Mary Beerworth
Republican

It is time for Fairfax residents and voters to be represented in Montpelier by someone who will listen to their genuine concerns, and who pledges to be transparent and accountable on important roll call votes.

With over 20 years of experience with public policy and having advocated for legislation that would strengthen families, I am familiar with the legislative process.

Franklin County Republicans are organizing to lead a statewide effort to launch an affordability campaign in order to get our State back on the right fiscal track – to not only keep government budgets in line, but to ultimately win tax cuts for hard working, over-burdened Vermonters. I want to be part of the team that gets that done.

I am honored that an energized Fairfax Republican Town Committee has faith in my abilities and that they have encouraged me to seek this office.

Barbara Murphy
Independent

I am running for reelection to the legislature as the representative for Fairfax to continue to ensure the voice of Fairfax is heard. I found my home in Fairfax more than thirty years ago and over those decades I have been involved in many areas of the life of our community. My experience as school board member and chair, select board member, Franklin County Home Health Board member and chair and Development Review Board member honed the skills that I use to forward our community’s interests. From these positions and other volunteer service, I have come to know the multi-faceted identity of Fairfax and I use that understanding to guide my actions in the General Assembly. Having an informed overall knowledge of the community and being unaligned with a political party allows me to always consider how any issue will affect Fairfax without the pressure of any other interest.

State officials have put the cost for cleaning up Lake Champlain at $1.2 billion over 20 years. There is still no agreed upon funding source for this work. How do you think the state should fund its clean water efforts?

Beerworth:
We all recognize the need to accelerate our work to clean up Vermont’s waterways. The fact that this cause unites all Vermonters is demonstrated by both public and private initiatives.

But first things first. We have to grow the economy and rein in spending so we can fund this and other pressing priorities. Furthermore, we have to make sure, when we do raise the funds, that we are looking at a solid, well-thought-out plan that will avoid waste, and achieve the results we all want to see.

For example, when the Vermont House of Representatives voted in May of 2018 to raise $6.4 million in new taxes to fight water pollution it was, thankfully, scuttled by both the Senate and the Administration because the legislation lacked adequate fact-finding and planning. The majority of Franklin County representatives voted to defeat that bill. I would have joined them. You may want to ask your current Representative how she voted on S.260.

Murphy:
The state’s clean water efforts are not just focused on Lake Champlain. The impact is felt over 94 percent of Vermont and requires a source for the estimated annual $25 million expenditure. Act 168 provides for new funding of an estimated $6.4 million in 2020 and it examines the Vermont tax code in order to identify all subsidies or reductions to the after-tax cost of any material or activity that contributes to water pollution, in order to capture these dollars. The Act also amends the permit fee for the municipal road general permit to be based on population and road miles in a town, instead of a flat fee. This fits the philosophy of funds for the clean water effort being assessed on pollution sources. The past legislative sessions have begun to address the need of funding our clean water efforts but have not yet found a sustainable long term solution.

Possession of a small amount of marijuana in Vermont is now legal. In your view, should the state move forward with a regulated market for marijuana or leave things as they are now?

Beerworth:
Being an advocate in the State House over the years has given me the opportunity to listen to all sides of controversial debates. In 2004, the legislature legalized medical marijuana and in 2013 it passed decriminalization. Fine. But the vote this year to legalize recreational marijuana was different.

Physicians, nurses, law enforcement, and parents from all over our state testified day after day with impassioned pleas to stop passage of the bill; it all fell on deaf ears. A Fairfax RN told me about the damage she sees first hand to babies whose mothers do not understand the lifelong consequences to their unborn babies of smoking marijuana.

Incumbent Fairfax Representative Barbara Murphy voted in favor of the bill, which is now law. I will not vote to commercialize marijuana. The current law is rife with loopholes and ambiguities that will likely require a remedy in the coming biennium.

Murphy:
I do not support a regulated market and believe the state should leave things as they are for now. To move to a tax and regulated market would require an investment of resources that Vermont cannot afford. I voted for Act 86 which frees adults who grow and use personal amounts of marijuana from legal sanctions, like adults who responsibly consume alcohol. Removing the civil penalties allows our law enforcement agencies to prioritize the focus of limited resources on substance abuse crimes such as impaired driving. When the Federal government legalizes marijuana Vermont can tax its purchase as it does tobacco and alcohol.

This past session the legislature approved a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024, which was then vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott. Do you support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour?

