Jim will work with district residents, the Legislature and the Governor to improve the region’s economy, manage the state’s finances in a responsible manner and improve affordability for Vermonters.
We must work live within our means and do all we can to limit the taxes we access each Vermonter. We need to ask ourselves if we are bringing necessary government services in the most efficient way possible and be open to new and innovative ways going forward. We also need to continue to review the functions of state government and ask ourselves if any are no longer relevant.
One of the finest attributes in Vermont is its open access to our elected and appointed officials, including members of the General Assembly. It is a part time position, which helps afford the state to keeping legislators connected to everyday life in Vermont. To maintain that connection and give more people a chance to serve, I support reasonable term limits. It is not a career, it is public service.
Additionally, the legislature should complete its work each year in no more than 18 weeks (ideally 16). Longer sessions take away from the ability of some citizens to serve and cost taxpayers money. The legislature needs to set a better example of doing its work in an efficient, yet transparent manner. I have proposed instituting roll call voting the House in an electronic manner. Currently, each member is called upon when roll calls are taken, a process that takes 15-17 minutes each time. I also support limiting legislative pay to no more that the current scheduled 18 week session.
Act 250 Reforms
The Act 250 review process has helped Vermont maintain its strong environment and scenic beauty. However, we can and must look at the Act 250 process as a way to encourage sensible economic growth and not just a roadblock to development. Duplicates in the permit process should be eliminated. An approved permit from the municipality should satisfy the pertinent permit for the Act 250 application and vice versa.
The economy in most of rural Vermont is not doing as well as the more urban areas of the state. Home prices, a good barometer of an area economy, are still down 16-18% in Rutland and Windsor Counties from 10 years ago, whereas in Chittenden County they are up during the same period. We need to redouble our efforts to help existing businesses grow and attract new ones to our area. The administration's Think Vermont program is a good first step if implemented. More needs to be done. This area will be a focus of mine in the new session if elected to a new term.
The natural beauty of Vermont is something we all cherish and needs to be protected in a smart and balanced way. We cannot just say no to new development that will create economic opportunities, but we also need to maintain one of our prime attractions.
Supporting Rural Vermont
Small towns with many miles of roads and other infrastructure issues need recognition from the state that their financial ability has limits. We need to provide resources from the state in many areas that is not simply based on number of residents. It is the character and beauty of our small rural communities that is a big selling point for tourism and provides outdoor recreational opportunities.
I support the elimination of Vermont income taxes on pension payments to our veterans. It’s the very least we can do to recognize their service to our country.
Social Security Taxes
This past session we made an important first step in the elimination of Vermont income taxes on low and moderate income individuals. Up until that time, Vermont was one of only 5 states that fully taxed social security benefits. As our budget allow, we should expand this exemption so that all of our seniors receive some tax benefit on their social security.
With declining student enrollments, we are faced with a number of challenges from a fiscal standpoint. We must find ways to be cost effective, yet offer quality education to our K-12 students. A high quality education product can be a tool in helping us attract and keep our young families. This is a conversation that needs to continue.
We must support our state colleges to the extent possible to help keep it affordable for both in-state and out of state students who come here. It needs to be a budget priority, not just an added expense.
More information on other issues coming soon.