a renewable source. With the increase in solar energy we need to have better ways to store that energy for use in non generating hours. The use of electric cars is on the rise but may not be practical for everyone.
EDUCATION: I support Act 46 as a way to contain the cost of education and just as important to offer our children educational opportunities some of the smaller schools are unable to offer. Act 46 will take five years to determine how it is working and may need some changes in the future to see the benefits. There will be some schools that see more benefits than others. I think we need to accept the fact that our school population is decreasing and our cost of education is too high to sustain.
YOUNG FAMILIES: With some of our schools with vacant classrooms, it may be time to look into adding early education and care to the school system. It won’t work for every town but the possibilities are there. If we are going to keep our young families in our rural towns and keep offering them a vibrant place to live and raise their families, we need affordable care. Regulations for in-home child care are strict and result in very few openings.
AFFORDABILITY: OneCare Vermont is our current ACO, dedicated to improved health, higher quality, lower cost increases and greater coordination of care for all. This will take time to see if it results in lower insurance premiums. If Vermont hopes to bring business to our state we need to be more business friendly, currently we are known as one of the least friendly states. I believe we need to control spending at the state level to give people more of their wages to invest in their homes.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: A few ideas that I feel are important for our state if we are to keep and encourage young families to live here. Affordable and available early education and care, vocational/apprentice education centers, cellular infrastructure upgrades, affordable healthcare and holding the line on taxes. I will consider a $15 minimum wage and Paid Family Leave but I would oppose a Carbon Tax that would be a real burden on rural towns.
Warren Van Wyck, Addison-3
AGRICULTURE: Dairy farmers in Vermont are in a challenging period and Vermont must help them be competitive. I have already proposed legislation that would avoid expenses and delays due to Act 250 in extending three phase power to farms — required for robotic milkers and methane digestors. I will propose legislation to exempt farms from the Energy Efficiency Charge (tax) that costs them thousands of dollars a year. Farmers have busy work schedules, and I will advocate that state inspectors schedule with the farmers a mutually agreeable time to visit rather than disrupting a farmer’s work day. I would work to strengthen ‘Right to Farm’ laws so that farmers would not be subject to virtual harassment by anyone who does not like certain agricultural activities — like spreading manure. The scenic beauty of Vermont is inextricably related to the working landscape that is maintained by dairy farmers — they should be thanked for this.
WATER QUALITY: The water quality of Lake Champlain is affected by farm field runoff, city sewage discharge and overflows, urban runoff, road runoff, forest runoff, and riverbank erosion. However, the biggest finger has been pointed at farms. Farmers have changed practices in order to reduce runoff, including low or no-tillage (the field is not plowed), planting cover crops over the winter to reduced erosion, injecting the manure for fertilizer instead of spreading on top of field, and not applying manure throughout the winter — the last two are still allowed across the lake. The sewage plants of the cities of Burlington and Rutland, the largest in the state, have routine overflows of partially treated or untreated sewage. The city of Burlington has proposed a $30 million bond to improve their infrastructure. Other cities should make similar commitments. The residents of rural Vermont cannot afford to pay for Burlington’s problems.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Vermont has a very small carbon footprint. For years, the annual INCREASE in China’s carbon output has exceeded Vermont’s annual TOTAL output. The state’s already ambitious goals have increased the cost of electricity in Vermont for most ratepayers, who subsidize others that benefit. Poorer Vermonters pay disproportionately more due to this cost shifting. New England as a region has the highest electric rates and when you add Vermont’s electric Energy Efficiency Charge (EEC) on top of it, Vermont has among the highest rates in the country. Many Vermont businesses cannot effectively compete with such high rates. A 90 percent renewable goal with present technology and economics would spell economic ruin for large sectors of Vermont’s economy since it would drive the cost of electricity up even further. Vermont cannot afford to lose overall for the gain of a few.
EDUCATION: Despite the steep decline in student population, the cost of K — 12 education continues to increase. Vermont ought to bring its student-to-teacher ratio down closer to other states, that also provide a quality education. Vermont also has among the highest per pupil spending in the country. Recent legislation on Special Education costs might help lower the cost per pupil.
Though carrots (tax reductions) for early adopters (Act 46 mergers) provided temporary, local reduction, I doubt Act 46 overall produced real savings. Act 46 did undermine local control without clear benefit in the education of students. I’d prefer the consolidation of supervision unions in order to reduce staff and costs.
Given the vast resources on the Internet, students in small schools could have additional learning opportunities. Smaller schools should be encouraged to partner with other schools to share resources. I do not favor young children being bussed 90 minutes a day to consolidated schools.
YOUNG FAMILIES: The state should have basic standards for day-care providers in order to have informed choices for parents seeking care for their children and for the protection of children. However, overregulation has forced many day-care providers out of the market, which has caused a greater shortage. Many families prefer that a parent stay at home with their young children. I do not support further taxation that would make that unaffordable for such families. I do not support government run child-care — yet another government bureaucracy. Private, local providers should be encouraged to continue their caring services.
