Charlie's Responses to The Vermont Standard

What does the Woodstock economy need to get jumpstarted, if anything? What legislation would you introduce to improve the business climate here?

The Woodstock economy, as measured by revenues for rooms, meals and alcohol and retail sales, has grown each year since the recession of 2009, led by the strong performance of the Woodstock Resort, which has been making significant investments in their facilities and programming.  Woodstock does not need a jumpstart, but greater diversity in the types of businesses located here.    We need to leverage our tourism to diversify the economy by convincing visitors and second home owners to make Woodstock their primary residence.   I am confident that the Woodstock Economic Development Commission is on the right path to make this happen.  

Reading and Plymouth do not have commercial centers and in many ways are more economically aligned with other Vermont communities – Killington, Ludlow, Rutland, Springfield and Windsor.  What will work there and everywhere in Vermont is to make it easier and more affordable to live and do business here.  More specifically, we need to simplify and streamline our regulatory process, specifically Act 250, restrain the growth of state spending and choose an affordable and effective strategy for health care, modifying or jettisoning Vermont Health Connect.  

Rising property taxes and fees are a concern for our residents. How will you quell their fears?

I am committed to a comprehensive review of our property tax structure to make it simpler to understand, easier to administer, more equitable to tax payers, and to reduce the annual increases.  There are many complex issues that are part of the property tax structure, such as the homestead vs non-homestead tax rates, the income sensitivity caps, the intent and administration of the current use program, the calculation of the common level of appraisal, etc…  The primary driver of the property tax is the statewide education tax which funds more than 2/3 of state education funding.  To restrain property taxes requires that we restrain education spending and find more cost efficient ways to educate our children, while still preserving and enhancing the quality of education.  I support retaining community schools for the lower grades (Pre-K through 2) while exploring school consolidation and more innovative approaches to educate higher grade levels.  

I am not in favor of merely transferring the burden of education funding to an income tax or another source of funding.  The combined tax burden in Vermont is already high.  Instead we need to address the fundamental costs.  At the same time, innovative approaches to government programs, such as employing restorative justice instead of incarceration to achieve better societal outcomes, will lower the overall cost now and in the future.  We need to embrace those changes.  

Excluding above, what’s the biggest issue facing voters and how will you deal with that issue if you’re elected?

The economic future of Vermont.  I am confident that we can solve the immediate, important issues that we face:  opioid abuse, health care costs, criminal justice reform, energy policy, education spending and property tax reform.  But the biggest challenge is injecting vitality and opportunity into the Vermont economy.  Let’s make it easy and affordable to live here and do business here. We need to establish a fair, reasonable and predictable regulatory and tax environment.    We need to partner with industries and educators to train our workforce for good paying jobs.   We need to provide the infrastructure required to attract and retain enterprises and individuals:  world class communications, education, utilities, transportation, affordable housing.   We don’t need short term gimmicks or give-a-ways – we need meaningful actions that will ensure the long term future of our economy.  

Make your final pitch. Why should people vote for you?

I believe that I can best represent the values and the interests of the people of Windsor-5.  My wife, Carolyn, and I are 1982 graduates of WUHS and we chose to move back to the area to raise our three kids.  We have cobbled together a patchwork of careers and work experiences to afford to live here, and we have done so because of the quality of life and the character of the people.  I am committed to the Vermont political tradition of rugged individualism, social justice, environmental stewardship and Yankee Frugality.  I believe that my work experience, history in the area and involvement in many community organizations make me well qualified to represent the interests of the people of Windsor-5.  I’d appreciate your support.  

Charlie's Responses to the Vermont Press Bureau

What do you think are the biggest issues facing Vermont? 

School funding and governance. 
Sustainability of the Vermont economy.
Development of workforce skills.
Affordability of living in Vermont.
Health care financing and administration.

What priorities will you have as a House representative?

Representing the interests of my constituents and ensuring that Vermont has a strong, economic future for the next 20-30 years that raises the standard of living for all residents.     

Where do you stand on: education and school consolidation?

A quality education system is vital to the health and welfare of Vermont and its communities. We need to ensure that our K-12 public schools adequately prepare students for the increasingly connected world from both an academic and vocational perspective. 

