This week, the Sun will be featuring candidates in the contested primary race for seats in the Vermont House of Representatives. The candidates were asked to provide an introductory statement about themselves, and then they were asked the same five questions; all responses were collected before any were published.
All introductions and answers are authored by the candidates themselves and are only edited to comply with Associated Press style formatting along with minor spelling and grammar corrections. Candidates were asked to keep their responses within specific word limits.
Jon Lynch is one of three Republicans running for the two seats in the Chittenden-9-2 district.
I was born and raised in a coal-mining town in northern England. The son of two school teachers, I became fascinated with technology and computers when my Dad brought home one of the first personal computers from school in the mid 1970s. I took to it quickly, and at the age of 14 wrote my first commercially successful software -- a suite of mathematics and music educational software. After high school, I attended the University of Cambridge where I earned a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Science.
After college, I came to the US, earned my Green Card and ultimately naturalized as a US citizen -- a ceremony I describe as “deeply humbling and absolutely unforgettable.” An 18-year resident of Colchester, I live with my wife, Kimberly, 5-year-old son, Zachary, and 22-year-old son (and future pharmacist), Andrew.
I have worked as a software engineer for several Vermont and New England-based companies. As Vice President of Engineering for Monster.com, I grew the pioneer career website from 15 employees to over 6,000. I now enjoy tutoring high school and college level students in the areas of computer science and mathematics. Although recently sidelined with a knee injury, I'm an avid hiker, runner and triathlete. I also enjoy photography, cooking and playing the piano.
I think of myself as a “moderate Republican.” I am fiscally conservative and socially moderate. Above all, I will be a staunch advocate for your individual rights...I believe that the government should work for the people, not the other way around.
What inspired you to run for the House or to seek re-election? What was your primary motivation to represent your district in Montpelier?
If I had to choose a primary motivation, it would be to bring our cost of living under control.
Several years ago, I started paying close attention to the legislation passed in Montpelier. It upset me to discover that our own representatives were regularly voting to increase our taxes to pay for programs that have no measurable impact on any of our lives (other than the giant sucking sound from our wallets). This year, the legislative majority voted themselves a pay raise at a time when many Vermonters are struggling to pay their bills. They also voted to ban mini shampoo bottles from Vermont hotels, and many other eyebrow-raising bills that -- to most ordinary people -- seem completely out-of-touch.
Every piece of legislation enacted has costs associated with it -- costs that are increasingly borne by small local businesses and taxpayers in the form of burdensome regulation, higher fees and higher taxes. These costs are ultimately passed on to us all in the form of higher prices for goods and services. Vermont is becoming unaffordably expensive as a direct result of the large number of economically-questionable bills passed each year in Montpelier. There is very little thought given to the average working Vermonter and how legislation will impact our lives.
What do you see as top priorities for the General Assembly in the next session?
Our number one priority must be to rebuild the Vermont economy in the wake of the devastation of COVID-19. Not just a cosmetic face-lift, but a new resilient foundation that will form the basis of a prosperous new future for Vermont. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we cannot be content with riding the coattails of a strong national economy. Vermonters are smart, tough, resilient and innovative, and we need to put some effort into architecting our future.
As we envisage that future, we would be wise to play to our strengths. Vermont’s underlying, innate strength -- its inescapable allure -- is its incredible natural beauty and abundance of natural resources. Our lakes, mountains, streams, forests, trails and small farms cannot be replicated anywhere, for any price. A strong Vermont economy is one which embraces all these exceptional traits and uses them to our unique advantage. There is a vast untapped market in the “Vermont brand” that our state government can do a much better job at facilitating and promoting.
As we move headlong into the “Gig economy,” we must be sure to capitalize on our opportunities in this burgeoning sector. Vermont is the ideal destination for the 21st-century Gig-worker. We are currently passing on multi-billion dollar investment opportunities from innovative American companies like Apple, Google and Facebook that would all love to build a 21st-century campus in New England. Imagine a beautiful new engineering/tech campus right here in the Green Mountain State. A world-class hub of technology education, training and a source of thousands of new well-paid jobs. We can do it, and we better do it soon.
How do you believe the state should respond to revenue shortfalls in the General and Education Funds?
Vermont’s most challenging fiscal problem in decades has no quick-fix solution. This is a burden all Vermonters should be expected to share. I would propose a three-pronged solution:
• One - this is an opportunity for our state government to make the tough decisions we all must do as we balance our checkbooks. It can and must reduce costs, cut back on nonessential programs and freeze hiring until we have weathered this storm. We cannot continue to indiscriminately grow the size and the cost of government during a fiscal crisis of this magnitude.
• Two - the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a net transfer of opportunity and wealth from the small Vermont business owner and taxpayer to the online mega-corporations. I believe we should ask those mega-corporations (that have actually benefited from COVID-19) to offset that transfer by reimbursing some of their gains over the course of the next year. Tech behemoths Google, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Facebook are all posting record profits and growth. They have collectively gained over a trillion dollars in market capitalization as a result of COVID-19. These companies were able to quickly upsize their operations and take advantage of online sales when in-person transactions were prohibited. Some fiscal creativity will be needed, but this “reimbursement” could be achieved via a Vermont-specific per-transaction provider-fee payable by the company providing the product or service.
• Three - any small remaining shortfall will necessarily have to be shouldered by the Vermont taxpayer directly. It is important that we don’t regressively burden any particular sector of the population, so I would suggest a combination of a small, temporary, one-time property and sales/use tax increase.
We are Vermont Strong. We are creative and resilient and we will get through this together!
What do you see as being the most important issues facing Colchester, and how would you use your seat to deal with those?
We are lucky to call Colchester our home. The town is well-managed and staffed by skilled professionals. We have top-tier schools, dedicated teachers and our police, fire and rescue services are the envy of the state. Unfortunately, we have not been immune to the Opioid crisis and the wider mental health and substance addiction problems that have ravaged Vermont communities in recent years.
The State of Vermont has a compelling interest to solve these problems, and we are way past the point where a band-aid solution is going to be effective. The patchwork of mental health, substance abuse treatment and recovery programs is not adequate. We can do much better and we must.
A reorganized statewide system of diagnosis, treatment and recovery must be established that is geared specifically towards mental health and substance abuse.
From a prevention standpoint, we need to be brave enough to accept that these problems have not arisen out of thin air. We need to accept our role and do better as a community, as parents and as friends and neighbors. I would support legislation that offers incentives for towns to enhance prevention programs, community centers and more recreational opportunities for our youth.
What support, if any, do you plan to give to the Vermont State Colleges System?
The Vermont State College system is the lifeblood of many Vermont communities. To abandon it, as some have recently proposed, would be a huge mistake. But it would also be a mistake to think we could continue business as usual.
The underlying problem -- the reason our colleges are not providing the value they should -- is that there is a disconnect between the programs being offered and the skills that Vermont businesses are telling us they actually need. This results in one of the lowest college graduate retention rates in the country. Through no fault of their own, bright, young, new graduates cannot find fulfilling careers in Vermont, and they are forced to leave -- taking a lifetime of tax revenue with them. We currently subsidize this unsustainable exodus.
A change of thinking is needed. I propose a complete revitalization and modernization of our Vermont colleges. The system can be transformed into world-class centers of excellence in the areas of technology and skilled trades and other underserved sectors of our economy. This modernization can be funded entirely by partnering with the private sector.