Peter Shumlin offers economic plan

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Peter Shumlin offers economic plan

Fri, 09/10/2010 - 9:23am -- tim

 
In the run-up to the primary, state Senator Peter Shumlin issued the following economic plan. Now the Democratic nominee, his "Vision for Vermont" can be found here.

www.shumlinforgovernor.com

A Vision For Vermont
Table of Contents
Single Payer Health Care to Contain Costs for Families and Businesses
21st Century Learning for a 21st Century Economy
Early Childhood Education
Bending the Cost Curve
High Education
Wiring Vermont for the 21st Century
Powering the Future
Responsibly developing in-state renewable energy
Heating our homes and businesses
A Tax Policy to Grow Jobs and Wealth
Supporting the Backbone of our Economy
A Bright Agricultural Future
Single Payer Health Care to Contain Costs for Families and Businesses
The Challenge: Health care costs are rising $1 million a day in Vermont. These skyrocketing costs threaten both Vermont families and Vermont businesses.
The Solution: A single payer health system that takes insurance company profits out of the picture, rewards providers for making patients better and allows benefits to follow the individual, not rely on employers
 
The Details:
Health care costs are consuming a bigger chunk of our economy every day. The rate of increase in costs is alarming. In Vermont, the cost of health care is estimated to increase by $1 billion from 2010 to 2012. For the average Vermont family of four that's a $7,000 increase on top of the $32,000 that we now spend for health care coverage each year. Our rate of increase exceeds the national average. It is not sustainable. Health care costs are crippling our economy, hampering business growth, driving up property taxes, and bankrupting too many individuals. These costs must be brought under control. The only way to do this is for the state of Vermont to lead the nation in comprehensive health care reform.
47,000 Vermonters have no insurance. When these Vermonters become sick, they are faced with a choice’seek the care they need and risk bankruptcy, or avoid care and face debilitating health or even death. When they do choose to seek care, it is the insured that pay for it. This is an unacceptable choice in a civilized society. It also imposes ethical dilemmas on health care professionals trying to treat the uninsured. Unfortunately, this problem isn’t confined to the uninsured. Tens of thousands of Vermonters are underinsured. All too often Vermonters don’t get the care they need because of unaffordable deductibles, co-pays, and coinsurance.
I agree with Professor William Hsiao, of the Harvard School of Public Health, who said, ‘It is possible to provide quality health care to all citizens at a reasonable cost’but you must have a single payer to do it.’ If I am elected governor, creating a single payer plan will be my top priority. It will be a very difficult task. There are many forces arrayed against a single payer plan. On the other hand, many people favor single payer but see no realistic way for Vermont to do it. That’s why it will take very strong, committed leadership to get this job done.
The Practical Solution
 
A single payer system will get private insurers out of the way, reward doctors for how many people they make better not how many tests they order and eliminate the millions of dollars spent on chasing money around. As Governor, I will implement a single payer health care system that does the following:
1. Allows health care benefits to follow individuals, not depend on employers. Health care costs are crushing businesses and getting this burden off their backs will allow them to expand, create more jobs and be more profitable. Freeing our employers from these skyrocketing costs will make Vermont an incredibly attractive place to do business.
2. Reimburses hospitals based on outcomes based medicine, not on the number of tests they order. Our entire health care system is geared towards making a profit when it should be focused on making people healthy. Reimbursing hospitals and providers based on outcomes will refocus our delivery system on making people healthy.
3. Use technology to provide an electronic swipe card to every Vermonter that will contain medical records and provide an immediate electronic payment system. Right now, 30% of all medical tests are duplicative. By getting technology to every provider’s office, Vermont will be the first state in the country to centralize record keeping and replace manila folders in providers offices with a centralized database. This will reduce waste, improve the quality of care and is critical to outcomes based medicine. Additionally, we have been working with IBM Armonk and Bank of New York to make Vermont the first integrated health care system where payment can be adjudicated when you leave your providers office, getting rid of the 10 to 15% of each health care dollar that we spend chasing money around.
4. Contains costs by getting private insurers out of the way and saving roughly 5% in administrative costs (after comprehensive care is covered). Studies show that this could save us between $250 and $500 million.[1] Furthermore, by getting insurance companies out of the business of second guessing our doctor’s decisions and requiring them to undertake endless paperwork, to allow our providers to get back to the business of making Vermonters healthier.
Medicare is a single payer system. Medicare withholdings are collected to pay for private medical care. The result is a government insurance program that successfully covers all Americans over age 65 and does so with far less administrative bureaucracy than private insurance. Most Americans are very satisfied with Medicare. It is a practical solution that could be extended to people of all ages in Vermont.
There are skeptics who say we can’t afford a Medicare-for-all type of program. But Vermonters already pour more money than we can afford into our health care system.
How We Get There
During the most recent legislative session, we laid the groundwork for the implementation of a single payer system in Vermont. S.88 calls on experts to fully develop a plan that outlines the statutory changes that are needed, defines the financing mechanism and the payment system, projects the revenue flows and expenditures, and documents the savings. We need a design that maximizes the federal funds already available to us for health care. Dr. Hsiao of Harvard has recently been hired to carry out this study.
Once we have the architecture, to be designed by Dr. Hsiao’s team, in place, my administration will work with the health care industry, Vermont businesses and the legislature to implement the program. We will seek waivers from the federal government and will work with our federal delegation to help us get them.
 
