by Carla Occaso
Rep. Kimberly Jessup, D-Middlesex, came out on top of a five way race to replace former Washington-5 Rep. Tony Klein of East Montpelier. Jessup works at the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges. Jessup holds a bachelor’s degree in development studies from University of California, Berkeley and a Master’s of international affairs from Columbia University. She lives in Middlesex with her husband and two children. Below is a Q&A exchange conducted recently by email:
The Bridge: What did it feel like to win this election?
Jessup: I deeply appreciated the support and engagement and am honored by the opportunity to serve.
The Bridge: What are your priorities for this coming session?
Jessup: While not excluding other important issues, my approach is to focus on the three “Es” — equity, education and environment. So I’d like to raise the minimum wage and consider easing the cost of property taxes by better balancing payment by income. I want to lessen divisions across the state occurring over the education consolidation bill, Act 46, by extending the timeline and considering alternative structures that meet the criteria. Promoting access to quality and affordable child care also makes sense on so many fronts. I joined the Climate Caucus and want to work with colleagues on ways to address imperatives around climate change. We also must tackle groundwater contamination and the health of Lake Champlain.
The Bridge: What are your thoughts on lowering the budget — where would you cut? Or how would you raise funding?
Jessup: I’m not a fan of using state economic incentive programs to entice corporations to locate in Vermont, especially when we try to compete with larger and wealthier states in what can become a “race to the bottom.” Given all the changes at both the state and federal level, I suspect the 2017-18 biennium will bring a review of state priorities, and, from this, may come new perspectives and approaches.
The Bridge: What about energy efficiency and climate change. How aggressive should we be in installing solar arrays and wind towers and where should they go? Who should decide?
Jessup: We address climate change and create a secure energy future by working on both fronts — energy efficiency and renewables. The returns cited for each dollar invested in conservation and efficiency are impressive, there is untapped residential and commercial opportunity, and Vermont has significant talent and knowledge available to us. Greater renewable energy output is an important path to meeting our state goals, and this sector also serves as a source of job growth. I support responsibly sited renewable energy projects that take into account community input. Legislation passed last session sought to ensure that kind of balance, and it is my hope that implementation proves this to be the case.
The Bridge: Do you have a bill you plan to introduce? If so, what?
Jessup: I plan to support legislation that addresses these issues in ways that are balanced and feasible.
The Bridge: What changes would you like to see by the end of the legislative session?
Jessup: Personally, I would like to see progress on all the issues I’ve mentioned so far. As a state, I would like us to consider what we can do now to prepare for shifts in federal policy and funding flows that could significantly impact Vermont.