The Herald candidate questions: Briglin edition
The Herald (I still call it the "Herald of Randolph") asked state rep candidates in northern Windsor County and western Orange County to answer questions for readers. You can see the print edition of my answers at this link (page B12), or I've copied them below.
1. As a result of the pandemic, Vermonters, Vermont businesses, and the state’s coffers have suffered financially. How should the legislature balance supporting Vermonters and their businesses with fixing the budget deficit provoked by the COVID-19 crisis? The budget just passed by the legislature threads the needle of constraining spending in state agencies – we reduced agency budgets by approximately 3% relative to the original budget presented by the governor back in January – while ensuring that programs supporting Vermonters’ increased needs during the pandemic are addressed. The budget is balanced, does not raise taxes, and employs federal CARES Act funds to support small business grants, affordable housing, Meals on Wheels, state colleges, broadband initiatives, K-12 programs, and a whole host of policies supporting individuals and organizations affected by the pandemic. Next year’s budget will be still more challenging in anticipation of lower tax revenues combined with the heightened needs of Vermonters still reeling from the economic and health effects of COVID-19.
2. In 2019 Vermont hired its first racial equity director and, this year, after protests against systemic racism throughout the state and nation, the governor formed a racial equity advisory panel. How could, or should, legislators contribute to addressing race-based inequities in Vermont? In the awakening that has followed the devastatingly brutal killings of Black men and women by law enforcement, we need more than just an expression of empathy and sorrow. As confirmation that Black Lives Matter we need to dismantle the institutional structures of racism that exist in Vermont. The very first law passed by the current legislature examines social equity in our statewide educational standards so that our school curricula reflect the history, contributions, and perspectives of all ethnic and social groups. This legislature initiated the process of amending Vermont’s Constitution to clarify that slavery and indentured servitude are indeed prohibited. We have passed a statewide fair and impartial policing standard that protects against discrimination and limits the sharing of a person’s immigration status with federal authorities. In September, the legislature passed legislation to move our Department of Corrections toward a system of reparative and restorative practices and away from a focus on punishment; to include members of the public, including the Racial Equity executive director, in reviews of police misconduct while centralizing the reporting of police misconduct; to elevate requirements for police implicit bias and de-escalation training as well as for the collection of roadside stop data; to require a uniform body camera usage policy; and to establish a statewide use of force standard for law enforcement. Addressing systemic racism will continue to be a legislative priority in 2021 including looking at additional criminal justice reforms and economic development and housing programs.
3. During this biennium, legislators have introduced bills to help Vermont reach its goal of 90% renewable energy by 2050. Should the legislature pass other laws to help stay on track to meet that goal? If so, what? When we think of renewable energy we generally think of electric power, where Vermont has made great strides in both increasing the amount of renewables in the electricity we use and increasing our electric efficiency. To make real strides toward the 90%-by-2050 goal we must expand this progress to our transportation and heating energy use. With our electricity mix relatively clean and renewable, we must accelerate the conversion of fueling our cars and heating our homes to electric power. Expanding the amount of renewable energy we generate and use in Vermont keeps our energy dollars here instead of sending them off to Texas or Saudi Arabia. Governor Scott initiated Vermont’s exploration of the regional Transportation Climate Initiative. Now we must follow through and join TCI.
4. This year, three Vermont state college campuses were eyed for closure as a result of financial difficulties greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. How could, or should, the legislature help the Vermont State Colleges System to become more sustainable? In the FY’21 budget passed by the legislature, we appropriated over $28 million to support VT State Colleges through the pandemic and economic crisis, and to allow time to develop a plan for a high-quality, affordable, and workforce-connected future for the state college system. I strongly support keeping the VTC and NVU campuses operating, but with state support for our public colleges at the lowest level in the country, the governor and legislature together need to increase public funding for the system to make it sustainable. That sustainability will increase our ability to retain young Vermonters in Vermont as the professional workforce we desperately need to grow our economy.