I have watched many well-meaning politicians back away from the tough task of achieving real health care reform when the chips are down. We can no longer afford that kind of leadership. Our economy and the health of our citizens depend on whether we can work together to solve the health care crisis, keeping before us a solid vision for the future and maintaining our unwavering dedication to the task.
As Governor, I will build consensus on a Vermont health care plan and lead the way to a single payer system for the State of Vermont.
A Strong Record of Supporting Universal and Affordable Health Care
We have seen too many incremental missteps on health care reform that have only made marginal process and are financially unsustainable. As we reform health care we desperately need competence, frugality, dedication, courage, and compassion. My record in the Senate shows I offer exactly these qualities. In fact I am the only gubernatorial candidate who has sponsored a single payer health care bill and last session I worked hard to strengthen S.88.
Working with other legislators, we took key steps towards the creation of an electronic medical smart card. During the 2008 legislative session, we created a commission to design the implementation of this system. The state is now negotiating with IBM Armonk, Bank of New York and others to begin the design of this system.
I worked closely with Governor Dean to make Vermont the first state in the country to offer universal health care to children and pregnant women. 96% of Vermont’s children have health care coverage thanks to Dr. Dynasaur.
Since entering into public service I have helped lead the effort to lower the cost of prescription drugs. I co-founded NLARX, a non-profit, to make prescription drugs more affordable and accessible. My work continued in 2009 when, under my leadership, the Vermont Senate passed a groundbreaking bill requiring reporting of gifts from drug companies to doctors.
 
 
21st Century learning for a 21st Century economy
The Challenge: Thousands of Vermonters are struggling to find good paying jobs while at the same time Vermont businesses are struggling to find qualified employees. In addition, Vermont is prioritizing the incarceration of non-violent offenders over the education of our children, with corrections being the second largest area of growth in the state’s budget.
The Solution: An integrated and modernized education and economic development strategy that builds our workforce, creates jobs and grows our economy. We must better prepare younger generations of Vermonters so they can be productive members of society and provide a strong workforce for our employers.
Integrating non-violent offenders back into society and reinvesting the savings into universal early education and community services. Educating our children is the single most important responsibility in a Democratic society and it where we must prioritize our resources.
 
The Details:
 
Early Education:
As governor, I will work with educators, community and private caregivers, and business leaders to provide universal access to early education and make Vermont a leader in early childhood education. Universal pre-kindergarten education will help our children succeed, build a stronger workforce and reduce our skyrocketing corrections budget. As Governor, I will make early education a cornerstone of my economic development and education policies. We must reassess our priorities in state government and prioritize children instead of spending our resources on locking up non-violent offenders.
Our Children
Under my leadership in the Governor’s office, Vermont will become the first state to treat early education as an equal partner. Providing universal early education to all of Vermont’s children will provide our children with the tools they need to succeed in school and as adults. Children enrolled in early education programs score higher in math and reading and are more likely to get jobs and become successful, productive members of society. Universal access to pre-k education will go a long way towards erasing the achievement gap for low socioeconomic students and students who learn differently and put all of our children on a more level playing field. In fact, for every dollar spent on early childhood education, there is a $7 to $16 return.
 