Beerworth:
The legislative debate last year included testimony from business owners who made it clear that such a forced increase would impair their ability to be successful. Mandating a $15.00 an hour pay rate would also hurt young people who need to hold part time jobs to meet high school and/or college expenses, or to gain experience. If businesses are forced to make adjustments to hiring practices it could lead to the elimination of some of those positions. Forcing wages up would negatively impact those who live on fixed incomes as rising costs would be passed on to consumers.

Importantly, the national economy is now in growth mode and that growth mode will soon drive more employers to offer better packages and higher wages without legislative mandates.

By law, Vermont’s minimum wage already goes up every year in proportion to economic growth as measured by consumer prices.

Murphy:
I did not support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Vermont’s minimum wage is tied with three other states for the fourth highest in the United States; substantially greater than the national rate and is set to rise annually with inflation.

The Report of the Minimum Wage and Benefits Cliff Study Committee December 2017 to the General Assembly cites many potential negative impacts of the proposed raise. “With respect to employment, a higher minimum wage could result in job losses, reduced employee hours, reduced employee benefits and training, or slower wage growth for employees above the minimum wage, or a combination of these effects. For businesses, increased labor costs from changes in the minimum wage could result in lower profit margins, which might lead some businesses to choose to relocate to another state or to invest in automation in an effort to reduce labor costs.”

With both dairy farmers and their vendors struggling after four years of low milk prices, what action, if any, do you think the state should do to assist farmers and other agricultural businesses?

Beerworth:
Dairy is still an integral part of our economy, for the Town of Fairfax, Franklin County and all over Vermont.

The price that farmers get for milk has been controlled at the federal level for generations. Vermont can’t change that. What we can do is limit unnecessary regulations and regulatory cost impacts to farmers.

Meanwhile, dairy farmers are uniting nationally to address over-production, which cyclically makes prices drop to a level below the cost of production, forcing more farmers into financial trouble and herd sell-offs. Franklin County’s dairy farmers have been leaders in the national effort.

The state should make all reasonable efforts to listen to dairy farmers and to ask if, when or how the legislature can assist them. If farmers believe the Vermont legislature can help reduce the cost of milk production and grow markets for dairy products then, by all means, let’s listen to them.

 

Murphy:
Dairy is an invaluable part of our County’s identity. Not only is the low price of milk a challenge to the industry but the new permits and regulations can be as well. Several farmers in Franklin County were early leaders in demonstrating best practice ways to reduce phosphorous run off and worked to assist in the legislation of the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Fund was created by Act 64 to provide additional state funds to help farmers and others..

To quote from the Vermont Milk Commission report dated January 2018, “UVM Extension has been critical in working with farmers to implement water quality requirements on farms. Extension assists dairy farmers in other aspects of their operation, but funding is critical for base operations as well as continued research.” Vermont can continue to provide funding for these and other critical programs that assist the dairy industry to stay viable.

Do you believe the gun laws passed by the legislature this past session need to be reversed, will work just as they are, or that additional measures are required?

Beerworth:
Dairy is an invaluable part of our County’s identity. Not only is the low price of milk a challenge to the industry but the new permits and regulations can be as well. Several farmers in Franklin County were early leaders in demonstrating best practice ways to reduce phosphorous run off and worked to assist in the legislation of the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Fund was created by Act 64 to provide additional state funds to help farmers and others..

To quote from the Vermont Milk Commission report dated January 2018, “UVM Extension has been critical in working with farmers to implement water quality requirements on farms. Extension assists dairy farmers in other aspects of their operation, but funding is critical for base operations as well as continued research.” Vermont can continue to provide funding for these and other critical programs that assist the dairy industry to stay viable.

Murphy:
Dairy is an invaluable part of our County’s identity. Not only is the low price of milk a challenge to the industry but the new permits and regulations can be as well. Several farmers in Franklin County were early leaders in demonstrating best practice ways to reduce phosphorous run off and worked to assist in the legislation of the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Fund was created by Act 64 to provide additional state funds to help farmers and others..

To quote from the Vermont Milk Commission report dated January 2018, “UVM Extension has been critical in working with farmers to implement water quality requirements on farms. Extension assists dairy farmers in other aspects of their operation, but funding is critical for base operations as well as continued research.” Vermont can continue to provide funding for these and other critical programs that assist the dairy industry to stay viable.

Last session, the General Assembly approved a bill which would have used a payroll tax to create a paid family leave system. Gov. Phil Scott vetoed the bill. Should Vermont offer paid family leave? If so, how should we pay for it?

