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?
“The shortest and simplest answer is to keep the money coming in,” Chase stated. “They’re low income for a reason… Now, how do they do that? I don’t have a really good answer for you outside of: just cut them a check.”
Chase admitted that he knows people may get upset with his answer, but he said it would be the simplest and easiest avenue for the state.
What should the state do to address the need for affordable, quality childcare?
Chase said he thinks the question looks at a “supply issue.” He clarified by saying he would look at the many regulations and ordinances that childcare centers need to abide by and see what could be changed to help create a greater amount of services available to families.
“Because once there's more childcare services, you will have more choices,” Chase said. He believes that a larger supply of options would help eliminate those of inferior quality and that no one would use a “bad” childcare service if there are alternatives. “So if we want to get more affordable, then we need more childcare services in the state as a whole,” Chase added.
A substantial deficit is projected for the fiscal year 2022 budget. How should the legislature address anticipated shortfalls?
“The Libertarian in me says, ‘Cut spending,’” Chase began. He went on to say that he didn’t know the specifics of the state’s budget and couldn’t give a precise answer as to how that would be accomplished but framed it as looking at what's “necessary and unnecessary.”
“Even amongst those two categories, we can look at: what can we cut spending on and be able to accept the qualitative loss in service that we might get? Versus: what can we not accept in qualitative loss, or what can we push off for this year into next year or two or three years down?”
Chase thinks that asking businesses or individuals to pay more to increase funding is “out of the question,” saying their personal budgets are at a deficit just like the state’s is.
What about the Education Fund, which is also expected to take a big hit from COVID-19?
Chase once again said the answer is to decrease spending, but he thinks the cuts need to come from areas other than teachers’ pensions and health insurance, saying, “If we’re cutting things that were already promised, we now create a bigger promise in future fiscal years.”
He added that cuts may not be able to fully solve the problem and that the Education Fund will probably need to be looked at differently than the general budget. “We're still looking at a system where it's probably: increase taxes in the coming future,” said Chase.
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?
“There can always be more done,” said Chase, “but as long as we are willing to go forward is all I can ask for: are we at least willing to go forward? And I think some of the dialogue is [that] some people don't want to go forward. So I think that's where the problem comes from.”
Chase thinks that the actions taken so far are good and that the state is moving forward in the right direction, but he also believes that the work will never be done as there will always be police brutality outside of a “perfect world.”
Chase said there should be a serious look into the training law enforcement receives and that improved de-escalation skills would help cut down on the use of excessive force.
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?
Chase thinks the state should look at strengthening its infrastructure, using the example of houses being easy to rebuild while bridges aren’t, and a loss of the latter during a storm could significantly impact a whole community.
He said he’s “not too worried” about Vermont’s carbon footprint because of its relatively small size compared to Texas and Florida. Chase mentioned that the state could look into hybrid or electric incentives for people to cut down on their own carbon footprint, but he believes that would be “shifting the problem from one area to another,” saying the electrical grid in Vermont would then be stressed.