As we gear up for the general election on Nov. 6, The Colchester Sun will be running Q+As with local candidates running for office.
This week’s candidates are running for Chittenden 9-1 House District. We asked the four candidates – Democrat incumbent Curt Taylor, plus Democrat Seth Chase and Republicans Deserae Morin and Clark Sweeney – three questions, for which they were given 500 words to respond.
Neither Morin nor Chase responded to our questions by deadline Tuesday.
- What is your strategy to balance the state budget? What taxes or fees, if any, would you be willing to increase? What services, if any, would you cut?
- Vermont legalized recreational marijuana last legislative session. Should the state tax and regulate it — why or why not?
- Is the state doing enough to clean up Lake Champlain? Explain.
Note: Responses edited only for newspaper style.
Curt Taylor Democrat (Incumbent)
- Though Vermont’s Constitution and laws do not require it, our budget is always balanced. When each session’s budget bill is passed, projected revenues equal or exceed projected expenditures. As the year progresses, projections do not always pan out. Gaps and surpluses appear, and adjustments are made.
Prior to the last session, the legislature reviewed one-third of the state’s fees every year. For the past two years the governor has not proposed such a review and fees have not increased. Inflation alone presses for re-starting that review practice.
When asked about service cuts politicians easily reply with proposals to reduce fraud, waste and inefficiency. Specifics are few. The cost of work groups, commissions or task forces to identify such savings often cost more than any savings found. Our state government must clearly understand that Vermont’s financial resources are limited. We must promote a culture of frugality and responsibility in government. I believe that culture is growing throughout Vermont’s government and is supported by the current leadership. I have witnessed the exasperation of well-meaning legislators being told by committees that their good intentions are not affordable. We must continue to be very cautious with the state’s financial health.
- Yes. In 2015 a research report for the legislature estimated that Vermonters spend between $125 and $225 million a year on marijuana. Those sales should be subject to taxation. Regulation is as important for the marijuana industry as it is for the business of alcohol. Buyers need to know what they are buying. Responsible alcohol consumption relies on buyers knowing the strength and contents of their purchase. Responsible marijuana usage requires the same.
There have been several attempts to tax and regulate marijuana in Vermont. The bill has already been written and proposed. After considering what we have learned from other states, we should review and revise that legislation and send it to the governor.
- Yes, for now. But “now” means only until June 30, 2019. That’s the end of the current fiscal year. The Clean Water Initiative proposed by the governor and approved by the General Assembly is a long-term project: it will take decades to effectively reduce the phosphorus load in Lake Champlain and deal with the kind of pollutions that are resulting in beach closings and algae blooms. The plan proposed by the treasurer required a two-year “ramping up” of that effort as permits are developed and personnel hired. More funds for the initiative would have been wasted. But those two years will end in June and a continued effort must be made to fund the hundreds of active and proposed projects in the Lake Champlain watershed that will ultimately bring clean water to the lake. The state needs a long-term funding method for cleaning up and maintaining ALL the waterways of Vermont. Colchester’s stormwater utility is a significant move in the right direction. Other such municipal utilities are the models for a statewide system enabling those that contribute to the problem to pay their fair share of the solution.
Clark Sweeney Republican
- In order to balance the budget, the state needs to have a long-term strategy that includes finding ways to keep our youth in the state after they get out of school. In business, you have to spend money to make money, but it has to be done wisely. This state is crying for tradespeople. No matter what company you talk with they need people who are knowledgeable and willing to work. An employee who has learned a trade is that person. There needs to be a concerted effort by the state to help our young people get ready to go into the plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning trades so they can stay in the state. Increasing the payroll base, rather than raising taxes, will benefit the state.
I’d like to see more of a focus on consumption taxes as an alternative to relying on property taxes. The additional 1 percent sales tax charged in several Vermont communities, including Colchester, does not seem to have deterred the folks shopping at the big box stores in Williston, or Costco in Colchester and I do not believe it will deter tourists from shopping in Stowe.
- Yes, for two reasons. First, marijuana has been used by teenagers for as long as I can remember, so it is not going to go away. However, marijuana seems to be more potent now than it was when I was growing up. I believe the state has an opportunity to influence how it is used and by whom by making it available under controlled situations, just as it has done with the sale of liquor. Controlling the sale would look the same, by selling it through the state-owned liquor stores it already has in place and taxing it. Age requirements would need to be put in place just as with liquor sales. The taxes collected will go directly to drug education and monitoring, such as identifying when a driver is DUI.
- No, the State of Vermont has mandated that the Agency of Natural Resources monitor what flows into the lake and while the agency is working towards achieving the state’s goals the state has not ensured that the agency has the personnel to handle all the compliance and monitoring activity that is required. Nor do I believe the state’s monitoring requirements are stringent enough. For instance, a news article reported that since Jan. 1 the city of Burlington has dumped well over 12 million gallons of untreated sewage into the lake. This significantly impacts the water quality on Colchester’s shores, as well as the entire lake, yet this doesn’t seem to be controlled as Burlington seems to constantly be dumping waste into the lake. The state should be doing more to ensure that municipalities, especially those that have lake frontage, maintain waste management systems that have enough capacity.
Pam Loranger Republican
The following is Chittenden 9-2 House of Representatives candidate Pam Loranger’s complete answer to question three. A portion of her response was missing in last week’s paper.
3. Act 260 passed in 2018, although inadequate in terms of long range funding, created a template for moving forward efficiently and effectively without the expenditure of funds in yet more studies. Colchester has stepped up to the plate with our stormwater utility fee which pays for the proactive programs which address stormwater, a very large factor in lake health. The Lake Champlain Basin report records Malletts Bay as the cleanest of all the five smaller “lakes” comprising Lake Champlain. If the legislature wants to move forward to raise revenue for clean water initiatives via a per parcel fee I would strongly advocate and work for applying credits to any community already contributing through a local utility fee.