The legislature has debated the best way to structure and finance K-12 education for more than 40 years.  

Act 46 requires school districts to consolidate in the name of improving education and to lower overall costs, with the very real outcome of having schools consolidate.  It is a complex issue that needs to be carefully considered in each community.  

Long term, reducing our current education costs to a sustainable level requires school consolidation.  That is very difficult in a district like Reading where the school is the heart of the community.  I would support ways to keep pre-K – 3rd schools open in those communities, provided they can keep their costs to the regional average and still maintain quality programs for their students.

Where do you stand on: the heroin epidemic/addiction?

Addictions to heroin, fentanyl, crack cocaine, prescription drugs and other opioids are tragic, the reasons for the addictions are many.  To keep people from developing addictions we need to do more to educate parents and children and create opportunities to gain skills needed for good paying jobs.  For those already addicted, we need to expand the number of treatment courts in Vermont so that people can get the help they need quickly in order to recover.  

Where do you stand on: marijuana?

Vermont has already recognized that smoking marijuana is not a criminal act.  I agree; we shouldn’t be sending people to jail because they smoke marijuana.  But we should not be promoting its use, either, much as we should not be promoting the use of tobacco or alcohol. Legalization is not the same as promotion, but it is a fine line we walk.  I would be willing to consider reasonable proposals for the legalization of marijuana, but would reject any proposal that would result in an increase in use,  particularly among adolescents, or would jeopardize the health and safety of Vermonters.   

Where do you stand on: gun rights?

Like many Vermonters, I took my hunter safety course in my early teens so that I could join my family and friends hunting deer and fowl.  I respect the tradition and the sensible way that Vermonters manage their firearms.  It is reasonable to require a gun purchaser to demonstrate that they know how to safely use a firearm and that they don’t have a violent record.  I support universal background checks in the purchase of firearms.  

Finally, what can be done to improve Vermont's economy?

Vermont is already a strong brand and attracts people to visit.  We need to do a better job of convincing those visitors that this is a great place to live and do business.    

Develop the Workforce:  Vermont has a low unemployment rate of 3.1%, with many employers struggling to fill positions, though many workers are underemployed or overjobbed.  We need to do more to develop a skilled workforce in our vocational and technical schools so that Vermonters can find meaningful, well-paying work, and employers can find a reliable, talented workforce.  

Ensure that Vermont has reasonable and predictable tax rates and regulations.  Growing businesses compare the costs and ease of doing business in different locations and Vermont does not compare well currently.   

Provide world class telecommunications infrastructure.  We need to bring hi speed internet and good cell phone coverage to all areas of the state.       

Reform the tax structure:  The combination of income taxes, property taxes, estate taxes and state fees make Vermont very expensive and encourage people to consider living elsewhere.  

Charlie's Responses to Times Argus/Rutland Herald

What should the state do about Vermont Health Connect? 

The legislature is paying a consulting group, Strategic Solutions Group, $250,000 this year to answer that question.  Their full report is due December 15th and a way forward should be clearer then.  So far, we know that the exchange is a little less broken than it was before, even after $200 million has been spent to set it up and get it working.   Like the poor oversight of the EB5 funding program, it is a clear example of the state stepping into areas where it has no practical experience.   We have to be more pragmatic before creating new government programs and ask “Can our state government administer this program better than other alternatives?” If the answer is “no,” then we should pursue other avenues.  

Should the state be taking different measures to change the way education is funded?  Why or why not? 

First, we need to recognize that the state has a spending problem.  We are spending $1.6 billion per year educating less than 90,000 students.  Act 46, while it has five stated objectives to raise the quality of education and cost effectively manage school districts, set in motion a painful, contentious process that inevitably will lead to school consolidations.  It needs to be tweaked to allow for the Vermont tradition of local control, school choice and local K-2 schools, but the objectives are worthy.   The statewide property tax that funds 2/3 of the education budget needs to be significantly overhauled to be simpler to understand and administer, more equitable to all property owners, and enable Vermonters to stay in their homes.  I do not support an increase in other taxes to fund education as Vermonters are already overtaxed.  

