Q: Should the work of a State Government be performed by a State Employee?
A: State work should be done by state workers to protect collective bargaining and the resulting contractual rights of state workers. We should note the poor performances of outsource contractors in Health Connect and private prisons.
Q: As an elected official, how would you approve the overall safety of state employees?
A: I offered an amendment to a threatening bill to create enhanced penalties for threatening government people in their governmental capacity. It did not win Judiciary Committee support and so did not pass. But I continue to see government workers as especially vulnerable as targets of antigovernment resentment. Because state workers are authorized by law, and charged with implementing law, threatening them is a de facto attack on the voters’ sovereignty, a mini coup d’etat.
Specific approaches to worker safety are case specific. In some cases I think there are architectural responses; separation of parking for example. I supported the bill requiring each agency to examine safety and improve protocols.
Q: What is your plan to make the health care system more fair and equitable for working Vermonters?
A: I have long supported single payer. Halfway compromises create the worst of both worlds; market oriented systems weighed down by liberal regs that contradict market forces. If we’re not willing to let people die for lack of health care, the inevitable outcome of a liaisez fairer market system, then we need to be brave, take the leap, pay the taxes, and go to a Single Payer system.
Q: Will you support collective bargaining and vote against “Right to Work” legislation in any form?
A: "Right to Work" is a dishonest name for what is really Right to Scab,a blatant attack on the collective bargaining rights of working people. I have always opposed the right to scab. I also oppose Right to Work Lite such as efforts to prohibit agency fees.
Q: What do you see as the role of State employees and how would you support them in their role?
A: Authority starts with We the People who are sovereign, and is delegated to the Legislature. The Legislature creates law that delegates authority to executive branch agencies who develop rules to implement law. Rules authorize administrators to enforce the rules. Within the rules administrators are authorized to use their judgement. So, through this delegation of powers, state workers are agents of We the People, exercising the public’s sovereignty. Less theoretical, state workers are people who make their livings by showing up and working on a broad variety of government services.
I have long supported government workers by looking to their union for guidance, advocating adequate funding, and supporting collective bargaining in general. When I make inquiries in behalf of a citizen I treat state workers with respect. I don’t scold state workers for enforcing the laws the Legislature passed.
Q: What mechanisms would you put in place to avoid budget shortfalls?
A: This question as well as [the next two] are related and the hardest to answer. There are fundamental, underlying issues. The federal government has backed down on many of its commitments, passing the buck to the states. The states are in competition with one another for business investors and entrepreneurial development, which imposes limits on our taxing ability. This race to the bottom limits our revenues. It’s a Republican argument that raising income taxes reaches a point of diminishing returns, but the argument has merit. Our proximity to New Hampshire limits our sales tax.
That said, we should consider taxing services that can’t be moved out of state, expanding our definition of property beyond real estate, taxing wealth as well as income. But, given the limits on taxation, we need to look hard at spending. I’d start with the salaries of higher level commissioners and secretaries. I want to tighten up on how much tax money goes to high salaries and golden parachutes for executives of designated agencies. The union should be involved in the budgeting process.
Q: What approach would you take to make higher education more affordable for Vermonters?
A: I don’t have an adequate answer to this, given the limits on our taxing ability. But I think textbooks are over priced and faculty should be encouraged to use more online sources. I can’t understand the high salaries of college administrators. I welcome suggestions.
Q: What would you do to ensure the viability of the state college system?
A: Having been an adjunct instructor at CCV, I have a personal stake in this. But I have no facile answer.
Q: Do you support a livable wage for Vermonters? If so, what do you think that amount should be?
A: I support raising the minimum wage to $15.00. When a company pays its workers little enough that those workers qualify for Food Stamps, Medicaid and other government benefits, the tax payers are subsidizing that company’s labor costs, blatant corporate welfare. I support taxing low paying companies in order to recoup the cost of that subsidy. This leads to the more basic matter of creating a more robust economy in general.
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: Other than the period 2003-2007, I’ve served in the Senate for twenty-seven years. Over that long period, I have had a 99% pro labor voting record. (Nobody remembers what it was I broke ranks over.) As a history teacher and as a politician, in fact as a folk singer, I respect collective bargaining as a basic human right.I respect labor history for its heroism and decency. I also respect state workers. I doubt anyone can find a better friend of Labor in general, or of the VSEA in particular.
I welcome a VSEA endorsement. I need money for my first contested primary in many years. I could make good use of volunteers.