As we enter another general election season, I encourage my fellow Vermonters to take a hard look at the local and statewide issues that affect our daily lives.
In 2015, the education bill Act 46 was passed with grand promises of efficiency, opportunity, and importantly, a decrease in our property taxes. But just the opposite has occurred over the last five years. This year, my property tax bill went up by $600. This increase was almost entirely for the statewide education portion of my tax bill. It was not for municipal spending or for fire and emergency protection services. For anyone who is working for a living or on a fixed retirement income, such increases imposed annually by the Vermont Legislature make our financial survival here almost impossible.
When I ran for the Legislature in 2014 and 2016, I was deeply concerned about the release of millions of gallons of untreated human sewage into Vermont’s lakes and streams. Although our politicians in power claim to care about the environment, the release of these pollutants has continued unabated. Clean water is essential to public health and a civilized society. Vermont’s congressional delegation – Patrick Leahy, Bernie Sanders, and Peter Welch – have been bringing home the bacon from the federal taxpayer for decades, but our wastewater management systems have seen little in the way of increase in capacity or modernization. Why there isn’t more of an outcry from all these self-proclaimed environmentalists in power is beyond comprehension.
Since 2014, Vermont’s unfunded liabilities including the teachers’ pension debt have gone from $3.5 billion dollars to $4.5 billion dollars. This dire financial predicament has been ignored by the Supermajority in Montpelier. The response, or lack thereof, has been met by increased spending on ideologically driven projects and, of course, more taxes on Vermonters. This approach to managing the finances of state government is clearly unsustainable.
Locally in southern Windsor County, we have a number of new candidates that share these concerns. These candidates include Mike Kell of Cavendish and Weathersfield, Randy Gray of Springfield, Keith Stern of Springfield, Jack Williams of Weathersfield, Stuart Beam of Springfield, and Michael Jasinski of Springfield. A one-party system, regardless of the political party, never serves the average citizen. It would be to the great benefit of every Vermonter, regardless of his or her political affiliation, if our legislators brought intellectual and philosophical diversity, along with a wide range of life experiences, to the table. Robust debate, fresh new ideas, and fair representation of the interests of all Vermonters form the backbone of a healthy constitutional republic.
Indeed, the concerns I have mentioned above, and many others, are long overdue for healthy debate and bold, innovative action. Please join me in voting for these new candidates to revitalize our democracy. You can vote by mail or at the polls Tuesday, Nov. 3.