The following questions were posed by the Randolph Herald to candidates running for office in Windsor and Orange Counties. Word count was limited to 600 for all answers and I came in at 599, which was quite a challenge!
What is your position on Gov. Shumlin’s plan to move the state to a single-payer system for healthcare?
It’s difficult to take a position on a plan that hasn’t been presented yet, but the fact remains that this country’s health insurance system is unsustainable and inefficient. In the absence of a federal solution to bring the economics of American healthcare up to the standards of other developed nations, state legislatures have a responsibility to explore universal coverage options and how access, equity, cost containment and healthy outcomes can be improved. This will be the most scrutinized and debated issue in many years and it’s crucial that state government engages with its citizens during the process. The botched rollout of the federally mandated online exchange has eroded the public’s confidence in the state’s handling of healthcare, but a new system that provides universal coverage could eliminate many of the problems that have plagued VHC. I look forward to seeing a plan and collaborating with others to try and make it work for the benefit of all Vermonters.
This year the House of Representatives passed a bill which would have combined school districts in the state so that local schools would not be run by town school boards. If that or a similar bill is introduced in the 2015 legislature, what would be your position?
School governance changes will certainly be proposed again, though cost savings and improved outcomes aren’t guaranteed. I voted against involuntary consolidation and further eroding of local decision-making by school boards and will continue to advocate for letting communities make the hard decisions on the future of our schools. I think we can do more to streamline administration and services, but there needs to be more public engagement in the process of coming up with policies that would alter the current (outdated) governance structure.
What would be the best way to encourage more of our young people to locate in Vermont?
Vermont has been attracting more young people and slowing the rate of youth out-migration over the past decade. I see it happening in my own hometown. As a rural, northern state, Vermont attracts those who seek out this kind of environment. I grew up in Vermont and briefly relocated elsewhere as did most of my peers, but returned to start my own business. Making it work in Vermont takes initiative and perseverance, and most job growth happens when businesses expand or new businesses are created. Chittenden County – with a growing population in contrast to the declining rural population – has one of the best entrepreneurial climates in the country. In rural areas we should play to our strengths. Expanding markets and opportunities for our agriculture and forest products entrepreneurs will continue to grow jobs and hatch new businesses. We also need to continue targeted investments in infrastructure, reform education financing for more affordable housing opportunities, strengthen early childcare programs for working families, and expand fiber and cell coverage to meet the needs of 21st Century Vermonters. Vermont consistently stands atop rankings of indicators such as health, safety, civic engagement, education and environment, and our way of life and values are appealing to many non-Vermonters.
What is your personal priority for the next legislative session and what will make you a good legislator?
We need to find a better way to fund education that is less reliant on property tax while trying to bend the spending curve at the same time. The latter will require a delicate balance between state regulation of education expenditures and local control in the hands of school boards and voters. I am well positioned to help solve these problems since I have stood up for the needs of my district and made my voice heard. I have voted with the minority to overhaul the system for the past two years and pushed my caucus to commit to action – something we now appear to be promising voters. As one of the youngest legislators in Vermont and one not afraid to rock the majority boat, my positions are noted and have influence. The relationships I’ve built with other legislators and state officials will allow me to hit the ground running in 2015.