On the Issues
I have spent much of my career advocating for educational opportunity. I began as an advocate for pre-school programs, and most recently have worked in the Statehouse on behalf of the state college system.
Few things are more important to establishing a strong and growing economy than education and training. For businesses, a better trained workforce means more efficient production and more productivity. For workers, more education means higher earnings. For the state, all this means a prospering economy, increased tax revenues, and fewer Vermont families that need assistance from social services.
In order to strengthen our economy and help us get out of the current economic downturn, the state must encourage and support all Vermonters who want to get more education and training
I worked during the last two years to help establish a Pre-K through 16 Council, which will bring together professionals and consumers to coordinate all parts of our education and training system, beginning with pre-school and continuing beyond high school. By integrating the programs we have and finding out what we need to do better, we can help more Vermonters without creating new programs. Strengthening our worker training programs will help our schools and vocational training centers ensure that Vermonters have the skills necessary in a 21st century economy.
It is the role of the legislature to look out for all our citizens, especially when we are in challenging economic times.
The Vermont budget is a reflection of the priorities of our state. Tax dollars support programs that benefit all Vermonters – public safety, building roads and telecommunications networks, providing education, and environmental protection. One of the most crucial functions of government is to protect and support our most vulnerable citizens.
When I chaired the House Appropriations committee, my job was the help the legislature to meet the bottom line while at the same time balancing all of the needs of Vermonters. Just as was the case when we had difficult times in the past, we cannot abandon elders, victims of domestic violence, mentally ill and disabled persons. Cuts to our human services programs will not eliminate the needs of Vermonters, they will just shift the costs onto local communities and create larger expenditures for emergency health care, corrections, and law enforcement. We must not be penny-wise and pound-foolish.
The budget must make investments in strategies which will improve the economic future of the state and lead us to recovery. We all need to share in maintaining vital programs.
The recently passed national health care law will do very little for Vermont, because we are ahead of the nation in our commitment to universal access to health care. We need to continue efforts on a state level to slow down the rate of increasing costs, and make sure that every Vermonter is insured at an affordable cost. By doing do, we will improve the health of all Vermonters, reduce costs for Vermont families, and strengthen our economy by reducing the burden on employers.
The 2010 Legislature passed a law which will put Vermont on the path to affordability and health insurance for everyone. We will need to continue to work in the 2011-12 legislative session to build the best possible system for our state that will help us reach our goal of universal, affordable health care for all.
Vermont’s economy has fared better many other states in this economic crisis, but our challenge is still enormous. The state budget must be reduced, and many families are finding it difficult to make ends meet. Everyone in Vermont should be able to have a job with a livable wage, health insurance and the ability to send their kids to college.
I support policies that will support businesses and job creation and will strengthen Vermont’s workforce. We need a balanced strategy of job growth and support for existing businesses that employ Vermonters.
A sustainable and responsible energy policy is critical to Vermont’s economic development yet must also preserve our environment. We can do more to prioritize energy conservation and lessen the overall demand for fuel. Investments in renewable energy in state buildings can reduce state operating costs and support Vermont businesses.
We need to close Vermont Yankee and make sure that the decommissioning costs will not be borne by Vermont taxpayers. At the same time we must transition VY employees to good jobs in alternative energy and other sectors of the Vermont economy. And we must work to replace Vermont Yankee baseload power with a variety of sources including responsible sited, sustainable alternative energy sources like biomass, hydro and wind power.