Washington County Senate Democratic Candidates Answer your Questions

compiled by Mike Dunphy

For the past two weeks, The Bridge has been calling for questions from the community to put to the six Democratic candidates running for three spots on the ticket in the August primary. We have selected 10 questions and put them to the candidates, whose responses are below. Some response have been edited for length but not content. The Bridge also thanks everyone who sent a question, regardless of whether it’s included her or not.

Below find the full, unedited responses of the candidates

Why do you want (or want to keep) the job? – Linda Young

Andrew Brewer

Andrew Brewer: A change in perspective. I strongly believe the connection between small businesses and the building of our communities are an important part of what tie us together. I’ve been looking through that lens for many years, and I understand it. I’ve made many good decisions, many very tough ones, and ones that didn’t work out.  I’ve learned from them all. I want to represent Washington County with that view in the Legislature.

Ann Cummings

Ann Cummings: I want to keep my job for the same reason I ran in the first place, I believe in representative democracy.  I’ve been interested in history and government since childhood. I believe that government can be a force for good. It is the way people decide how to address their common problems and needs. But to work, representative democracy needs elected representatives who are committed to making it work. I hope I have been one. I know that the thing I like most about my job is helping people make government work for them.  No one “wins” all the time, but everyone should know that they are heard and respected.

Ashley Hill

Ashley Hill: I am running for elected office because I believe government matters. Growing up, I didn’t believe people like “us” could be leaders in our communities or our government. My grandparents urged me to complete my education as a means to come up out of poverty. I know my own privilege paved a large portion of the way for me and shaped much of what I believed to be true about the world I thought I was going out into, but I never envisioned I would be entering a world where merit wasn’t the measure that determined worth. For several years, I allowed that world to dictate my own feelings of self-worth and the worth of my life experiences. I am running for elected office today to start building the world I thought I was entering- a world where merit and might are worth far more than money and connections; a world where regardless of social constructs our opportunities and successes are not limited and pre-determined. I am running to create a community that values all of us, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, financial ability, educational attainment, or physical ability. I am running to represent people like me and my grandparents, because I believe that regardless of where we come from in this world, we are worthy, capable, and deserving of achieving a sense of personal security and dignity in our personal, professional, and civic lives. I am running because I believe that when government represents the majority and not just the minority we will begin to break down the walls that have shut so many of us out for so long.

Theo Kennedy

Theo Kennedy: I want to be your Senator because I care deeply about people and community. I believe that government can have a positive impact and I find public service to be a deeply fulfilling endeavor. I also think that, if folks look at my background, they will find someone who is qualified, experienced and ready for the job. As a good and respectful listener with a track record of getting things done, my goal is to bring people together to solve problems and create sustainable solutions.

Andrew Perchlik

Andrew Perchlik: I am dedicated to community development and working with others to create vibrant, prosperous, healthy communities.  I want the job as your Senator so I can work to bring all 18 towns and two cities together to have a collective positive impact on the lives of all Washington County citizens.

Anthony Pollina: Having spent many years as a community organizer and educator I know that it takes time to create change. I want to continue to work on important policy issues including moving away from property towards income to fund our schools, making our colleges affordable and protecting

Anthony Pollina

our environment and local economy.

If elected, how would you communicate with the largest number of constituents in a regular fashion? – Paul Carnahan

Brewer: I’m a fan of the legislative updates that many legislators distribute. The well written ones give constituents a good overview of issues, often ones they weren’t aware of, that concern them. Still, nothing beats face-to-face interaction. I’m out in the community constantly, but I’d like to hold at least monthly forums alternating between Washington county towns.

Cummings: I strive to keep up with the emails, frequently over 100, I receive in a day. I am also learning to use Facebook and developing the ability to do mass emailing of a new letter.  Mostly, I am available. I attend as many community events as I can, my phone number is in the book, and I am regularly seen walking in Montpelier. No matter what method is used, the most important thing is an attitude of openness and acceptance. I actually like being stopped and talked to.