Beerworth:
Strong families and community networks, who care for each other, create the best support systems to help new parents and provide support when a seriously ill family member needs help. But for some families more is needed.

Current federal & Vermont law already allows employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for childbirth or adoption, or to care for a family member.

H.196, proposed in 2018, would have created a new, mandatory $16.3 million payroll tax on all working Vermonters to generate state revenue to pay employees who are out on family leave. That would have been an automatic pay cut – for everyone – which I would not have supported. I would consider supporting a voluntary program.

Let’s not forget the power of a strong economy to increase competition among employers, resulting in better employee benefits – including paid family leave.

Murphy:
I did not vote for H.196, an act relating to paid family leave, as it was proposed during the biennium. An amendment I supported would have allowed an employee to opt in to a paid leave plan rather than have it mandated but it was defeated on the House floor. The language of the legislation as it evolved undermined the security such a leave plan should provide and its future cost was a concern. The initial rate was just a place holder for what the annual rate might have to be.

Family and parental leave needs to be addressed. Everyone can cite a situation where hardship occurred for someone who had to balance being able to tend to the care of a loved one with maintaining employment. Existing law supports up to 12 weeks of leave but it is unpaid. Finding the means of paying for this benefit is the challenge.

The period for voluntary mergers under Act 46 is coming to a close, and some communities facing a mandated merger of their school district are deeply unhappy. Should the state continue on the course it set when Act 46 passed, particularly since districts across the state merged voluntarily under the rules established with Act 46, or should changes be made to accommodate those who are unhappy over potential district mergers?

Beerworth:
At the local state-mandated Act 46 discussions two years ago, I was impressed to witness the dedication of the voluntary panel of concerned citizens, parents, school boards members and others from Fairfax, Fletcher and Georgia as they worked through the complicated process. Over the course of many meetings, they met the benchmarks of Act 46 by running through various scenarios and finding the strengths and weaknesses, pros and cons, of each.

When it was concluded the decision was made. Each of the merger proposals was voted down as unworkable.

End of discussion? No. Believe it or not, the state still gets to decide whether to accept the decision of the towns and could force a merger.

I would have voted against Act 46. Going forward, and if given the opportunity, I will vote to change Act 46 so that the decision of the local school communities would be accepted as the final word.

Murphy:
I never supported Act 46. My only yes votes were for amendments that would disallow unfunded mandates and change the mandated merger language to enabling language. It is a fallacy that these mandated mergers will provide any economy of scale for Vermont’s education costs. The Vermont tradition of local control is being sacrificed for no gain.

Fairfax, Fletcher and Georgia community members studied the options of a merger. In the end with different grade spectrums in each district and school choice as an option in only two, the differences proved insurmountable. Our three schools share many services and manage some of the schools costs through the Supervisory Union. Other school districts are taking similar management options to maintain the educational mandates for their students at the least cost to their taxpayers. I hope the Department of Education will respect and work with the districts for the attainment of these goals.

Last year, Vermont’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care found that almost half of Vermont’s infants and toddlers with working parents are not in a regulated child care program either in a center or at home. What, if anything, should the state do to address the gap between available child care slots and need?

Beerworth:
Last weekend, I met with two registered day care providers in Fairfax. Both have been caring for children in their homes for over 30 years. Their obvious love for the children in their care was heartwarming.

Recently, both federal and state governments interfered with registered and licensed day care providers by issuing hundreds of pages of new regulations that micromanage every step they make and consume hours of over-time.

In short, government is regulating a critical, private sector service out of business.

Some will push to expand funding for early education programs in the public schools, but that is not the answer for every family, nor for every child. Parents need the options of a using a provider offering home care or a local, licensed day-care center.

Government bureaucracy needs to listen to those who provide child care – and then government needs to get out of their way.

Murphy:
Many of the requirements Vermont has placed on child care providers have driven the cost and even availability of good quality care beyond the reach of those who need it. The challenge of making child care affordable comes with the yoked desire to ensure it is safe and provides a living wage to providers. More regulation will not help.

Several tax programs provide either a tax credit or in the case of The Earned Income Credit (EIC) even additional cash back. These programs provide relief through refunds or tax credits, not by directly sharing in the cost. The universal preschool program does assist with the cost for two years of preschool for children three, four or five years old prior to their enrollment in kindergarten. Supporting budgets that fund programs such as these, allowing them to continue to provide relief is one way I can facilitate the availability issue.

