ST. ALBANS — Democrat David Glidden is running for a House seat representing St. Albans City and a portion of the St. Albans Town.

He is a member of St. Albans City's Downtown Board.

COVID-19 exposed the cracks in Vermont’s social safety net. What else, if anything, should the legislature be doing to address the impact of the pandemic on low-income Vermonters?

Glidden his first thought on hearing the question was health care, but, he added, that is an area where the state is "hemmed in by what the federal government does."

His next thought was paid leave. "People are getting sick and they can't get time off," Glidden said. Paid family and medical leave is "an incredible issue" where the state needs to find a solution.

He also mentioned raising the minimum wage and supporting small businesses "which are a really large part of our communities.

"That we haven't been able to build a system that supports working families is a problem, and we need to address it," Glidden said.

What should the state do to address the need for affordable, quality childcare?

"There were small steps this legislative session that I'm happy about," Glidden said. Those steps primarily involved expanding childcare subsidies.

"A subsidy doesn't do a while lot if you're struggling to find care," he pointed out, suggesting that changes in permitting may be needed.

Glidden also raised the issue of benefit cliffs in which people who see a small increase in wages may experience a big drop in their subsidy. The legislature still needs to find a way to smooth that out, in his view.

"It's one of these issues that is both a social issue and an economic issue," Glidden said.  "We're losing people from the workforce because of childcare."

"Working from home can help bridge that gap," he said, adding that it required a willing employer and sufficient infrastructure.

A substantial deficit is projected for the fiscal year 2022 budget. How should the legislature address anticipated shortfalls?

"It's a really tough question, in part because we don't know what the economy is going to look like," Glidden said.

He is certain that the budget should not include cuts to essential services. Talking with people in the community, "they're really struggling to get by," he said.

Cutting food assistance or childcare subsidies "would be devastating right now."

The state has also, at least anecdotally, seen an influx of second home buyers. That may change the state's tax portfolio, Glidden noted.

What about the Education Fund, which is also expected to take a big hit from COVID-19?

"The way education in this state is funded is opaque and complicated," Glidden said. 

He wonders about shifting to an income tax or moving some expenses out of the Education Fund to the General Fund. "It's a conversation worth having," he said. 

In Vermont, local voters approve school budgets, but the funds to operate schools all come from the Education Fund, although towns still collect education property taxes and send them to the schools. 

Most Vermonters education property taxes are actually determined by their income. "The reason we have income sensitivity for property taxes is because it's not always an equitable system," Glidden said.

As for addressing an immediate shortfalls, Glidden said he would be guided by the recommendations of the Appropriations Committee.

The legislature this session took some steps to address concerns about use of excessive force by police and the inequities in how often people of color are subjected to motor vehicle stops and criminal charges. Do you think those actions were sufficient or is there more to be done?

Glidden said he is hesitant to equate policing with social and racial justice. While addressing problems in policing is part of addressing racial inequities, it is not all that needs to be done, according to Glidden.

He cited discrimination in housing and employment as other areas that need to be addressed.

Asked what should be done in those areas, Glidden said, "I think the Human Rights Commission is doing some incredible work."

The legislature, however, could look at problems with racial harassment within the state workforce. "Start with your own house," Glidden said.

He also wants to see Vermont include teaching its own racial history in its curriculum. "It's often taught as a Southern problem and I don't think that's accurate," Glidden said.

He cited a state-supported eugenics project which sterilized members of the Abenaki community that is well documented but often not taught in Vermont. "That history is often not understood," he said.

"It's a painful and uncomfortable conversation... but it's also an incredibly important conversation that we all too often miss."

Scientists largely agree action is needed to delay the worst impacts of climate change. Vermont is also starting to see the impacts of a changing climate firsthand, with shorter winters, harsher storms and so-called “climigration.” What actions, if any, do you feel the legislature should be taking to reduce Vermont’s share of carbon emissions and ready the state for the effects of a changing climate?

"We've set some really good goals, and it's a matter of getting us there," Glidden said.

Getting there means electrifying the transportation and heating sectors, and building the infrastructure to support electric vehicles, he said.

"I also think that water quality is an incredibly important part of the conversation," Glidden said. "We know what happens when you don't take care of your natural resources."

How can the state help create a secure future for its agricultural sector?

Infrastructure, including internet access, is one area where the state can assist farms, Glidden said.

Modern farm management practices often rely on technology that requires a strong internet connection, he pointed out.

Other areas where infrastructure can be key is the addition of alternative energy generation to farms, such as small-scale wind or manure digestion, Glidden said.

There is also a lot of innovation occurring on Vermont farms and the state should find ways to encourage that and make it easy, such as with Regional Dairy Innovation Center and other food incubators.

Glidden also supports programs that encourage the purchase of local foods, such as Crop Cash, which gives families in need funds to spend on locally grown food at farmers markets.

The state should be investing in the next generation of farmers, including education programs in agriculture to encourage "creative ideas and modern processes," he said. 

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