Many Colchester residents might know Patrick Brennan from his days on the field, coaching baseball and softball in the summer heat.
But for the last 18 years, Brennan, a Republican, has served as one of two representatives in the Vermont House from Colchester’s 9-2 district. If elected, he will begin what will be his tenth term in office.
Over the course of almost two decades, Brennan has served on a variety of House committees, including Natural Resources, Transportation and Ways and Means.
“I’m passionate about not raising taxes, and I’m really passionate about making Vermont more affordable,” he said.
Making Vermont more affordable will have a ripple effect, Brennan believes.
“If we were to make Vermont more affordable and more predictable to do business, we might have some really responsible, green businesses, willing to relocate here, and therefore provide jobs and everything that goes with it,” he said. “It's been a passion of mine for years.”
Last week, Brennan spoke with the Sun over the phone. His responses have been edited for length. See italicized Editor’s Notes for more context and links for fact-checks.
The legislature this session took some steps to address concerns about use of excessive force by police and the inequities in how often people of color are subjected to motor vehicle stops and criminal charges. Do you think those actions were sufficient or is there more to be done?
I think we’ve done enough. I think it’s incumbent upon each individual to assess themselves and question themselves. Ask: am I doing the right thing? Am I being insensitive? Am I racist?
I didn’t vote for the police reform bill only because my police chief (Chief Douglas Allen) asked me not to. He explained why in great detail.
We have to take a step back and remember we are in Vermont. Does racism and social injustice happen here? Yes, they do, but I don’t think we need to legislate how our departments interact. I believe this is a knee-jerk reaction to the national scene.
What should legislators do to address the impact of COVID-19 on low-income Vermonters?
We can refrain from raising taxes. I think we should make sure any federal dollars and available state dollars go to programs for health care and just overall assistance to these folks to help them with rent, and so forth.
We've got to develop and enhance some programs that do that without increasing the burden on the other Vermonters who may not have been impacted severely.
There are some areas of state government where we spend a little frivolously and then there are other areas we could stand to expand. I think we’re going to have to take a deep dive and see where we can make cuts without hurting those low-income Vermonters.
Economists are expecting Vermont to face a deficit in its Education Fund. How should the state address that loss?
Our education funding system needs a complete overhaul. We’ve been talking about it for years without doing anything.
If it has to go to an income tax, let’s take a look at it, so we don't overburden any one particular income group. We've got people out there paying education taxes that have no kids in school anymore and they are seniors. That's a tough burden to undertake at that age.
I think at the state level we should get away from making any more legislative mandates on education. Most of the time they are done with good intentions but then it ends up costing the districts more money, more staff, and some of them are unreasonable.
Scientists largely agree action is needed to delay the worst impacts of climate change. What actions, if any, do you feel the legislature should be taking to reduce Vermont’s share of carbon emissions and ready the state for the effects of a changing climate?
I think we’re headed in the right direction and that all of the steps we’ve taken so far show that the legislature is concerned.
I didn’t vote for the Global Warming Solutions Act. I like having a say in what happens in Vermont in terms of global warming initiatives, and this act takes that away and gives it to a non-legislative panel.
I am not a climate change denier, but I do think this is another knee-jerk reaction to a global problem. Here in Vermont, we’re in really good shape with our carbon numbers. We always seem to be following the most radical ideas in the country, and I don’t think we have to do that.
Editor’s Note: In the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation’s most recent report, the state’s 2016 greenhouse gas emissions totaled 9.76 million metric tons. This indicates a decrease from 2015's emissions, but is still 13% greater than Vermont's 1990 greenhouse gas emissions.