I grew up on a dairy farm in the Northeast Kingdom, and I know what being a Vermonter is all about. Vermonters are hard workers, and we don't stop until the problem is solved. I was a minister in my community for twenty years. I served in the State Senate for eight years (1981-1988), four as chair of the Finance Committee. I went on to direct the State's renewable energy and energy efficiency programs for twelve years (1990-2002). Since leaving state government, I have been an independent energy consultant and the public policy director for Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility.
I’m running for governor because Vermont deserves a leader who will bring Vermonters together to solve the challenges we face. My top priority is controlling the rising cost of living for Vermonters. As governor, I will work to make Vermont affordable so that young families can stay in the state and lifelong residents are supported as they grow older. We can and we must do better.
State government needs to lead, coordinate, and support economic growth in Vermont. Vermont’s business policies must benefit both the large companies that are headquartered here and encourage the success of small businesses that create most of our new jobs. My strategy for well-paying jobs in Vermont will include workforce development; business-friendly policies and tax structures; a high-speed broadband network; and lowering the cost of living by providing affordable housing, health care, and sustainable, affordable energy.
My plan for controlling property taxes and managing local school spending is focused on efforts to control cost drivers like health care and energy that are pushing education budgets to the brink. The state must also work collaboratively with local school boards to support efficiencies and cost savings. I will not raid the Education Fund for other purposes, which Jim Douglas proposed in 2005 and 2006. As governor, I will also fight the unfunded federal mandates of No Child Left Behind, and pursue full funding of special education.
The Catamount plan makes progress in the area of health care, but Vermont needs a health care system that is open to and affordable for everyone. We should move to self-insuring as a state to capture the efficiencies of a streamlined system, where Vermonters keep their family doctors and health care providers will be fairly reimbursed for their services. This will improve the quality of available health care and lower the cost – so that all Vermonters have health care coverage regardless of their employment status or financial situation.
Vermont needs to explore energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy to ensure that in the future our energy options are affordable and sustainable. We must work to lower energy costs, and develop a real plan to have a diverse mix of sources, including biomass and bio-fuels, hydropower, and wind power in Vermont.
Affordable housing is a basic foundation for the quality of life in Vermont and I will fight to make sure that all Vermonters have a safe, decent, affordable place to live.
Vermont’s greatest assets are its people and its environment. Global forces such as climate change and local issues such as pollution from runoff into Lake Champlain threaten the very things that Vermont is known for - our farms, our forests, colorful fall foliage, and winter sports. As we have shown with the success of Efficiency Vermont, with innovation we can protect the environment as we build a stronger economy. We can be global leaders in technologies to clean water, protect our air, and respond to global warming. Businesses that pioneer these technologies are key to a prosperous future, to producing well-paying jobs, to our economic independence, and to keeping Vermont a special and unique place.
As your governor, I will lead this state with hard work and collaboration to create jobs, invigorate our economy, and sustain a healthy environment. With investment, leadership, and vision, we can.
Catamount is a hard-won step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough. Total spending on health care in Vermont is estimated to reach $3.7 billion this year, more than 60 percent higher than when Jim Douglas first took office. That’s more than $7,500/year for every man, woman and child. More than 61,000 Vermonters (almost 10 percent) go without health insurance. We can’t afford to wait for two years while Catamount is implemented before taking additional steps, which Jim Douglas suggests.
Health care is a substantial contributor to our rising cost of living. We have an opportunity to create a real solution to the affordable health care crisis, but to do this Vermont needs a health care system that is not tied to income or employment, removes this burden from businesses, and lets patients retain their own doctors.
My plan moves Vermont over time to be fully self-insured as a state. By forming a single risk pool that includes all Vermonters, we’ll realize significant cost savings from more efficient use of the resources that already exist within the current system. Changes to the health care system impact everyone, so my first step will be to call people together — doctors, hospitals, consumers, businesses — to determine what they need to transition to a better system of care. Next, we’ll develop an initial coverage plan for primary care and then for hospital care. Management of this system will eventually be contracted out to a public oriented entity (not a new governmental agency).
We all want to be able to protect our family’s health. By addressing the costs of health care, we can move on to other issues: improving the quality of preventive health programs; supporting professionals and institutions; and making new technologies and therapies available across the state.
The bottom line is that we can and must make health care more affordable for all Vermonters. My pledge to the voters of this state is that I won’t sign any legislation that means an increase in the cost of health care for Vermonters. Together, we can find the way to make it cost less.