Hill: I use social media regularly to connect with supporters, and I’m going to start what I’m hoping will be a weekly chat podcast. I’m hoping to be able to do that during the session, and definitely continue our social media efforts. I’m also interested in doing bi-weekly or monthly chats at local spots for anyone to come visit, and I want to hear from my constituents about the best ways that work to connect with them too!

Kennedy: If I were privileged to serve, one ongoing aspect of the job is constituent service; to that end, I would make myself available everyday throughout the year as reasonably possible in-person, via e-mail, phone, and social media platforms, to hear people’s input and help in any way that I am able. As an attorney in private practice over many years and while in state government, I have made every effort to get back to people as quickly as possible with the goal of being as responsive as the circumstances require/permit with information and referral or an agreed upon plan for next steps.

From a legislative policy perspective, I think it is tremendously important to inclusively engage all interested parties as early as a possible, not just through formal committee testimony, but also through community caucusing, which I would endeavor, hopefully with my colleagues, to do regularly during each year in different locations on different topics. When you allow meaningful process to precede legislative drafting, areas of agreement can be reached early on and areas that need further work come into greater focus. An inclusive, transparent, participatory government, where all voices are respected and heard, is stronger and more resilient, and changes can be better supported by all, even if everyone is not in full agreement on every issue.

Perchlik: I would use social media (facebook) and emails to provide regular updates to constituents, and solicit feedback during the legislative session. When not in session (and during the session as time allows) I will hold gatherings (or ‘town hall’ meetings) in different towns across the county to talk face-to-face with constituents about policy issues.

Pollina: I am not sure there is any one best way. We  can use Front Porch Forum, email lists and other outlets. We should also organize public meetings. Nothing beats face to face conversation.

What do you think of the proposal for a carbon tax in Vermont?”- Arthur Savard

Brewer: To be clear – Global warming due to human behavior is real. Vermont has been and should continue to be a leader in these fields. Taking a ‘pause’ in our efforts toward renewable energy is not merely a static time out, it’s going backwards. Vermont is losing jobs in this important field.  A carbon tax is an idea that, so far, hasn’t been ready for prime time. I think that’s largely due to messaging – Opponents of the idea have done a better job labeling the idea as catastrophic to Vermonters, whereas proponents haven’t been able to get the ‘revenue neutral’ aspect of the plan into the public conscience.  I’m very interested in learning more. When it comes to changing consumer patterns, this is, in theory, an area where good government could lead, but it must work in reality. There are some serious details to work out, but this isn’t just some fantasy feel good idea – it has merit and deserves to be debated. I’d be interested in advancing the conversation, while being cautious of the impacts, including the question of how Vermonters will pay for conversion costs to non-fossil fuel energy equipment.

Cummings: I think it has merit and I have said I would support it-IF  it doesn’t negatively impact the thousands of working Vermonters, already facing financial stress and frequently needing to drive long distances to work. It’s a challenge, but we are working on it. We are in the process of doing a carbon study which should provide some answers. No matter what we choose to do, it is imperative that we reduce our carbon emissions. Can anyone watching the global weather this summer believe that Climate Change is not real.

Hill: I support a carbon tax generally, but I want to be sure we create it as a progressive tax that doesn’t leave our most economically vulnerable community members worse off financially. We need to hold the entities with the largest carbon footprint accountable, while also working to reduce everyone’s reliance on fossil fuels and non-renewable energy. I don’t think enacting a carbon tax as a standalone policy will adequately reduce carbon emissions- we need to use a multifaceted approach to assist everyone in transitioning away from fossil fuels and moving toward greener, more energy-independent living.

Kennedy: First of all, Global Warming is real, and Vermont has to do all it can to help fight climate change. When I studied for my master’s in public health with a concentration in environmental health, we were taught the importance of employing as many preventative and proactive measures possible to reach our goals and to measure our outcomes. As to a carbon tax, I want to be sure that we are not implementing fiscal policy that is regressive, insomuch as lower income folks and smaller businesses end up contributing proportionally more than their wealthier and larger counterparts, unless we implemented some sort of rebate mechanism for the less advantaged among us. I also want to be sure it can help us meet our goals and how to measure our progress if we choose that path. I also don’t want to position Vermont, even if it is trying to lead on this most important topic of our times, in any way that would hurt us relative to other states economically. If we do proceed with a carbon tax to help reduce fossil fuel consumption, I think it should probably be a federal one.