A Quiet Crisis
Affordable, quality childcare is essential for Vermont parents, particularly women, to be able to hold down their jobs and climb the economic ladder. Without childcare and reliable transportation, staying in the workforce becomes impossible and sends families into a downward economic spiral.
Approximately 70 percent of children in Vermont are in out-of-home care during the work week (U.S. Census Bureau), allowing some 40,000 people go to work each day because they have childcare for their children. Yet the cost of this care is a quiet crisis that is busting the budgets of working families. Depending on where a family lives in Vermont and the age of their children, care can cost $150 to $200 a week per child. A family with two kids could be paying $18,000 a year.
A Frightening and Expensive Trend
The second largest area of growth in our state budget behind health care is corrections. Vermont has the distinction of locking up more non-violent offenders per capita than any other state in the country. 69% of our women prisoners and 45% of our male prisoners are non-violent offenders. They are often locked up for nothing more than writing bad checks or having nowhere else to go (on any given day, out of our entire corrections population, 150 individuals are incarcerated simply for a lack of appropriate housing. Many more are there for mental health challenges.)
What’s the connection between early education and our non-violent offenders? Roughly 90% percent had difficultly learning to read (most still do) and have drug and alcohol related addictions. If we are to meaningfully address the skyrocketing costs of corrections and social services programs and improve educational outcomes we need to make meaningful investments in early childhood programs.
Instead of putting non-violent offenders in jail we need to stop the problems before they begin. It is not only the right thing to do, it makes economic sense. Early education is a key component in this kind of prevention. Early education helps reduce the achievement gap and equals the playing field so that all children can start school ready to learn rather than behind before they even begin.
As Governor, I will integrate these non-violent offenders back into society and ensure that the community mental health, substance abuse, life skill training, affordable housing through VHCB and adult education services are in place to allow these Vermonters to become successful and productive members of society. The cost savings achieved would help fund Vermont’s universal pre-k education system. With each non-violent inmate costing the state’s taxpayers $51,000 annually, we will begin to bend the cost curve and provide resources where they belong ‘ in early education.
Transitioning Vermont’s 780 non-violent offenders to become productive members of society, will save $40 million annually. Educating Vermont’s 8,138 three and four year olds who are currently not receiving early education would cost $33 million. We need to begin to aggressively address this problem.
A Record to back up the Rhetoric
As Senate President, I launched the Justice Reinvestment program. This program will begin to integrate non-violent offenders back into society and reinvest the services this year.
Even in these difficult budget times, in consultation with State’s Attorney, TJ Donovan and the Burlington Boys and Girls Club’s, Mary-Alice McKenzie a new justice coordinator position as a pilot in Chittenden County. This appropriation will provide direct services to troubled Vermonters as they enter the judicial maze to provide preventative advice, direction and guidance to keep them out of our prisons. This bold initiative could be a preventative tool for the rest of the state.
Partnering with our schools and communities to reduce costs:
 
Vermont must have one of the highest quality education systems in the nation. It needs to be a draw for people across the country to relocate their families to Vermont and ensure the success of our future generations and our businesses. As a person who learns differently, I understand the importance of teachers and a high quality education system. I also recognize that our education system is posing several daunting challenges. While our school age population continues to decrease, costs continue to rise. These rising costs add extra stress to already struggling families and under the Douglas/Dubie Administration allowed taxpayers to be pitted against our school children.
 
While I believe strongly in local control, there are measures we can take to help reduce costs, retain the high quality of our education and strengthen our communities.
Reducing Costs:
Private businesses, universities and institutions across the nation are beginning to take advantage of emerging technology that allows students to learn while not physically in the same room a the instructor. As Governor, I will expand distance learning technologies to every school across Vermont. By more effectively utilizing distance learning, students from small schools can access challenging coursework no matter where they live in the state. Furthermore, as school boards struggle with dwindling class size, this will allow them to offer a quality education without necessarily hiring new teachers as their school grows smaller.
One of the things that makes Vermont so special is its high level of local control. Montpelier should not mandate school consolidation or make any other major decision effecting local school institutions. Yet, there are cases where consolidating our small schools make sense. Whitingham and Wilmington are two towns in my County that wanted to consolidate but without the resources to do so it took them years just to draw up the plan. As Governor, I would continue to provide property tax incentives make to communities to help them consolidate should they choose, at their own pace and their own rhythm.
 
Strengthening Our Communities:
We all cherish our small local schools that are often at the heart of our small Vermont communities. Many of these small schools have the potential to be vibrant community centers. Partnerships can be created and encouraged with local libraries, social services, senior meal sites and after school childcare centers. As Governor I will make grants available to communities who want to utilize the space made from declining enrollment for consolidated community services.
Promoting Quality
 
As a Senator, I sponsored the existing public school choice policy for high school students. As Governor, I would expand public school choice to elementary school students. Some competition can improve the quality of education and school choice offers students more variety. Many Brattleboro students go to Leland and Gray in Townsend for their excellent semester/year abroad program while many Townsend students interested in dance go to Brattleboro for their excellent arts program. Expanding public school choice will allow students with specialized interests to fulfill their passions and achieve excellence.
As Governor, I would work with our congressional delegation to get a waiver that would exempt Vermont from the Bush Administration’s No Child Left Behind mandate. As someone who learns differently, I can attest to the fact that standardized tests don’t accurately measure intelligence. NCLB leads to low self-esteem, higher costs as the federal government has failed to fund the mandate and forces our teachers to spend their time with paper work instead of students.
A Record of Promoting Quality, Local Control and Cost Containment
 
