State Senate — Chittenden County
1. Health care
We must work towards a health and preventative care system for all. In my opinion, the two most important initiatives past last year to reduce costs and improve care are the Blueprint for Chronic Care and the streamlining of administration from consolidating forms to technology protocol. Each of these must be monitored next year for accountability in execution and timeliness. Another important aspect of chronic care has to be the inclusion of licensed complementary care practitioners i.e. naturopath ND, chiropractors [in Medicaid] and acupuncturists, in our health insurance programs for less costly treatment and more effective outcomes.
We need to get environmental protection back on the national agenda. The Bush administration has consistently relaxed environmental regulation in favor of the large multi-national companies especially the oil companies. We need to demand more federal dollars to clean up our lakes and streams. In Vermont, we need more accountability on the outcomes of the Clean and Clear Initiative. We also can become the leader in environmental technologies by leveraging the research money at the University of Vermont and incubating those inventions at the Center of Emerging Technologies to stimulate job creation.
The administration has failed to develop an integrated roadmap for Vermont’s energy needs after 2012. It is clear that renewable sources, energy efficiency and other environmental technologies are needed in the mix; this is imperative to reduce greenhouse gases and diminish our reliance on oil. I support investments and a commitment to wind power, incentives for green energy generation, exploration of co-generation, biomass, woodchip and other technologies. I would like to see us re-up with Hydro Quebec and wind down with Vermont Yankee.
4. Property taxes
We cannot ditch current system of property tax until we fully investigate an alternative and the unintended consequences associated with it. The key is to look to reduce costs in our educational system without compromising the quality in the classroom. Some obvious suggestions are the consolidation of the administrative function on a regional level and also negotiate a regional teacher’s contract as a first step to a statewide contract. The current property tax system is very difficult to understand and therefore does not provide the transparency we need in our taxation policies.
5. Farming & agriculture
Yes, the federal government needs to continue to support farmers. The state’s job is to promote value-added agricultural products and help farmer’s make the transition. Grants, low-interest loans, small business services and other educational activities should be more available to farmers. State programs like the Vermont Seal of Quality, farm to school, and other marketing programs need to be increased to help promote local food production and distribution as well as organics, artisan cheeses and other value-added products.
6. Government spending
There is increased pressure on the budget on healthcare, care for seniors aging at home and corrections. There is very little place to cut spending but we need to definitely do more with less. We need to actively execute the chronic care and administrative consolidation in Catamount health care to begin to control the costs. As far as our seniors and aging population, we must demand increased funding from our federal government. In corrections, we must begin to distinguish between hardened criminals and those with addictive or mental illness and get them the care they need in the community before locking them up in an expensive and non-productive environment. By incorporating modern technologies, consolidating basic functions like human resources, purchasing, and purchasing, we should begin to see some efficiency.
7. Other issues
In the next 5-10 years, we need to create an environment that attracts young people to Vermont. Affordable housing, universal health care, appropriate job opportunities, good schools and after school activities for young families, affordable higher education costs, and less taxes in general are just some of the components that are essential for recruitment and retention. I would like to see us market the state as the place for start-up entrepreneurial companies with state of the art incubators, surrounded by professional services and start-up capital possibilities. I am looking forward to the work of the Next Generation Initiative who will recommend some strategies to accomplish these goals.