The Times Argus invited every state legislator from Washington County to respond to the question, “What’s your single most important issue for 2013 and why?”
Here are the answers from all the lawmakers who replied:
Sen. Bill Doyle, R-Washington:
Many Vermonters recovering from Tropical Storm Irene are optimistic that FEMA would adequately fund much of the state’s flood losses, but recently we learned the $44 million plan to replace the Vermont State Hospital would not be eligible for federal funding. Many buildings in the Waterbury complex have received the same fate and many homeowners will not be eligible for hazard grants. This means many families will be uncompensated for houses destroyed by the flood. Vermont deserves a fair federal return for its flood losses. Our Legislature, working closely with federal and state officials, will work for fair compensations.
Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D/W-Washington:
Strengthening our economy with a Vermont Public Bank; keeping our tax dollars local and — working through local banks — investing more in Vermont businesses, farms, housing, renewable energy and jobs. Now our tax dollars are deposited in a Wall Street bank. They charge us fees and pocket profits made lending “our” money elsewhere. Then we borrow to raise money (Vermonters paid $70 million in bonding interest last year). Let’s control our money and rebuild our economy.
Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Washington-1 (Berlin, Northfield):
The Legislature must get a handle on the feasibility of our health care initiatives. Vermont has the overall right vision if it can remove health care from affiliation with employment and recognize it as a public good, without stepping in to create a state-run system. However, I seriously question whether a small state can “go it alone” within a much larger country, and this must be resolved before investing ever more resources into it.
Rep. Thomas Koch, R/D-Washington-2 (Barre Town):
Balancing the budget without raising taxes — and, just for the record, a tax on heating oil would hit most Vermonters and is clearly a “broad-based” tax.
Rep. Francis “Topper” McFaun, R/D-Washington-2 (Barre Town):
We need to make sure the mental health system that we reformed the last two years is functioning properly. If there are any further things we need to do or back off on, that’s the most important thing to do — make sure we’re on track. We also need to look at what needs to be done in terms of our road and bridge infrastructure after Irene came and went, and to look at the individual’s plight who lost everything to see where are they today.
Rep. Paul Poirier, I-Washington-3 (Barre City):
My personal priority for this session is to create a health care consumer protection office. Health care is a $5 billion annual expenditure and yet there is no comprehensive office that acts as the protector of the people. My proposal would set up an office that would have the authority to intervene in all matters before the Green Mountain Care Board and the financial services office. The office will also be authorized to file enforcement violations against health insurance companies including the state of Vermont. A state-run program is no guarantee that issues like denials and costs will go away. The state becomes a health insurer and they will use the same tools as private insurers. To pay for this program, there would be a $4 annual surcharge on all health policies sold in the state of Vermont.
Rep. Tess Taylor, D-Washington-3 (Barre City):
If I have to pick just one, it would be to look for legislation across the spectrum that will help working Vermonters, promote job creation and develop workforce training. We were able to accomplish this last year with the working lands enterprise investment bill and I think we can continue to find new opportunities in the upcoming session.
Rep. Mary Hooper, D-Washington-4 (Montpelier):
The Vermont Legislature needs to continue making strategic investments in Vermonters and our communities which provide for our health, safety and welfare. This includes efforts to mitigate the effect of climate change, staying on track with reform of the health care system, and looking at state-supported financing systems. We also need to take a critical look at what we can afford and not afford, and be willing to not fund some efforts.
Rep. Warren Kitzmiller, D-Washington-4 (Montpelier):
As hard as it is to isolate one issue from among the many pressing matters Vermont faces, I believe we simply must continue to reform the way we pay (and the amount we pay) for health care. I want Vermont to join with virtually every civilized nation in the world and treat health care as a human right.
Rep. Tony Klein, D-Washington-5 (East Montpelier, Middlesex):
To continue to move Vermont forward to achieving our goal of having 90 percent of our energy needs met through efficiency and conservation programs and the continued development of renewable energy generation sources by the year 2050. We have spent the last 15 years developing and adopting with overwhelming public support our clean energy policy, and we have spent the last 30 years creating a regulatory process that we believe is the most rigorous process in the entire country. Now we are in the actual build-out phase of our policy. We need to continue to move forward to achieve our goals and solve all problems that may arise during the build-out. Simply stopping or undoing all the progress we have made makes little sense considering the huge challenges that this state, country and the world face from our ever-changing climate.
