The Herald invited every state legislator from Vermont’s four southern counties to respond to the question, “What’s your single most important issue for 2013 and why?” Here are the answers from all the Windham lawmakers who replied:
Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham:
Climate change is a threat but destroying Vermont’s ridgelines is not the solution. Industrial wind farms damage the environment, requiring roads through pristine areas and producing noise and visual pollution. In Vermont, there is no corresponding environmental benefit as our electricity mostly isn’t generated by hydrocarbons. Towns should have the final word. I will introduce legislation giving towns a veto over projects that affect them. My bill also prohibits industrial wind turbines in state parks and other conserved lands.
Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham:
Make sure that all Vermonters thrive – this means decent health care, good jobs, open responsive government, energy and environmental policies that address the challenge of climate change. Each of these, and other issues, must be addressed in a financially responsible manner if we are to preserve the quality of life we want. Trying to focus on a single issue does not acknowledge the complexities and interconnectedness of all issues and solutions.
Rep. Michael Hebert, R-Windham-1 (Guilford, Vernon):
The single issue with the greatest impact on every citizen in the state is health care. I say this because we still have no answers on the cost of the program, the mechanism for funding the program and who will be covered. Without those answers we cannot be sure of the impact on small businesses and the resulting economic impact. The citizens of Vermont need economic relief, not additional tax burdens and higher premium costs.
Rep. Valerie Stuart, D-Windham-2-1 (Brattleboro):
Improving Vermonters’ readiness for kindergarten, college and careers, because education is the best path out of poverty and to prosperity. To achieve this goal, more Vermont children need access to high quality pre-K to get a strong start. Only 56 percent of our children are currently kindergarten-ready. More high school students also need to graduate prepared for college in order to save Vermont millions of dollars in remediation costs and improve college graduation rates. Today, having a college education is essential because most jobs require some post-secondary education.
Rep. Mollie Burke, P/D-Windham-2-2 (Brattleboro):
In the wake of nearly unanimous scientific evidence regarding climate change, the time is overdue for bold steps to address this complex issue. Vermont can be a leader in state policy to reduce carbon emissions. And since 44 percent of Vermont’s greenhouse gases come from the transportation sector, this is a place to begin. I am interested in legislation to curb vehicle idling, and educational programs to promote ride sharing, car sharing, and public transit. I want to prioritize a multi-modal and connected transportation system. We should make it easier, cheaper, and safer to get around on foot, bike, wheelchair, train, and bus.
Rep. Carolyn Partridge, D-Windham-3 (Athens, Brookline, Grafton, Rockingham, Westminster, Windham):
Passing a balanced budget and, in terms of the future of the state and continuing the good work of programs like Farm to Plate, I’d love to see some funding for the Working Lands Enterprise Act, which includes not only agriculture but also forestry.
Rep. David Deen, D-Windham-4 (Dummerston, Putney, Westminster):
To move the discussion about clean water, especially for Lake Champlain, forward. We will consider the report from the Agency of Natural Resources set out in Act 138. The administration will recommend means to underwriting a program to address stormwater runoff on a statewide basis. There is now a draft of the report out for public comment. We hope to stimulate people to clean up their discharges to the waters of Vermont as a matter of their own enlightened economic self-interest.
Rep. Michael Mrowicki, D-Windham-4 (Dummerston, Putney, Westminster):
Health care reform: The current system is not sustainable. Those who have coverage continue to pay more for less coverage. Care is currently rationed by high deductibles and exorbitant co-pays, so people wait longer for treatment. Outcomes become less effective because a small problem grows into a larger one from waiting. And that’s for people with insurance. Economically, towns, schools, businesses and personal budgets are all stretched every year by double digit cost increases. The free market has failed us and moving forward with universal, single payer health care is our only viable option.
Rep. Ann Manwaring, D-Windham-6 (Halifax, Whitingham, Wilmington):
We need to elevate our discussion on public education, including how we fund it and the outcomes we expect from it. What about examining why, no matter what funding system we have, outcomes don’t seem to improve much? What about looking at our system from the bottom up instead of the top down? What about recognizing that how money leaves the education fund is fundamentally a different question than how it gets into the fund? What about evaluating how much of that money actually gets to the classroom where the real work of improving outcomes is done? It is my hope that the governor will show the same leadership on public education that he has shown on health care, as it is difficult to say which is the greater public good.
Rep. John Moran, D-Windham-Bennington (Dover, Readsboro, Searsburg, Somerset, Stamford, Wardsboro, Whitingham):
A responsive and open budget: A responsive budget determines our needs, decides how to meet these needs, and then raises the necessary revenues. An open budget lists all money raised and how it is spent. Revenues that would be raised by taxes, but are not, because of exemptions or credits (called tax expenditures), are, by default, expenses. What we give away in tax expenditures ($1.3 billion) should be shown as expenses in our budget.
Rep. Charles “Tim” Goodwin, I-Windham-Bennington-Windsor (Jamaica, Londonderry, Stratton, Weston, Winhall):
The state faces some very important issues as we look forward to the total cost of recovery from Tropical Storm Irene and how to fund a health care program that will cost as much as the total current Vermont budget. But I think the most important issue specific to my district is education funding through a statewide property tax that we see as inequitable and a detriment to objectives such as reduced carbon emissions.
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