To respond effectively to Vermont’s environmental challenges, we need to set ambitious goals. In the area of energy, for instance, there is much to be done. We need to significantly reduce the energy use in our buildings. We need to make sure that all Vermonters have access to energy efficiency programs so they use less energy as they keep warm in the winter. We need more thoughtful and strategic use of renewable energy sources that will build reliability, security, and sustainability into our energy supply system. We need enhanced public transportation, more carpooling and ridesharing, and expanded use of bio-fuels in our cars and trucks. We need to look at the ways Vermont can reduce its use of fossil transportation fuels. We also need to look for ways to create and keep jobs in the energy sector.
For these things to happen, we need a governor who will take on the issues — a leader who realizes opportunities for collaboration and who brings all Vermonters to the table so that they feel included in the process and invested in the result.
During Jim Douglas’ four years as governor, we have lost ground on cleaning up our water, on making our permitting processes and the Agency of Natural Resources work better, and on protecting our farms and communities. Jim Douglas’ record on the environment is not a proud one. Again and again, Jim Douglas has pitted Vermonters against each other and failed to take responsibility for the consequences of his actions — the Wilderness Act and genetically engineered seeds are just two examples among many of this divisive pattern. Vermont needs a governor who takes responsibility for their own actions, and works to bring people together, not drive them apart. Vermont cannot afford another two years of Jim Douglas.
As your governor, I will take immediate action to make sure that Vermont responds to current environmental challenges and positions itself as a leader in renewable energy and environmental innovator so that we are assured a healthy future.
Vermont can ensure that our future energy options are affordable and environmentally sustainable by relying on energy efficiency and renewable energy options. Diversity in our energy sources means security, reliability and protection from volatile price swings. We will likely need market purchases and contracts to bridge us to a more sustainable energy future, but can minimize the use of the most expensive sources by first finding every opportunity to lower our total energy use through efficiency. This would reduce for the total amount of energy that Vermont needs. The Douglas administration has had no real policy to achieve any of these goals.
In fact, Jim Douglas’ record on energy is nothing to brag about. Over the last four years he:
Opposed any meaningful funding increase for Efficiency Vermont;
Passed up the opportunity to buy the dams on the Connecticut River that would have brought clean, affordable, renewable energy to Vermonters for generations; and
Says he’ll rely on the market when it comes time to renegotiate our power contracts when they expire, leaving Vermont vulnerable to market forces out of our control.
I presented an energy plan earlier this summer, based on my years of experience in the field, and in it I proposed to:
Strengthen the energy efficiency program to include all fuels and aspects of energy conservation — this will improve business competitiveness and create high paying jobs;
Actively, enthusiastically promote renewable energy;
Oppose any new nuclear plants in the state, and not consider any continuation of Vermont Yankee unless a full, independent safety evaluation is performed;
Invest in weatherization and design developments so that our new buildings are super-efficient, comfortable and well suited to the Vermont climate;
Cultivate partnerships with utilities and energy providers so they can be developers, not just distributors of energy; and
Provide incentives for biomass and biofuels to help farmers diversify and make fuel for Vermonters.
We need to lower energy costs so Vermonters can stay warm, keep the lights on, and get from one place to another without having to sacrifice other basic needs.
When I was in the State Senate in the 1980’s it was apparent that Vermont’s system of school funding meant large educational inequities for our children. It was because of this unequal situation that the Supreme Court intervened, resulting in our current funding system.
Clearly the present system is flawed, but the basic concept of educational parity must be maintained. Vermont’s commitment to both the tradition and benefits of local control must also be continued. In the next two years, Vermont’s governor must take bold action. As leader of the state, the governor must fight for the federal funding we are owed; lead the way in efforts to control cost drivers like health care and energy that are pushing education budgets to the brink; and work collaboratively with local school boards to plan for efficiencies and cost savings. Simple gimmicks and schemes like once-size-fits-all “caps” won’t solve the problems. It will take harder work than that.
My plan for controlling property taxes and managing local school spending reflects these beliefs. First, I will not raid the Education Fund for other purposes, which Jim Douglas proposed in 2005 and 2006. Instead, I will preserve the funds dedicated to education spending and will focus on lowering cost drivers by:
Supporting a real energy plan that reduces energy costs for our schools;
Reducing health care costs for our schools by implementing my health care plan;
Fighting the unfunded mandates of NCLB;
Pursuing full funding of special education; and,
Supporting schools as they seek to use their buildings and teachers more efficiently.