Rep. Janet Ancel, D-Washington-6 (Calais, Marshfield, Plainfield):
With the Affordable Care Act and a continuing focus on health care on the part of the governor, my top priority is to ensure that the health care exchange is implemented in such a way that it will serve as the foundation for a single-payer system of health care. We have an unusual opportunity this coming year to get it right.
Rep. Maxine Jo Grad, D-Washington-7 (Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield, Warren):
Community resiliency and sustainability. Its continued success in my new district is dependent upon our roads, small businesses, schools, affordable health care, land and river health, local food production and tourism. The economic downturn, climate change and recent flooding have created enormous challenges for the district. I want to continue my work on strong energy policies, flood recovery, economic growth, agriculture and land use policy, public transportation, public safety and sound infrastructure.
Rep. Adam Greshin, I-Washington-7 (Duxbury, Fayston, Moretown, Waitsfield, Warren):
Affordability is the most important issue faced by Vermonters. The cost of maintaining a high quality of life in our state continues to escalate, and every initiative we launch in the Legislature must be filtered through the prism of affordability. Are we adding to the burden of Vermonters or are we providing a means for our citizenry to earn a good living, spend quality time with family and enjoy the fruits of this beautiful state?
Rep. Rebecca Ellis, D-Washington-Chittenden (Bolton, Buel’s Gore, Huntington, Waterbury):
Climate change. Over the past decade, Vermont has been a leader in developing in-state, renewable sources of power. The Legislature needs to continue exploring ways to promote renewable sources of energy. I also hope to see more progress in reducing energy consumption — through thermal efficiency to landscape development patterns to transportation policy — that will have a meaningful impact on our future environment.
Rep. Tom Stevens, D-Washington-Chittenden (Bolton, Buel’s Gore, Huntington, Waterbury):
Irene recovery — We will monitor FEMA negotiations, plans for the Waterbury complex and Main Street and continue to advocate for areas damaged by the 2011 weather events. Fiscal prudence — With another large gap to fill in our budget, it is important to balance our needs with our revenues. I will support additional taxation that makes a minimal negative impact on the 300,000 Vermonters making less than $100,000 annually. Health care — We need to complete our work on the federally mandated exchange, and we need to move forward with our ongoing reforms in the way we provide care and in the way we pay for it. Our Blueprint for Health is an excellent beginning and can provide us the foundation for moving forward.
Rep. Kitty Beattie Toll, D-Caledonia-Washington (Cabot, Danville, Peacham):
Balancing the state budget. Again, there is a significant gap to close and every year it becomes increasingly more difficult to bridge this gap as the options become less and less. All state expenditures must be carefully considered and outcomes thoroughly assessed to assure Vermont tax dollars are prudently spent.
Rep. Peter Peltz, D-Lamoille-Washington (Elmore, Morristown, Woodbury, Worcester):
It is not a specific issue that concerns me most; it is how we conduct the state’s business. Whether it is health care reform, tax policy, transportation, education, energy — the list goes on — foremost, we have to have open dialogue and collaboration amongst all of us at all levels of state government. As individuals we may think that we have a lock on what should be done; committees, departments, agencies and administration teams can be, at times, insular in their work. Ultimately, clarity and public review, with hopeful acceptance, will benefit most by how we work together.
Rep. Patsy French, D-Orange-Washington-Addison (Braintree, Brookfield, Granville, Randolph, Roxbury):
My top priority is protecting human services programs in the budget. They really impact people’s lives. Getting “Death with Dignity” legislation passed is also a high priority with me.
Rep. Larry Townsend, D-Orange-Washington-Addison (Braintree, Brookfield, Granville, Randolph, Roxbury):
Balancing the budget. The same for 2013 is true as it has been since 2008; the needs of the people of the state of Vermont greatly outdistance our ability to pay without some form of increase in revenues, i.e., taxes. That said, we cannot continue to increase the state’s budget by 5-6 percent every year. In short, the money is all gone and now we have to start thinking.MORE IN Central Vermont
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