I have a strong record of putting principles above politics to strengthen our schools and get tough things done. As a small business owner and educator, one of my top priorities in public service has always been to strengthen our public schools. I worked tirelessly with the teachers, community members and key legislators to pass Act 60 and bring about a fair funding system. I have defended Act 60 ever since. The Act 60 debate was fraught with peril. I knew at the time there would be winners and losers. I knew the choices we made would be heralded by some and vilified by others. Vermonters want leaders who will make fair, informed, difficult decisions. I have no regrets. Good, tough decisions are worth making every time.
While I have protected the quality of our schools I have also worked to reduce costs in a system that is becoming increasingly unaffordable. In the most recent session, I worked with legislators to provide incentives for school districts that want to consolidate.
Developing a Workforce:
Recently, in a coffee shop in Waterbury, an older man approached me and told me that he had lost his job of twenty-five years due to the recession and after months of trying was still unable to find decent work. He explained that he just doesn’t have the skills that employers are looking for, such as using a computer. Frustratingly enough, I often hear from employers that they just can’t find employees. During a Jobs Forum, hosted by Speaker Smith and myself Jerry Tarrant, of MyWebGrocer spoke of his desire to hire ten well-paid employees for software positions. Unfortunately, these employees just didn’t seem to exist in Vermont and Jerry was forced to consider whether a move to California where a reliable and well-trained workforce exists might make more sense for his expanding business.
The skills needed for the new economy don’t match up with the skills needed for the manufacturing jobs of the past. In order to succeed in our every changing world and fast paced economy we must solve this disconnect. The answer lies in making critical investments in workforce training for our students from elementary through college as well as for our adult workforce. As Governor, I will strengthen career awareness education in our public school systems beginning in elementary school and increase career exposure for our middle and high school students through a renewed focus on technical education, school-to-work initiatives and internships.
As Governor, I will direct the Department of Education to better integrate these efforts with the many successful private initiatives that are already underway. Mobius and Linking Learning to Life are two examples of great non-profit organizations that are providing mentoring opportunities in Chittenden County that should be coordinated with public education initiatives.
Higher Education
 
Education beyond high school is increasingly becoming a necessity for success. It is
projected that by 2018, 56% of Vermont jobs will require at least a two-year college degree.[2] A degree should no longer be considered a luxury, achieved only by upper income students, but an educational goal for all Vermonters. Higher education results in higher earnings, greater tax revenues for the state and more productive members of society. In fact, each degree earned, cuts annual spending on Medicare, unemployment, welfare and incarceration by $905.[3] Increasing the number of higher educated Vermonters will be key to fostering and maintaining a strong workforce and tax base.
 
Beyond High School
We need an integrated education system that focuses on success from the time of early childhood until the time a Vermonter graduates from college or enters the workforce. The PreK-16 Education Council, instituted just last year under my leadership is a first step in formulating the public policy to ensure this ‘ across the full range of education and into the workforce.
As Governor, I will increase access to the opportunity to start college while still in high school. These ‘dual enrollment’ and early college programs will be expanded to ensure that they are available regardless of geography and income.
Our integrated system will also embed career readiness throughout our education programs. Our sixteen excellent career and technical centers have a lot to contribute and will be more fully utilized as an education and training resource.
Affordability
Vermont has the highest public college tuitions in the country and ranks last in the nation for publicly funding higher education. Over the past twenty-five years, Vermont has shifted more and more of the cost of higher education to the student and their family, subsidizing the cost of a college education at a lower level than any other state in the country.
Unfortunately, during these hard times, Vermont can simply not afford to put more public resources into higher education. However, as Vermont emerges from this economic downturn ‘ and we will ‘ it is important that we prioritize where we choose to invest rather than just return to old spending habits. As Governor, reversing our 25 year trend of reduced funding for high education will be one of those priorities.
Vermont’s Opportunity
A better-educated workforce is key to our economic recovery and long-term ability to compete. Too many of our talented young people are leaving Vermont because of a lack of good opportunities paired with the need of paying off their college debts. As Governor, I will create incentives for Vermonters to complete their education in Vermont and then remain here to launch their careers. Vermont high school students who finish their college degree at a Vermont college or university and secure a job in state will receive an income tax credit to help pay their college debt.
This program will improve college graduation rates, keep more of our educated young people in Vermont to the benefit of our economy and strengthen the economic impact of our 23 public and private colleges and universities. In the short term, our college graduates will see reduced income taxes while in the long term, the state will benefit from increased income and revenues.
 
