Q: Should the work of a State Government be performed by a State Employee?
A: The work of government is best performed by those who will provide the greatest service and care to Vermonters. In most cases, this is a State employee. In some cases, this is an individual or company outside of government who has specialized expertise or experience not found in the State workforce. As State employees, we have an obligation to watch the cost of government, which has outpaced Vermonters’ ability to generate private-sector economic activity to pay for it. We must make sure that every position in State government serves a unique function so that we avoid duplication and maximize productivity. We must look to replace outdated systems that serve as an anchor on frontline employees. I look forward to working with State employees to find those areas where efficiency is needed and where outdated and failing systems can be modernized to better support the important work of serving Vermonters. As Governor I would like to continue my Vermont everyday jobs tour within state government in order to learn what our state employees do and how we can make things better from their perspective.
Q: As an elected official, how would you approve the overall safety of state employees?
A: As an elected official, I have a record of working to keep State employees – and all Vermonters – safe. As Chair of both the Governor’s Emergency Preparedness Advisory Council and the Capitol Complex Security Working Group, I’m always monitoring public safety, both in terms of advances and potential threats. The number one job of government, in my opinion, is public safety, including state employees, and that view won’t change when I am elected Governor.
Q: What is your plan to make the health care system more fair and equitable for working Vermonters?
A: Expanding access to affordable health care must be a priority for the next governor. First, a major impediment for working Vermonters in their search for affordable health insurance has been the ongoing technical issues and costs associated with Vermont Health Connect, which still doesn’t work. I have suggested switching to the federal exchange or moving to a state-based partnership in order to improve access to health care for everyday Vermonters. Second, we need to get comprehensive healthcare reform back on track. As a State Senator, I supported legislation to provide subsidies to uninsured Vermonters on a sliding scale basis. Within two years of the law’s implementation, Vermont’s uninsured rate declined by 25%. This model (before it was undone by Vermont Health Connect), coupled with the payment reforms and aggressive cost containment of the Green Mountain Care Board, holds great promise. However, the next administration needs to acknowledge the lessons learned and avoid overpromising or creating continued economic uncertainty for workers and job creators.
Q: Will you support collective bargaining and vote against “Right to Work” legislation in any form?
A: I am supportive of collective bargaining rights. Ultimately, the result of the bargaining process must ensure a fair outcome for both taxpayers and State employees. On balance, I believe that is the case today in state government. I do believe, however, that every individual has a fundamental right to decline to join or participate in any organization with which she/he does not wish to participate in.
Q: What do you see as the role of State employees and how would you support them in their role?
A: In my experience as the owner of a construction business, if you want a straight answer, you go directly to the person doing the job. I’ll have the same philosophy as governor. I believe that many of the answers to our challenges in state government can be found on the frontlines of the services we provide. State employees are the most direct link between government and the people, and they understand what changes are needed to better care for the Vermonters we serve. Although we might not always agree, I’ll engage employees to find the best solution.
Further, State employees are Vermonters too, and they need the next governor to prioritize economic growth and private-sector job creation to get state revenues back on track and to address the growing affordability crisis that many working Vermonters are facing. We have experienced declining revenues year-over-year with no comprehensive plan to manage this economic uncertainty. I have been most frustrated by the lack of compassion for those impacted. Whether it’s state employees worried about their jobs, vulnerable Vermonters worried about the programs they depend on, or businesses worried about the next wave of new taxes and fees, this approach is not acceptable to me. As governor we must face these issues compassionately and head on.
Q: What mechanisms would you put in place to avoid budget shortfalls?
A: First and foremost, I will neither propose nor sign a budget that grows faster than the growth rate of the underlying economy or inflation-adjusted wages in the previous year. This is the best way to make sure state government is doing its part to help families get ahead. State government must live within its means, which means we need to rely on the revenue realities, not economists’ projections. If we keep government’s rate of growth lower overall economic growth, Vermonters will no longer be asked to shoulder rising costs at a rate that is greater than their ability to pay, and will thus have more of their income to save and reinvest in stimulating Vermont’s economy. In addition, a two-year budget cycle would strengthen long-term planning and management – enhance security for state employees – and reduce costs associated with the budget process itself.
Q: What approach would you take to make higher education more affordable for Vermonters?
A: Our workforce is shrinking at a rate of about 2300 Vermonters each year. These are the people who pay the taxes that fund state government. As Governor, I will prioritize investments in pro-growth areas like early education, higher education, technical education, and job training. Only about 60 percent of our high school graduates go on to college, the military or a trade program. That’s not good enough for an education system that spends more per pupil than any other state. All opportunities must be presented to Vermont high school graduates, from four-year degrees to associate’s degrees to technical, on-the-job partnership programs. We should always invest in the next generation of Vermonters, and education plays a crucial role in accomplishing that goal and recruiting the working families we need to rebuild our workforce.
Q: What would you do to ensure the viability of the state college system?
A: I firmly support investing in Vermont’s state college system, both through direct financial means and by pursuing mutually beneficial partnerships with state government. We need to look at ways we can expand dual enrollment, further tie state college programs directly to job-training, apprenticeships, and further investments in our workforce. This is an area where greater emphasis is needed. We have a strong network of state colleges and with the right leadership in place; we can establish stronger ties between these institutions and the economy if we want to have a vibrant economy that supports working families.
Q: Do you support a livable wage for Vermonters? If so, what do you think that amount should be?
A: I believe every Vermonter has the right to live, work hard for fair pay and raise a family. Yet an economy with costs of living that requires many parents to work two or three jobs to make ends meet doesn’t allow for that. My focus will be on reducing the cost of living, working, and doing business in Vermont so Vermonters can keep more of what they earn and so businesses can reinvest in their workers.
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’m asking for State employees’ support because I know the struggles hardworking Vermonters face every day, what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck, what it’s like to work incredibly hard to build a business, and the role state government plays in our economy. I believe an agreement is an agreement, and I make it a point never to make promises I can’t keep. That would be a refreshing change from the status quo. I will work in partnership with frontline state employees to find solutions to our current challenges. It would be an honor to have your support, but I seek nothing in exchange for it.