AFFORDABILITY: Affordability is a concern for local employers when recruiting people to the area. They cannot afford to pay premium wages just to work in Vermont. Local employers have told me this concern for years. States with a larger selection of insurers typically have lower health insurance costs. I favor legislation that opens up the market place. Many houses in the area could be renovated for rental to provide affordable housing, however, the cost of compliance to some building code requirements make this cost prohibitive. Costs and benefits must be balanced.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: None of above concerns can be dealt with unless there is public safety for residents and visitors to live, work, and travel. Essential components of public safety are Vermont’s court system, State’s Attorney offices, and the correctional system. There are serious funding shortfalls in some of these that must be addressed. Major drug dealers must be handled more severely — the current ‘catch-and-release’ method is too lenient. Our dedicated state troopers, sheriffs and deputies, and local police officers along with fire and rescue personnel must have our full support in order to achieve any other goals.
Barb Wilson, Addison-Rutland
AGRICULTURE: Having grown up on a small dairy farm in Michigan, I know that dairy farming is a way of life, a passion. The current milk prices are an artifact of the large-surplus of milk across the country. Though there are far fewer dairy farms according to the USDA, the production of milk is at its highest levels. Production is up 13 percent from 10 years ago. At the national level, we must work on a fair milk quota system, that prevents the market from being flooded beyond demand. In the meantime, we must provide support to our Vermont dairy farmers, without requiring them to go further into debt. Educate the public that drinking locally sourced milk matters. Ensure that our food assistance programs use local dairy products. And, streamline regulations across federal, state and organic jurisdictions so that farmers are not forced to go through often redundant inspections and management plans.
We must start thinking outside the box for solutions that are sustainable and have the potential of paying for themselves. Phosphorus is in limited supply. It would be a valuable product if we can capture it in an ecofriendly cost-efficient matter. Germany is already commercializing a BioEcoSIM process for eco-friendly treatment of liquid manure and municipal waste water runoff. Such a solution has the potential to not only eliminate phosphorus run off, it has the potential to pay for itself through the sale of the fertilizer byproduct. To be most effective, this solution needs to be available for both large and small farms as well as municipalities. Instead of fining farmers for springtime manure pit issues, we could provide a service to draw off the excess liquid and take it to a community processing site. We must start implementing eco-friendly solutions instead of continuing down the same old path.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Yes, I do. Unfortunately, based on the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change findings that came out earlier this month, we must move much more aggressively. We now know that even our lives will be drastically impacted, not to mention the lives of our children and grandchildren. My sincere hope is that we take this seriously as a nation and a state and that we embrace the jobs and infrastructure projects that we must embark on. As a State, we must increase funding for weatherization projects. The best renewable energy is the energy not used. We must embrace community renewable energy projects that benefit our rural communities instead of corporate shareholders. Electric car charging stations need to be located where we live, work and shop and must be affordable and charged by the kilowatt not connect time. Likewise, the price should be regulated just as our household electric rates are.
EDUCATION: We must recognize that our schools are not just institutions of public education. Our schools must also provide many social services. In our rural communities, large numbers of children come to school hungry, others have emotional issues due to trauma in their home, while still other students have learning disabilities that make it difficult for them to effectively participate in a typical classroom setting without assistance. It is critical that our schools continue to be a place that all children gain the education and confidence they need to function in our society. We need to prepare our youth for the jobs that are and will be available in Vermont. Besides college preparation, we must focus equally on the trades starting as early as middle school. A hands-on educational experience is essential. Guidance counselors should be independent of either path to help guide a student’s future direction in an unbiased way.
YOUNG FAMILIES: Early childcare is a critical issue in my rural district from both an affordability and accessibility standpoint. It is one of the key factors that makes it difficult for young families to stay in Vermont. U.S. Census Bureau data shows approximately 70 percent of Addison County children age five and under have all available parents in the labor force. To decide whether our State should establish its own publicly funded program, I would need more data on how such a program would work, how it would be financed, who it would benefit and how it would accommodate home based childcare providers.
AFFORDABILITY: Healthcare affordability has been identified as the top priority by most respondents of my door-to-door issues questionnaire. By moving to a Universal Primary Care System in Vermont, we could cover every single Vermonter for a per capita cost of an average primary care visit. In addition to primary care, this would cover outpatient mental health and substance abuse. It would ultimately save money by treating many illnesses before they become catastrophic, requiring a visit to the ER and hospitalization. It would simplify the primary care administrative burden and would attract more primary care doctors to Vermont.
CANDIDATE’S CHOICE: Another critical issue voiced by many of the rural property owners in my district is that of property taxes. With the most recent rate increases, several owners have placed their homes on the market and others are talking about doing so. These individuals, many of whom are on a fixed income, cannot afford to continue living in Vermont. It is critical that we move away from funding education and town services through residential property taxes and migrate it towards an income sensitive tax. This would also help to lower the cost of rental housing by removing the property tax component.
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