At this point, I want to continue to focus on meeting our renewable energy goals and grow our energy efficiency efforts/investments as two primary means to fight climate change while dealing with load, infrastructure, storage and transmission issues that may constrain us from fully being able to develop renewable generation as rapidly as we need. I also want to recognize and leverage the efficacy of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), as well as learn more about the advantages/disadvantage of a carbon tax before implementing one.

Perchlik: As a society we should tax ‘bads’ and not goods and our tax and economic development policies should be aligned with our values and goals.  Vermont has specific goals to reduce our fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, and we value a stable climate. Yet our tax and economic development programs are not aligned with these goals and value.  I believe we can shift taxes that we now impose on things we want more of, like employment, to things we want less of, like fossil fuels.  We need to protect our neighbors who pay a higher % of their income on gasoline for transportation and heating oil and a smart tax shifting policy tied with increased participation in regional energy and carbon markets with funds directed towards the low-income makes that possible.

Pollina: The carbon tax, more correctly referred to as the Pollution Tax, should be fully studied so we can understand its purpose and impacts, especially on low and moderate income Vermonters, and our environment. We should also take a close look at places where a pollution tax is already in place.

Do you favor a State health care system? – Brenda Bean

Brewer: [Chosen not to answer the question]

Cummings: As the Chair of the Finance Committee, I was very active in developing the structure for Vermont’s original Single Payer Health Care Program. This year I worked on the fall back option  of Universal Primary Care.  We haven’t succeeded yet, but I am committed to keep trying. It would be so much easier if we could do it on a national basis

Hill: Yes. Every person in Vermont deserves high quality, affordable health care. We cannot continue to allow insurance and hospital executives to command salaries sometimes in the multiple millions and then tell our nurses and other hospital staff that they cannot count on a living wage commensurate with their training and experience. In an ideal world, I would expand Medicare access, but current Federal law makes this nearly impossible. Vermont needs to implement single payer healthcare, while at the same time recruiting medical professionals to work in more rural areas across the State to ensure we eliminate disparities in healthcare access and utilization between our most rural and our most urban areas.

Kennedy: A: As a former Director of Health Rates and Forms in our State’s Banking and Insurance Department, now VT DFR, and as former Director of Planning, Policy and Regulation for our State’s Public Benefit Programs, now VT DCF/AHS, I have had the opportunity for over a decade to become intimately aware of our private and public health care system. Vermont already leads and demonstrates best practice models in many ways with our patient-centered patient-driven system of care, as a unique Medicaid statewide public managed-care organization, with our Blueprint for Health, with our long-term care Choices for Care program, but we can’t do it alone. In our public sector, we rely on somewhere between 60-90 cents of every dollar from the federal government and for our private sector exchange policies many Vermont beneficiaries rely on income-sensitized federal tax dollars to help afford coverage. We also still have work to do to control insurance costs, ensure universal access to primary care and to reduce the cost of prescription drugs – I have specific initiatives in mind to accomplish these goals in Vermont.

In short, while I support improving our state health care system for all Vermonters, I believe, if we are pursuing a single-payer model, that we should look towards a Medicare for All approach. As lead counsel for the implementation of Medicare Part D in Vermont and having worked on aligning the rules for dual eligible individuals (those on both Medicare and Medicaid), I know that we need to work with our federal partners on long-term solvency for Medicare, but I also know Medicare is, in many ways, the most robust and modern platform available to get us to a viable and sustainable universal system of health care for all.

Perchlik: I’m assuming the question is do I favor a single-payer type system were the government, and not private insurance companies, pay for health care. I think the state of VT, as part of a nation of 50 states is too small to create and successfully operate a wholly state funded health care system.  We are making progress as a State in moving in the direction of controlling costs and providing quality health care services that are focused on prevention and accessibility.

