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.