Q: Should the work of a State Government be performed by a State Employee?
A: Absolutely. That is one reason I lead the effort to oppose privatizing the Risk Management Division this year and one reason I voted against the budget; which ultimately included the privatization.
Q: As an elected official, how would you approve the overall safety of state employees?
A: Ensuring adequate staffing levels especially in higher stress, potentially dangerous occupations. Supporting, as I did, proposals to ensure safety protocols are in place, including secure, safe workplace/office building design, security guards when appropriate. But also by projecting a positive image of state workers, so the public understands they are our neighbors doing important sometimes difficult work that Vermonters should appreciate and value.
Q: What is your plan to make the health care system more fair and equitable for working Vermonters?
A: Ideally we would expand the state employees’ health program to cover all Vermonters. I have and continue to support a universal, Medicare-for-all type system. In the short term I support expanding the existing Dr Dynasaur program and universal primary care.
Q: Will you support collective bargaining and vote against “Right to Work” legislation in any form?
A: Definitely yes. The right to organize is fundamental and needs to be defended and expanded.
Q: What do you see as the role of State employees and how would you support them in their role?
A: State employees do the work that keeps Vermont going. Because they represent a large, public, budget cost they – like public schools – are often a target of those who oppose government and government spending in general. I will/do project a positive image of state employees, help the public and policymakers understand the value of an effective state workforce, support decent pay and benefits, collective bargaining etc. and vocally support them in their labor struggles.
Q: What mechanisms would you put in place to avoid budget shortfalls?
A: The problem is not in our spending. We have ongoing budget shortfalls because our political leadership is unwilling to raise adequate revenue. With most new income over the last decade going to the wealthiest Vermonters, increasing income inequality and stagnant or declining incomes are what weaken our tax revenue and undermine our economy. I have and will introduce proposals to raise revenue by asking the wealthiest Vermonters to pay more.
Q: What approach would you take to make higher education more affordable for Vermonters?
A: State colleges and (UVM) are public institutions that must be affordable for Vermonters. The enacting statute of the VSC system says they shall be supported in whole or substantial part by public money. We have broken that commitment and that law by consistently underfunding them and shifting the burden to families and students. If we did more to put kids in college we would have less of them in prison. I have said on the Senate floor that I could not support budgets that spend more on prisons than on state colleges.
Q: What would you do to ensure the viability of the state college system?
A: I have consistently introduced legislation to support our state colleges and make them more affordable. (I think 5 bills this year). They include increasing funding tied to other economic indicators, increasing funding to the higher education trust fund, ending the portability of VSAC funds (only 1 other state allows this funding to go out of state), proportional funding of state colleges and UVM based on the number of Vermonters attending, and returning to at least the 1980 ratio of state support versus tuition funding (50%/50%).
Q: Do you support a livable wage for Vermonters? If so, what do you think that amount should be?
A: Yes. Projections of a true livable wage vary depending on the people looked at (i.e. family size, location etc.). We should start by moving to $15 minimum wage.
Q: Briefly state why the VSEA should endorse you and describe the type of assistance that you would be seeking from a VSEA endorsement.
A: I have done my best to support VSEA members. I would appreciate financial support and when appropriate phone banking outreach, letters to the editor and help with visibility.