I think the services and costs are not adequate or acceptable, but we have ways to make improvements that we should focus on and not get too distracted on a VT-run universal health care system.

We need to support Bernie’s efforts at Medicare For All on the nat’l level while working on the details of improving our current system.

Pollina: I support a publicly funded, universal health care system that lowers costs and provides access to all.

Do you have any position on keeping and increasing housing affordable so that those on a low wage can still afford to rent? – Yvonne Baab

Brewer: Yes. I look at affordable housing as an important part of economic development. As my friend and colleague Yvonne will tell you, the only thing small businesses need to be successful are customers. They, and employees for the matter, need a place to live. You simply cannot have the kind of sustainable and vibrant community we want (the real reason we’re all here, actually) without a quality and affordable place to live. I would add that we need more housing choices for all income levels. I know of several people/couples who are ready to move out of their big old rambling house (which in turn makes that house available to the next young family) and into a nice condo or apartment within walking distance of downtown – but those are few and far between. If you haven’t already, check out the several great projects being done in Montpelier by Downstreet Housing! Public/private partnerships work!

Cummings: As a Realtor, I am very interested in housing affordability.  Vermont has a history of being  very innovative in funding affordable housing development  One of these mechanisms is the Affordable Housing Tax Credit, which I have always supported. During the past biennium we authorized a 30 million dollar bond to fund affordable housing. That’s a lot of money for Vermont but it’s only a drop in the bucket of need.  Another need that we have been trying to address is down payment assistance. Frequently, first time home buyers can afford the mortgage payments, but coming up with even 5% down and up to $8,000 in Closing costs is beyond their reach. For this reason, I support the down payment assistance programs. We are also working with organizations like Housing First to combat homelessness. As the economy picks up and more revenue becomes available, I will support increasing support for these and similar programs. We will never have enough money so we will have to continue to be innovative.

Hill: First, we need to raise our minimum wage to at least $15/hour. We need to drastically increase the number of affordable housing units here in Washington County to ensure every one of us is able to access and secure safe, stable housing. I also believe if we expand affordable housing options, it will open up possibilities for market-rate development as well. As a member of the Montpelier City Council, my commitment to affordable housing development guides much of my work. By expanding housing that is actually affordable (meaning rents are commensurate with the minimum and low wage jobs in the area, not what pundits say the “market” determines is affordable), we will be able to.

Kennedy: Affordable housing is a top priority. In many ways, we can look at housing as part of our public health system of care. If lower wage workers cannot afford a place to live, they often can’t afford to stay in Vermont and we need them here to grow our community and our economy. If homeless individuals and families can’t move from shelters to temporary housing to permanent housing, they will have a harder time making it on their own. If individuals struggling with mental illness cannot secure “Housing First’, many of the other public support programs become increasingly taxed at greater collective expense. We have made some progress in this area, but we need to do more. Working with our private sector and federal governmental partners, we have to work to provide all sorts of creative housing opportunities, whether inter-generational, or down-sized or single-room occupancy or mixed rent, or public/private. Housing provides dignity, independence and safety…it is a cost-effective way to move us all forward. I have worked on homelessness prevention and housing issues in state government and I have worked in foreclosure prevention and elder housing issues in the private sector, and I know that there are fine people working on these issues every day, but I know we can and will do better and more to help make and keep Vermont an affordable place to live.

Perchlik: My position is that we don’t have near enough affordable housing and that we need to increase the amount of affordable housing and housing in general. We should build programs to help seniors that are living in houses that are bigger than they want to down-size into high quality smaller housing. This will require both in-filling housing into our downtowns and promoting construction of housing more preferred by seniors like condos.

Pollina: Lack of affordable housing is a very serious problem in Vermont. We should increase our public investment in affordable housing across the State. Wages and incomes must also be increased so Vermonters can afford to buy or rent a Vermont home.

