Putting a price on carbon emissions is just one of a number of proposals to address climate change. We cannot bury our heads in the sand – we need to look at all options, and there are many. Let me be clear, I do not support Vermont acting alone. Climate change is a global crisis requiring global solutions like the Paris Climate Accord. Washington DC is not just failing to provide leadership but actively reversing progress we have made in the last decade by rolling back auto milage standards, withdrawing from international agreements, and vowing to boost “clean coal”, whatever that is.
Vermont must act, but we can best have an impact by acting in concert with our neighboring states, using regional agreements. We have successfully participated in a Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) covering electric generation emissions for over a decade, which could serve as a model for for other collaborations.
The impacts of climate change are everyone’s problem. We must reduce our use of carbon based fuels – and almost half our emissions are from transportation. Home weatherization is another area to take aggressive action. New technology holds a lot of promise, but changing our personal behavior is even more critical, and more difficult.
Taxes are one way governments incentivize behavior (tax credits for investing, and high taxes on cigarettes to discourage their use, for example), and a price on carbon emissions is one tool among many to consider. I will work to ensure that such proposals, if they move forward, do not create additional hardships for farmers and rural Vermonters.
We all know the extreme threat that dairy in Vermont is facing. Farms continue to sell off their herds or land and milk prices continue to stay stuck at 1977 levels. Milk prices are a federal policy and there is little that Vermont can do to directly change them. But we can put pressure on the processors to establish a milk quota, so farmers are paid fairly for a set amount of milk rather than their only option being to produce more, further driving down prices.
But we do have opportunities to market Vermont quality and freshness to 20 million consumers within a four hour drive. Farmers are creative folks, they are already doing this on their own, fitting it in between chores. But we need to help them more.
I have worked to successfully ease restrictions on on-farm slaughter and processing, on raw milk sales, and on on-farm events, creating more opportunities for farms to thrive. I brought the Secretary and Deputy Secretary down here to visit local farms and speak directly with those on the front lines. I urged lifting regulations on those who qualify as “regenerative” rather than imposing yet another inspection and permit to do the right thing
Every plan to enhance the economy or attract new people to the state assumes a basic level of internet service which is, frankly, a pipe dream in many parts of Vermont. But everything is different now: the way we shop, learn, communicate, get medical care, go to school, and watch shows have changed radically and will continue to. That is one reason I fought hard for Vermont to ensure net neutrality in the face of the FCC eliminating it.
The state has failed badly, for many reasons, in efforts to expand fiber buildout. We need new approaches, not merely continuing to subsidize traditional providers to extend already almost obsolete DSL lines.
Communications Union Districts are one approach, an internet utility is another, but in this rapidly changing landscape we can’t just wait and see.
The challenges of “right sizing” and funding our system for a shrinking student body defy easy answers, but I continue to advocate for smart solutions.
I voted NO on Act 46, anticipating the difficulties for our rural communities. When it passed, I co-sponsored legislation for extensions of the deadlines, the incentives, and options to help districts comply.
In our district, communities met and debated fiercely the pros and cons of merging governance, with whom, which Supervisory Union to join, and the terms to do so. Rupert and Pawlet struggled hard over the question of expanding school choice or designating high schools in Salem and Granville. I believe that question is ultimately a local decision, so although I have my own opinion, as a non-resident of either town, I did not advocate either position.
The votes were taken and re-taken and each time, the majority decided for choice. State approval, new boards and budgets are in place in all towns and we move forward, not back, from here.
In the legislature this session I proposed several amendments related to the education fund and what that money is spent on in efforts to simplify the budget. I also co-sponsored a bill to shift education funding from property taxes to income taxes (which is essentially what income sensitivity does but in a roundabout way).
Bill Clinton summed it up with, “Its the economy, stupid.”, and it still is. A safe and beautiful state is not much use if you can’t afford to live in it. And affordability has two sides to it: Money in your pocket and money going out.
That is why I continue to be an advocate for raising the minimum wages. The fact is that when people living paycheck to paycheck have more money – they spend it. It goes right back into the local economy for food, car repair, childcare, and rent. And it keeps on circulating. When you give that money to the wealthy in the form of tax breaks, it goes into savings. Or maybe invested in businesses whose goal is to make money for their investors (i.e. pay low wages).
The other pocket, the one that pays out, can see reduced expenses by paying a little more in taxes and a lot less in medical premiums and co-pays with a single payer health care system that doesn’t need to carve a profit off the top for investors.
Housing costs are out of reach for many, which is why I have supported affordable housing projects, weatherization to make our old houses more usable, and policies to ensure that the polluters pay for PFOA groundwater contamination, not the unlucky homeowner.
I am a gun owner and I support the firearm legislation the Governor signed this spring. Two are public safety laws which enable Extreme Risk Prevention orders and temporary confiscation of guns at domestic assaults. The third law:
- expands background checks to cover most firearm transactions
- bans bump stocks
- raises purchase age to 21, or 18 with completion of a hunter safety course
- prohibits new high capacity magazines.
These regulations are not anti-gun any more than speed limits and learner’s permits are anti-car. They are reasonable and constitutional regulation of deadly weapons. The latest VPR/PBS poll in July showed 67% of Vermonters support these measures.
In addition, the state allocated money to improve school safety and to refine E-911 coverage (calls from a school building would sometimes register as the billing location or Supervisory Union office rather than the school itself.)
Because we recognize that gun violence is a result with many causes, the legislature is also attacking those causes by expanding mental health treatment and addressing childhood trauma.