VTDigger voter guide: Briglin edition
Each year, VTDigger asks candidates for statewide and legislative offices to answer a number of topical questions to familiarize their readers with people running for office. You can find my answers to the VTDigger questions at this link, or you can refer to them below:
Please tell us about yourself, in your own words.
I am married to Laurel Mackin and we have two teenage boys. I am a managing partner at Tuckerman Capital, a firm I co-founded in 2001 to invest in and grow small manufacturing businesses. We have invested in over two dozen companies across the U.S. Previously, I was a partner at Green Mountain Partners in Quechee, and worked in corporate finance at Morgan Stanley in NY. In the early-1990s, I was Senator Leahy’s legislative assistant on budget, tax, and economic issues. I have been involved in VT politics for over 25 years working on multiple Leahy, Welch, Markowitz, and Obama campaigns. I was on the VT delegation to the 2008 and 2012 Democratic National Conventions and have been the Treasurer of the VT Democratic Party. I served for ten years on the Thetford Academy board of trustees, including three years as the president. Currently, I serve on the boards of Mascoma Bank and Vital Communities' Corporate Council. I was first elected to the legislature in 2014. I grew up and went to high school in Greenwich, NY (near Saratoga Springs), graduated from Cornell University with a degree in History, and got an MBA at Stanford University.
Do you support a face mask mandate in public spaces?
Yes. We're all in this pandemic together. Masks protect the wearer and other community members. A mask mandate prevents a hodgepodge of community mandates across the state, provides clarity on what is expected of citizens in a public setting, and alleviates any ambiguity of business owners in protecting their employees and their customers. The science is clear that masks reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Should K-12 schools return to in-person learning this fall?
Yes. Understanding that schools and families must have the flexibility to adjust to local circumstances, the availability of in-person learning is most critical for younger students and to overcome inequities that exist in Vermont. Without the option of in-person learning, students lacking access to instruction because of inadequate internet service, or the nutrition and social stability provided at school, will suffer long-term consequences. Teachers are essential workers doing society's most essential work in educating our most essential resource. In addition to allowing local flexibility to establish in-person learning protocols, the state needs to support local schools by funding safety measures to reduce the risks of coronavirus spread.
Do you think Vermont's property tax rates are too high?
Yes. While low income Vermonters are generally shielded from education cost inflation through income sensitivity protections in our property tax statute, middle income citizens bear the brunt of our property tax burden. With property taxes being the primary revenue source to fund our education system, we have to look to what are the causes of inflation in education costs. Without our addressing the inflation in health care costs and the resources schools require to deal with the social challenges faced by students (mental health, nutrition, learning disabilities), we will be challenged in addressing our too burdensome property tax rates.
Do you think the state is doing enough to address climate change?
No. Vermont has aspirations to reduce our carbon emissions, but no plan to achieve those reductions. We have made formal commitments to abide by the protocols of the Paris Agreement, but no strategy to make good on these promises. We acknowledge the resiliency measures we need to put in place to protect our most vulnerable low income and rural communities, yet we have dedicated no resources to prepare for the increasingly dangerous weather bearing down on our state. We need a plan of action that holds state government accountable for action -- the Global Warming Solutions Act. And we need to partner with other states to take tangible action to reduce carbon emissions -- the Transportation Climate Initiative.
Do you support a paid family leave insurance program funded by a mandatory payroll tax?
Yes. No one should have to choose between putting food on the table and caring for sick family member. The COVID crisis has demonstrated the critical need for this insurance policy.
Do you support the creation of a legal market for marijuana?
No. Any taxes reaped from promoting the sale of marijuana will be expended on attempts to both prevent youth marijuana use and stamp out a black market. Taxation and regulation will fail to prevent a thriving black market in marijuana product not subjected to the higher costs imposed by taxes and regulation. Decriminalization of marijuana in VT, which I supported, was a long overdue reform passed in VT six years ago. No one should be subjected to criminal prosecution for recreational marijuana use. However, establishing a state-taxed and regulated market will be a financial failure while increasing the burden on our health care system.