Wiring Vermont for the 21st Century
 
The Challenge: Broadband internet is the electricity of our time, essential for economic development. Unfortunately, Vermont is trailing behind many third world countries in this area with almost 20% of Vermonters still reliant on dial up.
The Solution: A public-private partnership that will expand broadband to every last mile of Vermont by 2013.
The Details:
There is no question that broadband access is essential for economic development. I will ensure that every Vermonter has broadband access by 2013. My favorite Vermont Governor and our last Governor from Putney, George D. Aiken, did for electricity what I will do for broadband access; deliver it to the end of every dirt road. Growing businesses and creating jobs depend on this.
As Governor, I will establish a public-private partnership to service Vermont’s underserved areas by 2013. A task force with public and private stakeholders will be created to evaluate the current state of broadband deployment and identify where the service gaps are and the public-private partnership will then deliver broadband to these areas.
Expanding broadband to remote, rural areas does not make economic sense for private entities. Under my leadership, the state would use its bonding authority to provide loan guarantees for this to make economic sense for the public-private partnership to deliver broadband to every last mile by 2013.
Prioritizing Telecommunications
Upon my return to the Senate in 2007 I helped lead the effort to deliver internet and mobile access throughout Vermont with the creation of the Vermont Telecommunications Authority (VTA). The VTA was established to facilitate the establishment and delivery of mobile phone and broadband infrastructure for businesses and residents throughout Vermont. The VTA has focused on unserved and underserved areas and established a long-term plan to expand broadband and mobile access throughout the state.
During the most recent session, I helped invest almost $3 million to expand broadband to the rural, underserved areas of Vermont.
Powering the Future
The Challenge: Vermont is facing the highest unemployment rate in 30 years and those with jobs are struggling to pay mounting bills on stagnant incomes. We are also facing some major choices in terms of our energy future. Contracts for two-thirds of our electricity are on the verge of expiring and our aging, leaking nuclear power plant is scheduled to close in just two years.
The Solution: Ensuring that Vermont gets a piece of the green revolution and the huge money that is going to be made by aggressively and responsibly developing in-state renewable energy generation and making key investments into efficiency. In-state renewable energy generation will be developed through the sale of Vermont renewable energy bonds, the expansion of the state’s groundbreaking standard offer program and by instituting predictable, sustainable incentives that will help thousands of Vermonters install small renewable energy projects. Vermonters will reduce the amount of money spent on heating their homes and businesses as investments are made into efficiency, a statewide PACE program is established and incentives are put in place to encourage the sale and local manufacturing of biomass heating systems.
The Details:
Responsibly developing In-State Renewable Energy
To meet our electricity needs we’ll need power delivered from small community-based solar projects to utility scale wind farms and everything in between. Responsibly developing our own renewable energy generation is a critical component to Vermont’s successful economic development as it will grow businesses, create well paying jobs, save Vermonters money and get us off our addiction to oil.
Supporting utility scale energy
We are fortunate in Vermont to have utilities that understand that a mix of renewable energy can provide affordable, reliable electricity for our economy today and for our children’s future. The lowest cost power our utilities source isn’t from Vermont Yankee, it isn’t from natural gas and it isn’t even from Hydro Quebec. The lowest price electricity is from the countless hydroelectric dams that first powered many Vermont communities. The power is cheap because the fuel is free and upfront money was invested long ago.
It is time again to make an investment, to build the electricity infrastructure of the 21st century, to grow our economy today and leave our children with a clean, affordable electricity supply they can be proud of. To achieve this will require private investment coupled with public support for all types of renewable power. Every Vermonter will be asked to be part of investing in our energy future but no one will be mandated to participate. I will work with the Treasurer's office to leverage the state’s ability to borrow money at affordable rates and explore the possibility of issuing a series of Vermont renewable energy bonds so that every Vermonter who wants to can literally invest in our energy future. These bonds would raise the money necessary to put solar on Vermont rooftops, turbines in the air, and transform ancient, defunct small hydro-dams into energy producers. The revenue generated through these projects, guaranteed through electricity sales to the utilities, will help pay the bonds off.