Do you support Ranked Choice Voting? – Ari Erlbaum

Brewer: I’ve had some lively conversations over this topic – it’s fun to try to guess how a race might play out under instant runoff rules. But doing that mental game exposes a problem – it can be confusing. I’d be very concerned that it could lead to people not understanding how to vote, or worse, not voting at all! Still, I have myself experienced the frustration of an election where no clear majority winner comes through, so let’s keep talking about it.

Cummings: I have mixed feelings about Ranked Choice Voting. I know that the City of Burlington did try it and quickly abandoned the effort. I have an open mind and am willing to be convinced.

Hill: Yes! I think RCV is the best way to make sure we get the candidates who the public truly wants and to ensure every vote counts!

Kennedy: While I generally understand what RCV is, I really don’t yet know enough detail about the pros and cons on this issue to make an educated and informed decision. Generally, I support our one person one vote system as it is presently designed.

Perchlik: This is my favorite question! Thanks Ari.  Yes I do, and have for the past 20 years. I’m eager to follow the lead of Maine, which now has RCV for all its elections.  I think Burlington too quickly abandoned RCV.  There are ways VT can use RCV that are aligned with the VT constitution, and it is something that I will work on as your new senator.

Pollina: Yes, I have long supported ranked choice voting.

What steps [if any] do you support to raise the minimum wage to $15 or preferably higher to a living wage? – Elizabeth Parker

Brewer: First, I’ll work very hard to make sure we have the strongest most vibrant small business economy possible. For decades I looked through that lens of how to provide the best compensation package I could to ORS employees. I’m confident they would confirm that and tell you they felt supported.  Would they have liked to make more? Of course. Would I have liked to pay them more? Always! When is that never the case? I do think, for some people, there’s an assumption that employers are motivated to pay the least they can possibly get away with. I can say with certainty that it’s the other way around – I, and the fellow business owners I associated with, were trying our hardest to offer the MOST we possibly could. We’re nowhere without great employees who treat our businesses like it was their own.

But there’s no denying there’s an affordability gap in Vermont. I would give careful consideration to increased minimum wage legislation that was reasonable and stepped over time, and I would do that with the real-world experience of a business owner for many years. We all want better for the workers of Vermont. I believe there can be agreement on legislation that accomplishes that without harming the very businesses we all work for.

Cummings: Last summer I served on the Minimum Wage Study Committee and voted for raising the minimum wage to $15. I also voted for it when the bill came to the floor.  I think we need to continue our efforts. Fortunately, after years of stagnation, the economy seems to be putting  upward pressure on wages. While we are doing this, we need to remember that Vermont is a state of small businesses. Ninety percent of our businesses has 20 or fewer employees. We also have many very small business, especially in our Downtowns. If we want our Downtowns to flourish, we have to make sure we don’t put them out of business.

Hill: We need to, as Nike tells us, JUST DO IT. I worked a second job at minimum wage up until four years ago when I became a prosecutor. I cannot imagine how my friends and coworkers were and are able to meet even the bare-bones basics of housing, food, childcare, and transportation on the current minimum wage. In Washington County alone, the wage to afford basic necessities is around $22, and in Chittenden county is as high as $27. $15 is a starting point, but we need to tackle single payer healthcare and expand access, education, and affordability to retire to ensure we are all (somewhat more) financially secure as we age.

Kennedy: I supported the bill that the legislature passed overwhelmingly this last biennium; unfortunately, there were not enough votes in the House to override the Governor’s veto. As the co-owner with my wife, Nora, of a small family-owned business (Chill Vermont Gelato in Montpelier), I was glad that the recommended approach allowed for a phase-in over six years. We must balance the needs of small businesses whenever we consider legislation of this sort, and of course it’s not just wage, but payroll tax that goes up as well. Nonetheless, this is a fundamental quality of life issue that needs to be addressed. These monies will be plowed back into our economy, folks will be better able to afford to stay here, fewer individuals will have to work 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet. For this to work well however we also have to try to eliminate public benefit cliffs; right now, there is a built-in disincentive to work, if we taper our public benefits commensurate with an increased wage, we can help get folks off of public benefits and more sustainably in the workforce with greater opportunities thereafter for advancement. Often, the more independent and self-sustaining people are at work, the happier and more productive they become. It can be a win-win for everyone. Having worked more than one job for my entire life, I know that this is not easy, but employees and businesses can both succeed if we do this right.