Some of these steps are longer term, but others have immediate impacts. The School Energy Management Program, for instance, which I helped launch in 1996, has tremendous potential to serve many more districts than it currently does. I helped convert many schools to wood chip heating. More can be done.
With leadership from a governor with vision, districts can take advantage of programs that will lead to immediate savings on ‘07-’08 budgets, and lighten the increasing burden of property taxes that many Vermonters face.
Farming & agriculture
The lives of all Vermonters are touched by agriculture. Our farms provide a unique bounty and plenty of healthy, local food. They are the backbone of our rural communities, and shape our landscape.
It is time for Vermont's governor to embrace all the opportunities presented by this unique and special relationship between the state and its native agriculture. Vermont's agricultural potential, if well managed, could lead the nation and world in innovation and responsible land stewardship. Our current governor, and the people he has appointed to critical posts in his administration, have turned their backs on this potential, and the Vermonters who are dedicating themselves everyday to making it a reality. We must renew the state’s commitment of resources to support an inclusive agricultural economy, a diverse community of producers who come together because of their shared commitment to produce wholesome food for our tables and to nurture the soils and our ecology, now and for future generations.
Vermonters need leadership from their governor. I will work with, not against the farmers of Vermont. As governor, I will:
Work to promote local agriculture and support family farmers by creating policies that help our local food systems and local economies to flourish;
Create partnerships with Vermonters who operate farms of all sizes to invest in Vermont's agricultural economy and expand opportunities;
Fight for fair milk prices;
Support the efforts of our Congressional delegation to bring federal assistance, when needed, to Vermont from Washington;
Work with other governors from dairy states, regardless of party, to find fair ways to fund, support and sustain our dairy farms;
Offer support and encouragement for all the incredible, creative entrepreneurial energy that is bursting out all over the Vermont landscape; and
Encourage value-added producers and support new niche markets.
The lessons I learned on the farm growing up have not been lost on me. Vermont's agricultural economy deserves a governor who will fight to make sure the farm traditions that make us unique continue to grow and thrive. With investment, leadership and vision, we can.
The budgeting process always comes down to a question of priorities. There are many instances in the past four years when Jim Douglas has submitted unrealistic budgets that contained level funding or cuts to critical programs that the legislature wisely rejected, and found revenue to provide more realistic levels of support. However, significant challenges are ahead and our next governor and legislators will have to make even tougher decisions to find funding for necessary projects such as the state hospital and closing the Medicaid funding gap. I believe that the most significant source of “savings” will be found by implementing more aggressive health care insurance reform, which will save both taxpayers and the state money in the medium and long term. Other prudent decisions for increasing efficiency and lowering costs will need to be made.
In addition to targeting programs for efficiencies, we also have to fight for our share of federal assistance. For some areas – like agriculture – the federal funds would provide immediate relief. Fairer federal support for unfunded mandates such as No Child Left Behind will provide longer-term help.
After four years in office and a career as a Republican, Jim Douglas has conveniently decided it’s time to distance himself from the Republican Party. However, he consistently supports Republican federal budget cuts and tax policies that resulted in record-setting federal deficits that have hurt our state. He hasn't expressed disgust with the administration's disastrous handling of the war in Iraq, which has taken the lives of too many Vermonters and left our nation less secure in the face of terrorism.
Four months into the Bush presidency, Sen. Jim Jeffords knew what the Republican Party was doing to this country and became an Independent. What took Douglas so long? And given his consistent support of the Bush Administration, can we really believe him now?
Jim Douglas can try to run from his record, but the fact remains — more than any other Vermont Republican, he has done everything he could to get our current leaders in Washington elected. He twice chaired Bush’s presidential campaign. He bragged about his close ties to the White House, and used his clout with the Republican Congress to kill the compromise wilderness bill. Why is he trying to convince voters of this change of heart now?
Vermonters are realizing that this is the real Jim Douglas, who for four years has done little to solve the problems that are driving up the cost of living for working families, is now using that very crisis to suggest that if you give him the chance, this time he'll fix everything. He claims he supports childcare, then underfunds key programs to make childcare accessible to Vermont families. He says he supports energy conservation, then underfunds Efficiency Vermont. His “Promise Scholarship” plan contains no real funding source, but when legislators raise this issue, he goes to the media and questions their commitment to higher education.
It’s time for new leadership, for a governor who works with determination and commitment, to bring Vermonters together, who says the last four years have not been good enough. We need to do more, we can do more, and we must do more.