Supporting community scale energy
In 2009 Vermont launched our state’s first standard offer program to support the development of community scale renewable energy. In a time when our economy needed a boost the program immediately put tens of millions of dollars to work in our communities developing renewable energy projects. More than 50 projects will be built through the pilot program including farm methane projects, small hydro projects, wind turbines, bio-mass combined heat and power systems and solar farms. These projects will put electricians, plumbers, engineers, farmers and foresters to work creating our energy future.
We’ve seen that the program works and it is time to take off the training wheels. Instituting a 25 MW per year standard offer program would, over the next ten years, install enough capacity to match 1/4 of our state’s peak energy demand. To ensure that Vermonter’s are not paying too much for this power I’ll instruct my Department of Public Service to ensure that the investment will pay dividends over the longterm and will in no single year increase rates by more than 1%.
Supporting home and business installations
Vermont’s utilities, with the help of a federal American Recovery Act grant, are initiating a historic modernization of our electrical grid. This investment should allow our utilities to more cost effectively integrate smaller renewable energy projects into our electricity supply system and plan for a day when many of our vehicles will be plugged into the electric grid.
For the home owners and business owners who want to install smaller renewable energy systems to be part of this new distributed energy grid our state’s clean energy development fund has played a critical role with limited rebates and tax incentives. However, these incentives have come in fits and starts leading to boom and bust cycles in the growing industry. It is irresponsible for any economic development program to not provide basic stability so that a business can develop a business plan, hire and train new employees and know that they won’t have to lay them off in six months.
My administration will work to institute predictable, sustainable incentives that will help thousands of Vermonters install small renewable energy projects. The incentives will last for five years and will decrease overtime as the industry grows and costs of the newer technologies continue to drop.
Manufacturing clean energy
Jobs linked to our new energy future will not only come from the installation and maintenance of renewable energy projects. There are countless jobs involved in every step of the supply chain with hundreds if not thousands of new Vermont based manufacturing jobs possible. I will publicize Vermont’s assets, not disparage them for short term political gain, get health care off the backs of our employers and get broadband to every last mile by 2013 to ensure those jobs are created in Vermont and that Vermont based companies have the infrastructure needed to be world class companies.
Heating our Homes and Businesses
Our dependence on oil is contributing to problems like climate change and the unmitigated environmental disaster unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. It is also costing us millions.
Vermonters spend nearly $500 million dollars every year on oil, propane and kerosene. A significant drain on every household budget in Vermont is the money it takes to keep us warm through our long winters. Most of that money flows right from our bank accounts to large oil companies and countries that don’t like us.
Farms, Forests and Fields
We can and must do better in Vermont. Our economy and environment depend on it. Our local farms and forests have the potential to be the biggest contributors in allowing Vermont to end our dependence on foreign oil used to heat our homes.
Many Vermonters are hard at work already trying to tackle this problem. From the great work at the Sustainable Jobs Fund on biofuel crops, to all of the foresters and loggers maintaining our working forest, Vermonters are developing solutions to our heating needs. Every dollar that we spend on local fuel puts Vermonters to work in our woods and our farm fields, instead of the oil fields in Iraq or Saudi Arabia.
As President of the Senate I helped pass legislation to allow ultra-clean biomass furnaces and boilers to be sold in Vermont. As Governor, I will work to put the incentives in place to encourage the sale and local manufacturing of biomass heating systems.
 