Should marijuana be legalized in Vermont? Why or why not? 

Vermont has already recognized that smoking marijuana is not a criminal act.  I agree; we shouldn’t be sending people to jail because they smoke marijuana.  But we should not be promoting its use, either, much as we should not be promoting the use of tobacco or alcohol. Legalization is not the same as promotion, but it is a fine line we walk.  I would be willing to consider reasonable proposals for the legalization of marijuana, but would reject any proposal that would result in an increase in use, particularly among adolescents, or would jeopardize the health and safety of Vermonters.  

Should the state look at expanding the sales tax to include services in addition to goods? 

We need to resist the temptation to expand the sales tax to include additional services and instead live within our means.  Over the past few years the state budget has grown at rates that exceed the growth of the economy, forcing an annual budgetary crisis in Montpelier.  We need to stop that.  The answer is not in adding an additional tax burden to Vermonters, as we are already highly taxed with income taxes, property taxes, estate taxes, sales taxes and various fees.  Instead, we should be focused on ways to grow the economy while holding the line on spending.  

What is the single biggest challenge facing Vermont today? 

The economic future of our state.  I am confident that we can solve the immediate, important issues that we face:  opioid abuse, health care costs, criminal justice reform, energy policy, education spending and property tax reform.  But the biggest challenge is injecting vitality and opportunity into the Vermont economy.  Let’s make it easy and affordable to live here and do business here, because it isn’t right now.    We need to establish a fair, reasonable and predictable regulatory and tax environment.    We need to partner with industries and educators to train our workforce for good paying jobs.   We need to provide the infrastructure required to attract and retain enterprises and individuals:  world class communications, education, utilities, transportation, affordable housing.   We don’t need short term gimmicks or give-a-ways – we need meaningful actions that will ensure the long term future of our economy.  

Pre K-12 Education Financing and Governance

A quality education system is vital to the health and welfare of Vermont and its communities. We need to ensure that our K-12 public schools adequately prepare students for the increasingly connected world from both an academic and vocational perspective.

The legislature has debated the best way to structure and finance K-12 education for more than 40 years. 

Act 46 requires school districts to consolidate in the name of improving education and to lower overall costs, with the very real outcome of having schools consolidate.  It is a complex issue that needs to be carefully considered in each community. 

Long term, reducing our current education costs to a sustainable level requires school consolidation.  That is very difficult in a district like Reading where the school is the heart of the community.  I would support ways to keep pre-K – 3rd schools open in those communities, provided they can keep their costs to the regional average and still maintain quality programs for their students.

Legalization of Marijuana

Vermont has already recognized that smoking marijuana is not a criminal act.  I agree; we shouldn’t be sending people to jail because they smoke marijuana.  But we should not be promoting its use, either, much as we should not be promoting the use of tobacco or alcohol. Legalization is not the same as promotion, but it is a fine line we walk.  I would be willing to consider reasonable proposals for the legalization of marijuana, but would reject any proposal that would result in an increase in use,  particularly among adolescents, or would jeopardize the health and safety of Vermonters. 

 

Drug Addiction

Addictions to heroin, fentanyl, crack cocaine, prescription drugs and other opioids are tragic, the reasons for the addictions are many.  To keep people from developing addictions we need to do more to educate parents and children and create opportunities to gain skills needed for good paying jobs.  For those already addicted, we need to expand the number of treatment courts in Vermont so that people can get the help they need quickly in order to recover.  

Taxes and Economic Sustainability

The combination of high property taxes, income taxes, estate taxes and various fees make Vermont an expensive place to live and work.  The Vermont legislature and administration have failed to keep spending in check, leading to the current, unsustainable situation.  If elected, I will work hard to ensure that the state budget does not rise more than inflation.  At the same time, I will look for ways to grow the Vermont economy, to welcome new and expanding businesses that pay good wages and embrace the Vermont way of life.  To do that we need to have a fair and predictable tax and regulatory structure and a talented work force.   I will work with Vermont educators and industries to facilitate the development of skills needed for a 21st century economy.