Perchlik: I support the bill that passed both legislative bodies last session, but was vetoed and did not become law. If elected I will co-sponsor a similar or stronger bill next session and work to see that it becomes law.

Pollina: I supported a bill the Legislature passed increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour over 6 years, a relatively conservative approach, to allow employers time to adapt. Unfortunately the Governor vetoed the wage increase.

Is the practice of vetoing, vetoing and vetoing House/Senate legislation and then calling both chambers back into Special Session an acceptable as long-term legislative/gubernatorial practice? – Nat Frothingham?

Brewer: No!

Cummings: This one is easy, NO.  The foundation of democracy is coming  together to find common ground. If one side always wins, it’s not a democracy.

Hill: No. Governor Scott’s antics cost us between $50,000-$60,000 per DAY for the special session this year- a completely avoidable expense. We need leaders who put people over politics. Vermont need not adopt national political tactics- our state is too small and too interconnected to allow those efforts and antics to dominate our political scene.

Kennedy: It is not. I was proud of our Governor when he risked political capital and leaned bravely forward on reasonable gun safety measures, but this end-of-session gauntlet two years in a row is disappointing at best. Our Honorable Governor made his Executive branch wishes known regarding no new taxes or fees and on school funding each year during the State-of-the-State and Budget addresses, but then it appeared that, at least openly, he and/or his staff did not work every day sufficiently enough with the co-equal branch of Legislative government during the session to find meaningful compromise that could work for both branches and all the parties. We have a part-time citizen legislature; it’s incumbent on us to do the work during the session, not to hold-over the work with the risk of a decreased bond-rating and government shutdown; indeed, even to openly discuss government shutdown is not acceptable. While we’ve had veto sessions before, I had not experienced a special session before, and in the end, it seemed, even if the branches ended up only disagreeing on the non-residential property tax rate, to have largely been an unnecessary waste of the people’s money and of the government’s time and energy. I hope this practice does not continue. We can do better.

Perchlik: It is obviously not ideal, and believe we are all better off when the executive and legislative branch work together on legislation during the entire session and not just the last few weeks – causing the session to go longer than necessary and highlighting the ‘blame game’ instead of good governance.  That said, I think it is acceptable for the Governor to use the veto as s/he feels fit.

Pollina: Vetos and special sessions are not an acceptable, long term way to make policy. The Governor needs to engage with the Legislature early and constantly, throughout the session, so priorities are made clear and differences negotiated openly in a timely way.

How will you address the State’s Education funding problem? – Rosie Laquerre

Brewer: First, I strongly support our public schools, and our local school boards who have taken on this task. Thank you!  I’ve always supported and voted for the difficult work they do.  Second, does anyone understand how their property taxes are calculated? I believe the changes to the education funding mechanisms over the past two decades have been well intentioned – Vermont’s students should have access to comparable public education. But the mechanism has gotten so convoluted that taxpayers are fed up. Should we move towards an income-based approach to funding education?  Two thirds of Vermonters qualify for some level of income sensitivity, so actually they are paying based on income. Yet they still pay a higher percentage of their income to education than wealthier households who do not qualify for income sensitivity. That’s not fair. I’ll look for a balanced approach – it’s not fair to live in a mansion but have no earned income and pay nothing. Nor is it fair to have a large salary but own no property and pay nothing. Whether you’re property rich or poor, high income or low income, a fairer and easier to understand system can be found and agreed upon.

Cummings: We’ve taken several steps that should reduce the costs of education. As schools merge into viable sized districts, they will have the flexibility to reduce costs.  We are also restructuring the way we fund Special Education that will allow schools the ability to use their funds most effectively.  And we have established a commission to work with schools to help reduce the number of staff. There is no magic bullet, but we are working to redesign our educational system to address the declining number of students.  Finally, we will continue to work on the education funding formula to ensure it is the most equitable way to pay for education.