Solar Hot Water
Solar hot water systems pay for themselves through avoided fuel or electricity savings, often in just five years time. Our clean energy development fund has limited incentives to help Vermonters make this switch and those incentives have come in fits and starts. To build an industry state government needs to provide certainty and limited support and then get out of the way. In order to encourage local manufacturing of solar thermal technology here in Vermont we need to create a stable market demand.
As Governor, I will develop a sustainable ten year plan to grow the solar hot water installation and manufacturing sector. This will include tax breaks for Vermonters who choose locally sourced systems and production incentives for manufacturing.
Building Codes
Building codes and standards also play an important roll in reducing the energy use associated with new buildings built in Vermont. We already have sound standards on the books, however, they have not been adequately enforced over the past eight years. Constructing a building right the first time is a lot less expensive than renovating it later and when I am Governor my Department of Public Service will prioritize enforcing our safety, health and energy codes to avoid the construction of inefficient buildings that will cost us for generations to come.
Electric energy efficiency and conservation
 
Frugality is a value with deep Vermont roots. When it comes to energy it means smart energy use; finding ways to do more with less and saving money in the process.
 
We have world-leading programs here in Vermont that could be delivering even more savings to Vermonters.  As President of the Senate I have passed bills to make substantial investments in this area and as Governor I would continue to fully support investments in energy efficiency.
As Governor, I will set and achieve a goal of reducing our projected electricity demand by 3% per year for the next four years. This reduction in demand will help moderate prices and leave more power available as we transition to more electric vehicles. This goal will be met by investing in and expanding the award-winning Efficiency Vermont.
Heating energy efficiency and conservation
While we have made a significant investment in electrical energy efficiency over the past decade we have failed to reduce the amount that Vermonters have to spend on heating their homes and businesses. Heating oil prices today are nearly 100% more expensive than they were just ten years ago. We can not afford to wait another ten years to see how much more prices can increase.
Basic energy renovations to our aging buildings could in many cases cut heating fuel use in half. A Vermont household could save thousands of dollars every year. However, a comprehensive energy renovation costs money upfront, which many Vermonters just don’t have. As President of the Senate I passed legislation that will help Vermonters borrow money at low rates, invest in their homes and pay back the loan with the money they save. Towns across Vermont are looking to implement these Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs but administering the program can be expensive when it is done town by town.
As Governor, I will establish a statewide program to support towns that would like to implement PACE energy efficiency programs (there are currently over 50 interested communities) and establish a loan loss reserve fund to guarantee that our towns and property owners can borrow at the lowest rates. This fund would have approximately $1 million allocated to it from the Clean Energy Development Fund. A $1 million investment will result in $50 million worth of energy efficiency projects to get off the ground. I will ensure that our low-income weatherization programs continue to have the resources they need to deliver their critical services to Vermonter who are working hard just to put food on the table and would benefit tremendously from reduced heating bills.
Being on the Forefront of the Green Revolution
I returned to the Senate in 2007 with climate change as one of my top priorities. That same year, I led the Senate to pass what Al Gore called, ‘the toughest climate change bill in the nation.’ Vetoed by the Douglas/Dubie Administration, if enacted into law, the bill would have created jobs, lowered Vermonter’s energy and heating bills, and reduced our dependence on oil.
In 2008, I promoted and worked with my fellow legislators to pass a 2008 economic development bill with key green provisions. At my urging, the legislation included the Entrepreneurs’ Seed Capital Fund, which invests stimulus funds into start up green energy companies and developed more predictable requirements for wind and hydro development.
In 2009, under my leadership, Vermont became the first state in the country to pass ‘standard offer’ legislation that sets standard offer rates for renewable energy projects in Vermont. This groundbreaking legislation has given renewable energy developers stability and greatly encouraged them to develop projects in Vermont.
I’ve also led the effort to pass two decommissioning bills and this past year, led the Senate to a bipartisan 26-4 vote to close down Vermont Yankee on schedule.
 
A Tax Policy Geared at Growth
 
The Challenge: The way we raise revenue in Vermont is based upon an archaic, patchwork system that needs reform. Vermonters have hit their tax capacity yet our spending continues to outstrip the amount of money we are raising. Government can not continue to take in a $1 and spend a $1.50.
 
The Solution: The implementation of a tax system that encourages, not stifles, economic growth, This modernized tax code will be sustainable and fair. These timeless values will make Vermont more competitive in the 21st Century.
The Details:
 
There is no question that our tax structure is stifling economic growth. Only 1% of Vermont’s taxpayers pay over a quarter of Vermont’s income taxes. While I strongly support a progressive tax system, there is a tipping point that Vermont has now reached. With income and capital being so mobile we are now running the risk of pushing that 1% out of Vermont. A key piece of my plan to get Vermonters back to work will be reforming our tax structure to better encourage economic growth while at the same time preserving Vermonter’s values. As Governor, I will reform our tax structure so we encourage entrepreneurs to come to Vermont, build their businesses and employ Vermonters.
As Governor, I will support tax reforms that revise the revenue-generating structure in such a way as to stimulate new economic growth. Tweaking the state’s reliance on its primary revenue generators, such as the sales and incomes taxes, could raise the same amount of money while also better encouraging economic growth. The tax system that I implement as Governor will be based on five key principles: fairness, progressiveness, simplicity, transparency and stability.
A Record of Fiscal Responsibility
Recognizing the need for reform, Speaker Smith and I established the Vermont Tax Study Commission. The Commission is made up of three engaged, experienced Vermonters ‘ Kathy Hoyt, Bill Schubart and Bill Sayre ‘ who will review our taxation system and make recommendations to make it more fair and sustainable. I am greatly looking forward to the studies recommendations and will use them as a basis for improving and modernizing our tax system.
 
I have a long history of supporting tax initiatives that encourage growth. Since elected to serve in Montpelier I have cut income taxes three times, bringing the marginal rate down from 13.5% to 8.9%. Growing up next to the Connecticut River, I have gained a deep understanding of the negative impact that the regressive sales tax has on Vermont businesses and families. In 1999 I sponsored and successfully passed a bill to eliminate the sales tax on clothing and shoes and helped lead the effort to reduce the sales tax from 6% to 5%.
 
