The following seven questions, along with a requested word limit, were asked of each local candidate for the Vermont House.
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. 4.
1) HEALTHCARE: The state’s Catamount Health plan is up and running, are you satisfied that it is meeting its goals and, if not, what additional steps should the state take to expand health care coverage? (Maximum 150 words.)
2) ELECTRICITY: The expiration of Vermont’s contracts with its two big electricity providers, Hydro-Quebec and Vermont Yankee, is looming. And there are concerns about re-licensing Yankee. What should Vermont do to meet its energy needs? (150 words.)
3) AGRICULTURE: What state-level supports and policies regarding family farms would you promote as a legislator? (150 words.)
4) PROPERTY TAXES: The idea of a property tax cap to limit the rise in school spending has been suggested, but such reductions in funds could diminish the quality of education in our schools over time. How do you solve that dilemma? (150 words.)
5) HEATING: Vermonters are worried about how they will pay to heat their homes and gas up their cars this winter. What can the Legislature and state government do to help? (150 words.)
6) ECONOMY: State government is cutting back as tax revenues fall short of expectations. What can state government do to improve the Vermont economy? (150 words.)
7) SINGLE ISSUE: Discuss an issue of importance to you that you would work to address if elected. (100 words.)
The four candidates running for the two seats in the Addison-3 House district — which includes Vergennes, Addison, Panton, Waltham and Ferrisburgh — are Greg Clark, Diane Lanpher, Kitty Oxholm and Jean Richardson.
HEALTHCARE: Healthcare has been the most frequent issue raised as I have been going door to door this summer and fall. For many self-employed individuals Catamount Health insurance appears to be working quite well. I heard positive comments about the good coverage for preventive healthcare and chronic care available under Catamount. Preventive healthcare is a long-term cost savings for Vermont. Many age 18-30 expressed worries about the 12-month waiting period with no insurance, high premiums, and masses of complex paperwork.
We need a comprehensive healthcare system in which all the complex parts are coordinated and where policy goals are founded on preventive healthcare available to everyone at an affordable cost. It is unlikely that Vermont can do this without change at Federal level. Action on healthcare is vital as it impacts all aspects of life from the economy to increased education costs.
ELECTRICITY: To meet its energy needs Vermont needs to:1. Conserve energy, and reduce energy consumption by 30 percent through greater investments in efficiency. 2. Develop an overall, comprehensive, coordinated energy plan for the entire state. Such a plan should include long and short-term goals, clear conservation and efficiency policies, a mix of many sources of energy, including geothermal, with regional plans that fit the state’s geography, and a long-term goal of self-sufficiency for the state. 3. Provide incentives for small-scale wind and solar systems and other forms of renewable energy. 4. Require new buildings to be carbon neutral. 5. Only renew Vermont Yankee’s license to produce nuclear power if all safety concerns have been fully resolved. All the foregoing will foster job creation.
AGRICULTURE: is a critical component of our economy and culture and it is absolutely vital that we do all we can to strengthen and build our agriculture and its required infrastructure to meet the changing world economy. This will create jobs.
I have considerable practical experience in farming, forest management and sugaring over several decades. Forest uses and management must be discussed along with farming, and many issues need to be addressed, such as: increasing agricultural diversity, with new crops, increased organic farms and niche marketing; conserving farm and forest land; eliminating property taxes on farm barns; new slaughter houses; more small business loans for new farm and forest related ventures; and availability of agricultural mediation. Such policies will lead to increased profitability, create jobs, value-added products and increase food security.
PROPERTY TAXES: It is poor policy to fund schools through ever increasing property taxes. Administration of the school property taxes through Towns has become complex and confusing, placing enormous pressure on town staff school boards and selectboards, and it is about to get a lot worse with the poor policy of a two-step vote on school budgets, especially given the many un-funded or under-funded mandates. School budgets should be local decisions, with the Legislature determining how to distribute funds. Given the present confusing system for education taxes maybe it is time to have the state take over responsibility for administering, billing and collecting education taxes, and answering all the frustrated citizen questions about to the school taxes.
HEATING: New England has the biggest challenge in the country when it comes to heating costs. We have a lot of old housing stock, and most houses are dependent on oil for heating. For most Vermonters there is an inability to pay up-front for the necessary long-term investment in new or retrofitted heating systems. The new fuels efficiency utility bill helps in many ways, as does the Low Income Heating assistance program. Increase in use of wood for heating may be one option for some homeowners, but not a long-term viable option for most people. Heating must be looked at in a coordinated manner with energy, as noted above. Gas and truck diesel costs can only partially be addressed through reduced use. Greater creativity is needed, and review of available public transit, which is never easy in a rural state.
ECONOMY: Vermont is a very small state. The total population is less than 700,000, but scattered in small towns over the hills and valleys, with many roads, bridges, small schools and a range of human services to be delivered to everyone. A rural economy must be creative and diversified to work well over time. Many of our sources of funds are linked to the federal government and to external forces over which we have little or no control. The present volatile situation is likely to continue for some time, and thus we need to be very much more creative in looking for economies and efficiencies in the state budgets, as well as sources of fees or untapped federal dollars. Vermont’s reputation for sound fiscal management must be safeguarded. Continue to build niche markets for value added Vermont products and small businesses. Continue to build on our Vermont image. Link job creation with energy.
SINGLE ISSUE/FOOD AND ENERGY SECURITY: Vermont is a rural state where it is expensive to live. Most of our food and energy are imported. Do we really know how many days of home heating oil, or food that the average household or, hospital or school has on hand in the event of the need for quarantine, or a severe weather incident, or worse crisis? What policies should we be considering to allow us to have food and energy security? We need to develop integrated policies that are comprehensive and long-term, and then work together, across the aisle, for change.