What steps should the state take to prevent further Covid-19 outbreaks?
Mandate mask wearing in public when one cannot socially distance. Support funding for preventative measures to be taken by K-12 schools and colleges.
What would you propose to improve the state's economic recovery during the pandemic?
Let's not let a good crisis go to waste. This pandemic has laid bare the massive social and financial inequities in Vermont. If we are going to emerge stronger from this crisis, we must support all Vermonters -- especially the low income and those living in rural communities -- with access to health care, access to broadband internet service, and access to sufficient housing. By focusing federal stimulus dollars in these three areas, we will make our state economically stronger as this crisis recedes.
Is the state doing enough to protect students and staff returning to school? What additional steps would you support?
Vermont needs to provide more funding and support to local school districts trying to flexibly address a return to school. We have the ability to direct CARES Act funds to support schools safely reopening. With state government providing recommendations and support as to how schools might employ best practices for education and health-safety during the pandemic, local schools need the flexibility to arrive at solutions that work best for their communities.
Do you believe systemic racism is a problem the Legislature needs to address? If so, how?
Of course. Legislators must acknowledge the implicit biases we carry to the work we do. In the policy we support and the legislation we pass, we need to seek out and deeply listen to input from people of color as to how historically marginalized communities are affected. Existing laws, particularly regarding policies on education, housing, public safety, and health care, need to be re-examined through a lens of how they affect BIPOC communities.
Do you believe Vermont’s police forces are in need to reform? If so, what changes would you push for?
With the increased complexity of social problems in Vermont, we have asked our law enforcement community to do more than police. Our failure to fund mental health, addiction recovery resources, and a variety of social service agencies has required our police to attempt to fill those gaps. Funding those social services will alleviate those pressures on the police and result in better outcomes. The legislature is currently working on bills to reform use of force standards. We have also passed legislation requiring the use of body cameras and the collection of data to identify where reform is most needed. Locally and at the state level, Vermont has effectively implemented fair and impartial policing policies well before the recent focus on the need for law enforcement reforms.
Do you believe the criminal justice system should be reformed? If so, how?
Yes. While VT has made good progress in reducing our incarceration numbers in the past decade, restorative justice programs and alternatives to prison are still under-utilized in parts of our state. We must bring our out-of-state prisoners now being held in Mississippi back to Vermont to be held in public, not for-profit, facilities.
How would you propose to expand broadband access in rural Vermont?
Internet access is regulated at the federal level, making it difficult for states to mandate changes in our current private market system. Federal funding to support the expansion of broadband access has been meager and inflexible. I support two parallel pathways to achieve universal broadband access in Vermont: (1) establishing and supporting Communication Union Districts (CUDs), similar to ECFiber, so that local areas can establish the best solutions for their region and topography. CUDs will require support from the state for planning, technical services, and credit-enhancements. (2) electric distribution and transmission utilities increasingly require their customers to have access to good internet service in order to take advantage of electric service products related to renewable energy generation, electric vehicle charging, and cost savings programs. In order to ensure that all Vermonters have "energy equity," our electricity providers need to be working with their customers to ensure sufficient broadband access while being able to recover costs related to this access.
Are the state's SNAP programs sufficient? How would you ensure Vermonters have access to food during the pandemic?
VT's food assistance programs have not been sufficient to deal with the current pandemic as evidenced by the massive turnouts for food distribution programs held earlier this spring and the hole in the child nutrition safety net that opened up when schools closed. While institutions, like our local food shelves and the VT Foodbank, have performed heroically during this crisis, it has ultimately been through private donations and the legislature's support by allocating federal CARES Act funding to support these nutrition programs that have made them sustainable. With the closure of schools for in-person learning this spring, we saw one of the most pressing nutritional crises exposed: the connection between students in school and children being fed. The availability of in-person K-12 instruction is closely related to keeping our most vulnerable Vermonters fed.
How would you make Vermont a more attractive and affordable place to live?
Infrastructure that supports thriving workers and businesses is the greatest enticement for young families: great schools, available housing, fast internet, available/affordable childcare. If we invest there, the returns will be will with us for decades.