TJ Donovan: Democrat Candidate For Candidate for Vermont Attorney General, 2016

Q: Should the work of a State Government be performed by a State Employee?

A: Yes, in general. Ordinary work, including security services, corrections, and all other State services should be performed by State employees with appropriate union representation.

There are some situations where the State must contract for special skills or knowledge to help to augment or support State employees. For instance, significant IT projects, software development, and construction of State buildings would likely be done by outside contractors. However, in as many instances as possible the work can and should be performed by a State employee. By ensuring State employees do the vast majority of state work we also will ensure that the taxpayers’ funds used for this work will stay in our communities helping to keep Vermont’s economy going. As much as possible, Vermont State employees should be the ones performing public services for Vermonters.



Q: As an elected official, how would you approve the overall safety of state employees?

A: We must ensure that those that have committed their lives to public service are able to do their work in a safe environment. As Attorney General, I will not tolerate violence or threats of violence directed at State employees. As the state’s top law enforcement officer I am committed to prosecuting any individual that would attempt to harm state employees.

I will also commit to using the authority of the Attorney General, wherever possible, to make sure that workplace accidents are minimized and that we take safety of our employees as seriously as we take the safety of our families, including ensuring compliance with all federal and State safety regulations.



Q: What is your plan to make the health care system more fair and equitable for working Vermonters?

A: One of the responsibilities of the Attorney General is to approve every State contract. Consequently, I will work within my available authority to ensure that every contract relating to health care services, from IT to contracted health services, provides adequate protections for consumers. Where the authority is deficient, I will work to have necessary consumer protections implemented. Protecting consumers ultimately lowers health care costs by improving outcomes and care.

Furthermore, the Legislature recently enacted a bill, S.245, which will give the Attorney General’s office more power to monitor the prospect of consolidation within the health industry which could lead to monopolization and therefore high prices. I will take this legal responsibility seriously and fight artificially high prices in the health care industry.

The Legislature also passed a bill, S.216, which will empower the Attorney General’s office to force pharmaceutical companies to provide transparency and justifications for the pricing of certain drugs. This important legislation will make it easier to drive drug prices down and ensure that companies aren’t overcharging working Vermonters and the state.



Q: Will you support collective bargaining and vote against “Right to Work” legislation in any form?

A: Yes. I have a long history of support for unions and collective bargaining, including supporting the unionizing of the Chittenden County State Attorneys. I will stand with employees against any “Right to Work” legislation. I believe that unions play an essential role in amplifying the voices of workers.



Q: What do you see as the role of State employees and how would you support them in their role?

A: The role of State employee is to provide the vital services to Vermonters that allow our State to thrive. Their jobs are the ones we have deemed critical to support the work necessary to allow us to live, work and play in a safe, productive and nurturing environment. State employees need the pay, training and support to perform their jobs efficiently, successfully and with a sense of pride. Vermonters are the ultimate consumers of State services and are best served by an intelligent workforce whose work is valued and appreciated.



Q: What mechanisms would you put in place to avoid budget shortfalls?

A: One way to avoid budget shortfalls is to be as efficient as possible in the operations of the Office of Attorney General. One way to achieve efficiency is ensure that in every contract the Attorney General approves, Vermonters receive the best deal possible with proper clawbacks and contingencies in place if the vendor is not living up to its obligations.

Second, the Attorney General can best represent Vermonters by focusing on carefully outlined priorities, by not pursuing meritless cases and by using his authority to resolve cases where the State itself has violated the law. See 3 V.S.A. § 159. The State should be a good citizen by example. By using such discretion, by listening, and by making priorities clear, the Attorney General’s office and the public can focus resources on the true needs of Vermonters.

Finally, I think that the problem of worker misclassification is one that is adversely affecting our budgets. As Attorney General, I will work with other branches of state government to enforce our worker misclassification laws so that we can capture needed revenue that is lost when employers circumvent the law by classifying employees as independent contractors. We should follow the lead of others states that have generated millions of dollars in lost state revenues by aggressively pursuing those employers that are intentionally misclassifying their employees.



Q: What approach would you take to make higher education more affordable for Vermonters?

A: One way to make higher education more affordable for Vermonters is to crack down on those institutions that are fraudulently misleading Vermont students. Recently, the Obama administration established an investigative unit dedicated to this type of fraud. My office will work to assist in these efforts in cooperation with other states and the federal government. Misconduct and fraud against students, including deceptive representations about job prospects after completion of their educations; or misleading representations about the effectiveness of their programs, can often put Vermonters into serious debt without the skills and knowledge to obtain employment to pay back that debt. See Lastly, we need to hold third parties that profit from such frauds accountable and stop giving student loans to institutions and businesses with false credentials. By bringing the arm of the law against unfair and deceptive fraudulent activities, Vermonters can achieve greater value.

Finally I firmly believe that access to education is essential to fostering a community where criminal behavior is minimized by providing constructive options and alternatives..



Q: What would you do to ensure the viability of the state college system?

A: An educated citizenry fosters innovation and jobs. The best form of public safety is a good job. In order to ensure a 21st century workforce and a safe and vibrant state, I’ll advocate for the full funding of state colleges and cost effective programs like the Vermont Dual Enrollment program throughout Vermont State Colleges. Programs such as this, which help make our Vermont colleges more attractive to students and reduce the costs associated with higher education, are the type of win-win policy solutions we must pursue to make sure we have the finest state college system in the country.



Q: Do you support a livable wage for Vermonters? If so, what do you think that amount should be?

A: Yes. The amounts established under 2 V.S.A. § 505 have generally been accepted as an appropriate measure.



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 am 100% committed to treating every employee and every Vermonter with respect and dignity. I have been a long-time advocate for working Vermonters and for the labor movement, and, as I mentioned, supported the unionization of my own office. Many members of my family have been or are active members of labor movements, e.g. nurses and teachers, and I have seen first-hand the support that the union has given to my family, particularly in difficult times.

If elected, I pledge to ensure that the Office of Attorney General is a place that state employees can look to as a resource to solve their problems. If we find ourselves on opposite sides of a legal matter, I’m committed to working as cooperatively as possible to resolve the matter, in a process that is respectful and professional.

Like VSEA I have been and will always be committed to helping working people in Vermont and will utilize my office to the greatest extent possible to carry out that mission. I would be honored to receive VSEA’s endorsement, as I did in 2012, and any assistance that that endorsement may include.