Supporting the Backbone of Our Economy
 
The Challenge: Vermont’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy, employing 90% of our workforce. These small businesses are struggling to make ends meet and those that are successful are struggling to navigate the regulatory process and find the capital to expand.
The Solution: Help our small businesses expand by getting them access to capital and providing assistance in navigating Vermont’s regulatory process.
The Details:
Access to Capital
Small businesses seeking to grow often find a lack of capital to be their biggest obstacle. Between the ‘love’ capital that entrepreneurs secure from their family and friends and the large amounts of capital necessary to borrow from banks, entrepreneurs struggle to get the resources to hire staff and expand. As Governor, I would continue to make investments into the Entrepreneur’s Seed Capital Fund that I helped create in 2008. The Fund helps agricultural, technology and green start up companies get the capital they need to expand.
Navigating our Permitting Process
As a small business owner and landlord I have been through Vermont’s permit process on multiple occasions. Like other business owners that I have talked to, the frustration does not lie with the permits being rejected but with the length of time it takes for them to be issued. In fact, less than one percent of Vermont’s permit applications are rejected.
As Governor, I would reinvigorate the permit assistance program at ANR, especially for small businesses. This program will assign a permit expert at the Agency to help business owners who are struggling get through the permit process efficiently and effectively.
 
Vermont’s Bright Agricultural Future
 
The Challenge: Our traditional dairy farms are failing at an alarming rate and with less then a 1,000 farms left, Vermont is at risk of losing our agricultural economy and our working landscape.
The Solution: A fundamental transformation of our agricultural economy that allows our farmers to receive a portion of the value-added price for their products.
The Details:
I cite my own experience in Vermont agriculture as an example of the challenge and opportunities that Vermont agriculture faces. The dairy farm that I am a partner in is a seventh generation small dairy that has been milking jerseys and selling their product through Agrimark for decades. The seventh generation took over from his father almost two years ago and soon found that he could not survive at $12 to $14 a hundredweight. Together, we decided to reduce the herd from roughly 75 to 25 head and keep the heifers to rebuild when better milk prices were being paid. Several weeks after downsizing, two cheesemakers, David Major and Peter Dixon, approached our farm because they were selling their cheese to markers all over New England and desperately needed high fat milk. They offered to pay $30 a hundredweight for every gallon of milk that the farm could produce. They were able to do this because they were sharing some of the value-added price for their cheese with the hard working farmers.
This needs to be the model for the future of dairy farming in Vermont. As long as we are beholden to the current corporate structure, our farmers will never be able to make a fair living for their efforts.
As oil prices rise and the effects of climate change become more apparent, eating local foods will become an economic necessity, not just an upper income trend. Like other challenges, we need to see this as an opportunity to grow our economy, create jobs and nurture our core values. Succeeding at this will make local foods more affordable and practical for all. Vermont is perfectly situated to capitalize on the large markets that are within our reach - New York, Boston and Montreal. As Governor, I will focus on the following initiatives to make this vision a reality and return Vermont to a vibrant and profitable agricultural state:
1. Continue our commitment (which has been opposed by the Douglas/Dubie Administration) to the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board so that Vermont’s most fertile farmland will be conserved for agriculture. We should be proud that in communities like Orwell and Shoreham, we have now conserved up to 30% of the prime agriculture soils. As governor, I will use that as a model for the rest of the state.
2. Invest in public-private partnerships to ensure that companies like Commonwealth Yogurt (currently building a plant in Brattleboro), Cabot, Grafton cheese and Jasper Hill have the infrastructure they need to buy wholesale milk from area dairy farmers.
3. Work together with our vegetable and meat producers to expand slaughterhouse resources, processing facilities and distribution centers to make companies like Misty Knoll Farm and Highland Beef the rule, rather than the exception in Vermont’s agricultural economy.
4. Explore relationships with Vermont banks that would allow non-resident, documented farm workers to send earnings to their families back home without the 15 to 20% exorbitant fees charged by current providers.
 
5. As Governor, I would expand programs that help traditional farmers transition to diversified farming, including increasing farmer technical training for processing and building upon the Intervale’s model of farm incubator programs so that retiring farmers across Vermont can see their land being utilized and young aspiring farmers can learn the trade without taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt.
Looking forward, as a result of increasing public awareness and desire for fresh, reliable, clean food and the challenges and changes that are resulting from climate change, with a Governor who has the ability to look into the future and make investments, Vermont will return to a vibrant agricultural future
A Record of Supporting Sustainable Agriculture
 
As President of the Senate, I have established a strong record of protecting our farms and working landscape. I helped update Current Use to protect working farms and forests and to include wildlife habitat and other ecological values. Working with many other legislators, we have supported the development of a sustainable agricultural system with the establishment of the Farm to Plate and Farm to School programs and by increasing the number and availability of slaughterhouses in Vermont.
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[1] 2001 Lewin Study Analysis of the Costs and Impact of Universal Health Care Coverage Under a Single Payer Model for the State of Vermont.
[2] HELP WANTED: PROJECTIONS of JOBS and EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS Through 2018 ‘ June 2010
[3] Opportunity Maine, Executive Summary, Page 2