Q: Should the work of a State Government be performed by a State Employee?
A: YES. I voted against privatizing our risk management division. Contracting out services not only results in less transparency and accountability, but often sends Vermont dollars out of state. Employees of any private contractor should be paid at the same level with the same benefits as state employees currently performing the functions being privatized. Outsourcing too often means a race to the bottom for the local economy, as wages and benefits fall while corporate profits rise.
Q: As an elected official, how would you approve the overall safety of state employees?
A: There are many divisions of state employees where there is excessive risk; those in our judicial/family service division, highway workers, mental health workers, and law enforcement would be a top priority. I would start by asking front line employees for their suggestions and use their experience and ideas to identify beneficial changes.
Q: What is your plan to make the health care system more fair and equitable for working Vermonters?
A: I deeply understand this problem. My family has paid over $40,000 in out of pocket expenses in the last two years due to my spouse, Rachel’s, Lyme disease. We need a publicly funded, universal health care system and I have sponsored bills pushing for this regularly since 1997.
As Lieutenant Governor I will be in a good position to lead brainstorming sessions that come up with a digestible transition to a universal health care system. Shumlin’s efforts fell short but we must keep our eye on controlling costs and covering everyone. It’s clear Vermonters will not support a whopping shift to the tax rolls. We must prove we can achieve meaningful milestones in health reform before Vermonters will trust state government to make big changes in our health system.
As we create a more efficient universal healthcare system that is not tied to employment, the state should see savings that can then be used to either; lower taxes for all Vermonters, increase compensation for state employees, and/or broaden services offered to all Vermonters.
Q: Will you support collective bargaining and vote against “Right to Work” legislation in any form?
A: YES! For me, income inequality is the single greatest economic problem so, freedom of association and collective bargaining should be at the forefront of the progressive agenda. As a member of the Legislative Working Vermonters’ Caucus I have worked hard to promote fair labor practices. I believe “Right-to-Work” laws harm union and non-union workers alike by depressing union membership and limiting the effectiveness of unions. I oppose any legislation that would make any part of Vermont a “Right-to-Work” state by lessening labor union membership.
Q: What do you see as the role of State employees and how would you support them in their role?
A: State employees are the front line of everything in a civilized society from infrastructure repair to public safety, workplace safety to consumer protection, and water quality to human services. State employees are the face of the state and represent how we treat our fellow citizens.
When government functions as a model employer in employment and compensation practices, our families, neighborhoods, communities, states, and society as a whole benefit.
Over the past decade, we have seen many of the basic programs that our families and communities depend on come under attack. We need to stand in solidarity with our public employees and tell our private sector workers that this is their fight too, by explaining that cuts to public sector spending will affect their lives. We need to vehemently oppose any further attempts to dismantle our public services or to cut our social safety nets to shreds.
Q: What mechanisms would you put in place to avoid budget shortfalls?
A: There is no magic bullet. We have to put basic needs first. I will continue to work toward cannabis reform so we can bring the underground economy into our system. I will work so everyone pays their fair share of taxes.
Q: What approach would you take to make higher education more affordable for Vermonters?
A: I believe that an investment in higher education is an investment in Vermont. I am reminded of when students from across the state who came to the statehouse to stand in solidarity and together make their voices louder. We legislators need to have the political will to invest in public higher education through increased funding and be as brave as the students who shared their personal stores of the struggles they face attending VSC and UVM. Let our message (increased funding in higher education) be equally as powerful as the students’ personal stories!! We need to think about the future incomes of our younger generation who choose to go to college, their ability to earn more in higher skilled jobs and to grow our economy in Vermont.
Q: What would you do to ensure the viability of the state college system?
A: I would dedicate the first money from cannabis reform to education, prevention and treatment of drugs and to administering the law including increased drugged driving enforcement. The next revenue I would put toward a higher education trust fund with an annual allocation to higher education. Each year a percent of the trust fund earnings would go to higher education so we can ensure our state colleges remain viable. An investment in public higher education is an investment in Vermont..
Q: Do you support a livable wage for Vermonters? If so, what do you think that amount should be?
A: YES! We need to progressively work toward a $15 minimum wage. We must also address other issues that impact affordability such as housing, health care, public transportation options.
I, like many other Legislators, do not want to perpetuate a low-wage economy. We will always have low income people, but I don’t want it to be because of low wages. I think it is important to keep in mind that raising the minimum wage is critical to Vermont and Vermont workers as it sets the “wage floor”. Many jobs created in the future will likely be service oriented jobs such as in nursing homes, retail, education, the food industry, etc. Service sector jobs are typically low-wage, but there will always be a need for them. They are not going away. That is why I feel it is important to raise the minimum wage in order to set the “wage floor” at an equitable level.
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: As a co-founder of the Working Vermonters Caucus, I have the longest track record of standing up for working Vermonters across the board. From collective bargaining rights to safe workplace conditions I have been, and will continue to be, with our State employees and other organized workers.
I have consistently stood with state employees, standing on the picket lines with Union members to fight for their rights to collectively bargain, fighting for a safe workplace, fighting against cuts, fighting for healthcare, fighting for retirees and standing with organized labor groups across Vermont in their fight for economic justice. I speak highly of State Employees and praise them for their services and dedication to the people of Vermont. I have invited and amplified your voices in the Statehouse. I have a deep appreciation for State Employees and have stood with them through thick and thin.
I would like as much organizing support as VSEA can offer, from mailings and emails to phone banking. If possible a mailing from VSEA as well as from my campaign to your members. This year the Primary on August 9th IS the election. I am both the most experienced and most steadfast in standing up for our state workers.