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Governor candidates forum: Galbraith, Lisman, Scott would ban big wind projects in Vermont

IRASBURG – Three top gubernatorial candidates said Wednesday that Vermont should ban big wind projects.

Republicans Phil Scott and Bruce Lisman and Democrat Peter Galbraith said at a forum they would as governor oppose any more industrial wind turbines on ridgelines.

Democratic candidate Matt Dunne said it’s not fair to force the Northeast Kingdom to host all the large wind projects.

The four supported renewable energy and decried Act 46 to consolidate school systems. Each touted their plans to boost the NEK economy and of the rest of Vermont.

They spoke during a bipartisan forum, hosted by the Orleans County Republican and Democratic parties. Onlookers said it was the first gubernatorial forum in recent memory in Orleans County.

Democrat Sue Minter did not attend as planned; a spokesman said she had a conflict because she went to a meeting in Bennington about contaminated well water.

Galbraith, a senator and former ambassador, said there will be no new industrial-scale wind projects if he is governor. He called for a ban to hearty applause.

Anti-wind sentiments drew the loudest applause from the 200 people lounging in lawn chairs at Ron Holland’s riding arena.

“This election is a referendum on industrial wind and if you don’t want it, vote for me,” Galbraith said.

Scott, the current lieutenant governor, former lawmaker and businessman, said the candidates have common ground in reducing reliance on foreign oil and desiring renewable energy.

“I’m not in favor of wind. It’s inefficient, it’s unsightly, it’s been damaging our ridgelines and it’s time to stop here in Vermont,” Scott said.

The NEK in particularly has been unfairly treated, Scott said.

Lisman, a businessman, said it is not fair to dump big projects in the NEK.

“If you don’t want them you shouldn’t have them,” Lisman said.

The state’s energy plan doesn’t measure true costs or potential future innovations, Lisman said.

The wind developers should make good on homeowners that are harmed, he added.

Dunne, former lawmaker and recently working for Google, put the priority on efficiency and conservation as the cheapest way to achieve the 2050 goal of 90 percent renewable energy.

“Climate change is the biggest threat to our state and to our globe,” he said.

But he said it’s not the Vermont way to force one region to host all the big projects. And he blamed state leaders for being in bed with big utilities.

The candidates said they would appoint a new chairman of the Public Service Board regulating wind projects who would put the positions of host towns first.

Act 46

Galbraith promised he would not increase school property taxes as governor, saying that there are other ways to increase the education fund.

Act 46 is a jump to consolidation without focusing on what’s best for students, Dunne said.

Districts can consolidate on overhead and administration, Dunne said. “We don’t need 60 superintendents for 70,000 children.”

Lisman wants local control of schools.

“I happen to think Act 46 is a genuinely bad piece of legislation. It was not well researched and we are now appreciating its unintended consequences. I would urge its repeal.”

Lisman would help school districts work toward larger student-to-teacher ratios in classrooms.

Scott called Act 46 a well-intentioned law that was hurried through and sold as a way to save costs. Scott called for “drastic changes.”

He liked St. Johnsbury Rep. Scott Beck’s amendment which was not passed to ensure school choice.

Economy, minimum wage

Scott said the state needs young people to work here and buy homes, put their children in schools and reinvigorate the economy. He lamented the lack of bills in the Legislature about job creation.

“I am advocating for a complete focus, laser-like focus on the economy,” Scott said.

Vermont already has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation, he said. The state needs to focus on the crisis of affordability, not by raising the minimum wage that high.

Dunne said no one in Vermont should be working 40 hours a week and still be living in poverty.

Dunne and Galbraith would push for a $15 an hour minimum wage in Vermont.

Dunne advocated a $100 million energy efficiency bond to make apartment buildings energy efficient. That would put thousands of people to work, improve affordable housing, make the state more live-able and reduce the state’s carbon foot print.

Galbraith said he got into the race because no one was discussing the $15 minimum wage, calling it the most important anti-poverty program possible.

He said it will make Vermont affordable and attract young workers. It would eliminate the need for $18 million in earned income tax credits to businesses. He also advocates free state college tuition, paid for by repealing $29 million in tax breaks.

“We’re a small business state,” Lisman said.

Entrepreneurs face high fees and taxes, he said.

He preferred slow increases in the minimum wage to avoid hurting small business, where many owners actually earn less than minimum wage per hour themselves.

Gun safety laws

Scott and Lisman said no to closing gun sale loopholes.

Dunne and Galbraith said loopholes should be closed. Galbraith wants to ban the sale of military style assault weapons.