Hill: Tax and regulate marijuana/THC/cannabis derivative products, and work to transition our education funding to an income based system. Expanding state supported access to community and technical colleges for every Vermonter is a necessary and critical tool to meet current and future workforce demands. As a community college faculty member for over five years, numerous students who sat in my classrooms here in central Vermont are now professionals working in their desired field. Community and technical colleges provide access to higher education for a diverse mix of our residents and create pathways to employment for many who would otherwise be shut out. We need to support and fund the Vermont State College system to afford every Vermonter the opportunity to succeed in the classroom and in the workforce with revenues generated by the taxation and regulation of marijuana/THC/cannabis derivative products. Additionally, while well-intentioned, Act 46 is failing our rural areas here in central Vermont and is forcing our small, rural schools- often driving forces in our rural, close-knit communities, to a model that focuses more on economic savings than delivering education consistent with our values. I agree that consolidation between some districts makes sense and absolutely needs to happen. What I cannot and will not accept is the narrative that top-down policies wherein the State dictates the outcome without collaboration from local communities. Additionally, the school voucher program needs complete overhaul, and we need to end the ability to use Vermont education dollars to send school children to out of state or even out of country private schools. Moreover, we need to prorate any voucher used to send a child to a private school in Vermont in line with the Governor’s arbitrary student-to-staff ratio. Every child in Vermont regardless of race, gender, economic ability, or individualized learning needs deserves access to a quality education in our public schools.

Kennedy: I support moving from a real-property tax-based system to a simpler progressive income-based funding mechanism. Given the potential flux inherent in income, I would keep the real property as a backstop; in other words, on the lower end, one would use property value or income whichever is lower and on the higher end, one would use property value or income whichever is higher. There was a Senate bill introduced last session, which did not advance that I support, which largely approached education funding in this way. Depending on where you draw the lines, this approach could bring (I believe according to the party-neutral legislature’s own joint fiscal office’s estimates) over 20 million new dollars of revenue into the system each year, while being fairer throughout. Generally, I have heard from folks in the upper income brackets that they would be willing to pay a bit more according to their ability to do so for such a fundamentally important purpose.

Perchlik: In my view I see the over reliance on the property tax as a key problem to the State’s Education funding problem. I would address that by moving more of our education funding to a progressive income tax funding system. I also think we should be providing more support for pre-kindergarden, child care and post-secondary education.

Pollina: I have introduced legislation to make education funding more fair and simple by moving away from property towards an income based system. It would also raise significant new revenue that could be used to make colleges affordable or invest in early child education.

Are you in favor of keeping prisoners in Vermont and not using out-of-state for profit prisons? – Barbara Buckley 

Brewer: Yes, I am. We should not be looking at Vermonters serving their debt to society as some sort of commodity where the lowest price wins. We should be taking care of our own.

Cummings: I spent many years on the Judiciary Committee. One of our prime goals was to reduce the number of incarcerated Vermonters. Our goal should be to have only dangerous felons in jail. We’ve had some success. As we reduce the number of people in jail, we can bring more inmates back to Vermont.

Hill: Our inmates belong in Vermont.  We need to bring our Vermont inmates home and house them in safe, healthy facilities that focus on rehabilitation and making amends to successfully prepare them for release. Vermonters deserve far more than private prisons or out of state facilities afford our friends, family members, and community members. As I understand it, the Legislature is currently deciding between Mississippi and Rhode Island facilities for our inmates. This is completely unacceptable. We cannot expect any opportunity for meaningful rehabilitation and community reconciliation if we warehouse our people out of state and out of sight. It is inconsistent with Vermont values and detrimental to all of us to warehouse people out of state who are committed to our care and custody. We need to bring our inmates home- NOW.  ‘

Kennedy: I am in favor of keeping prisoners in Vermont and I am not in favor of using out-of-state for profit prisons.

Perchlik: Yes. We should never use for-profit prisons (in or out-of-state) and prisoners should be kept as close to their support structures (i.e. family) as possible.

Pollina: I oppose the use of out of state prisons and oppose private, for profit prisons in Vermont or elsewhere.

 

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