Bennington legislators reveal top issues
Tim Calabro Photo
The Vermont Legislature, pictured on the final day of its 2012 session, is set to return to the Statehouse next week.
The Herald invited every state legislator from Vermont’s southern counties to respond to the question, “What’s your single most important issue for 2013 and why?” Following are the answers from Bennington lawmakers who replied.
Sen. Robert Hartwell, D-Bennington:
There is a significant loss of democracy in Vermont, and I will propose several pieces of legislation intended to restore it to the political process, including a freeze on the property tax; follow-up legislation with respect to the deployment of the so-called “smart meters” to require adequate investigation of complaints and to require notice to ratepayers of their rights; an industrial wind-power moratorium because there is no Act 250 review of impacts on the environment, towns and residents; related Department of Public Service reform; and the establishment of a permanent legislative oversight committee.
Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington:
How we pay for the services people expect at a time when state revenues are not keeping up with spending pressures — to the tune of $50 million to $70 million and, on top of that, whatever spending cuts come from the federal “fiscal cliff” reductions.
Rep. Bill Botzow, D-Bennington-1 (Pownal, Woodford):
We need to thoroughly review Vermont’s efforts to build the work force of the future. Employers need well-trained employees and Vermonters need good paying jobs. When we understand the work that is currently going on in our schools, tech centers and the workplace we can advance a Vermont workforce development system where roles, responsibilities and resources are well aligned and where Vermont can develop jobs and companies for our communities.
Rep. Anne Mook, D-Bennington-2-2 (Bennington):
Over the last several years, every effort has been made to assure all who wish to vote can do so in a timely manner. Campaign reform in Vermont is still needed to reflect transparency of donors, limits of donations, timely reporting of donations and the use of PACs. Included in any campaign reform should be a look at voter registration on motor vehicle license renewals, as well as all polling places should have machine voting. Those who vote early deserve to have their ballots counted before the polls close.
Rep. Mary Morrissey, R-D-Bennington-2-2 (Bennington):
My top priority would be growing the economy for solid jobs and having the revenues we’ll need. We have significant issues regarding the budget, tax policy, health care and education and still need to find revenues for Tropical Storm Irene restoration. We need a strong economy in order to fund some of these significant projects.
Rep. Alice Miller, D-Bennington-3 (Glastenbury, Shaftsbury, Sunderland):
While there are many critical issues, the top priority for me is: jobs, getting people back to work, providing work force development to increase workers’ skills that, in turn, will increase their income and standard of living. It’s also essential to provide affordable quality childcare so that both parents can get to work.
Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Bennington-4 (Arlington, Manchester, Sandgate, Sunderland):
My priority will be the transformation of our system of state financing so that every dollar spent is productive and effective and our tax code is simple, efficient and equitable. All spending programs must have performance goals and cost controls. The tax code should be reformed by reducing subsidies so that we could lower the sales, income and property tax rates. This will be politically difficult, but the economic benefits for Vermonters would be substantial.
Rep. Jeff Wilson D-Bennington-4 (Arlington, Manchester, Sandgate, Sunderland):
We need to start answering many of the pressing questions swirling around a potential state-sponsored health care plan and give Vermonters a clearer idea of what such a plan will entail. This means we need to start formulating answers to questions like: What would such a plan look like (administrative design and coverage options)? What will it cost? How will it be financed? How will it impact quality of care? Although the current system is deficient in many ways, any new system must bend the cost curve and be sustainable.
Rep. Patti Komline, R-Bennington-Rutland (Danby, Dorset, Landgrove, Mount Tabor, Peru):
Cliffs aren’t just fiscal. Vermonters face many poverty cliffs. When one begins to earn more money they lose state support such as childcare, electricity and heating subsidies. Health care support cutoffs will be a huge challenge in 2014. People turn down work and pay raises because their children lose health care benefits. We need to create slopes to help ease people from our social safety net. We’ve discussed this for years. The time for action is now.