Connectivity — access to high speed internet and cell phone service — is limited in many parts of the state and efforts to provide that access have, thus far, not been entirely successful. What do you think the state should do to bring internet and cell phone access to rural areas?

Beerworth:
For as long as I can remember, state government has made promises it couldn’t keep about broadband and wireless service for all of Vermont.

Their current promise, enacted in 2014 (Act 190), is for 100 percent broadband and mobile coverage by 2024 — funded by a 2 percent surcharge on your monthly broadband and wireless bills. Progress is slow. Coverage in rural areas is costly. The Vermont Public Service Board (PSB) has a plan; it should continue to execute it.

Importantly, in Fairfax our new Town Plan prioritizes the expansion of internet and cellular service as a critical action for the town.

As Fairfax’s voice in Montpelier, I would actively support our Town Manager, the Planning Commission and the Selectboard in any way I can to facilitate and advocate with the PSB and other regulators, to get the best possible coverage for our residents and businesses.

Murphy:
Access to high speed internet and cell phone service remain limited in many parts of the state; the average download speed for internet in Fairfax is 74.2 percent slower than the Vermont average and 569.9 percent slower than the United States average according to BroadbandNow. The lack of high speed internet service is an impediment to future economic growth for our community.

As much as an issue as this is, the greater concern is the lack of cell phone coverage that was exacerbated in August when CoverageCo’s contract was ended by the Department of Public Service. It has been stated that over 70 percent of the 911 calls come in from a cell phone and the inability to do so can mean a delay in lifesaving response time. As stated by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, “Saving Vermont’s microcell network is an essential public safety, health care, and economic growth imperative.”

Affordability has become a buzz word in Vermont politics, with a suggestion that either a high cost of living, high taxes or both make Vermont unaffordable, driving out young families and those on fixed incomes. Do you think this is an accurate view? Would you define affordability differently?

Beerworth:
We all know at least one Vermonter who has left for a higher-paying job in another state to escape the high cost of living. College graduates and young families decide to move elsewhere. Some grandparents can’t afford to retire here. For those who stay, the spending power of our income continues to deteriorate. The evidence that we are facing an affordability crisis in Vermont is no longer anecdotal – it is for real.

Vermont’s low birth rate, lack of trained, skilled workers, and tax-and-spend Legislature have left us with problems that must be addressed. A local employer explained to me how difficult the process is to attract and retain employees as Vermont compares negatively on many cost of living indexes.

Sustaining a Governor’s budget veto to prevent increased taxes may come down to just one or two votes in the next session. We must hold the line on government spending.

Murphy:
Vermont does have an affordability issue. The cost of the State’s infrastructure is born by a population that is the second smallest of all the states. In order to meet the administration’s priority of protecting our most vulnerable while making Vermont more affordable we do need to grow our economy and our population.

The Legislature took clear directive from the Administration in the last session to prioritize expenditures. Tax exemptions and deductions will provide relief for taxpayers, while spending cuts on outdated or unsuccessful programs helps reduce the overall budget. Accountability from each request in the budget allows it to be assessed as to its status as a need or a want; similar to the tough decisions each individual makes in their household budget. There is more work to be done and I will continue to support the work of funding those budgetary needs that are the top priority.

Every candidate agrees there’s a need for rural development in their communities. How specifically would you facilitate rural development in your community?

Beerworth:
As an elected official I would work with federal, state, and county agencies, and organizations to highlight the priorities of Fairfax as they are identified by town officials, residents, the school district, local businesses and other community groups.

The old Baptist church on Main Street (now the Fairfax Community Center) is one example of the need to preserve our local heritage as it is an excellent venue for bringing townspeople together.

The building is historic and the setting is picturesque. That said, much needed restoration is going to be costly. Grants could help make that happen along with donations, fundraisers and volunteers – without raising new taxes on Vermonters.

Fairfax is an amazing town. Continuing to seek rural development grants along with community commitment and involvement, maintaining infrastructure and encouraging jobs and opportunity, will help Fairfax sustain its uniqueness and sense of community

Murphy:
Fairfax has updated the Town Plan for 2018 to 2026 and has it to use in guiding anticipated future growth. An identified key goal is to maintain the rural character and scenic beauty of Fairfax. Healthy growth will be sustained by investment in the infrastructure that allows access to goods and services; this includes transportation systems, broadband Internet access, cellular service and water/wastewater capacity. Vermont’s population of approximately 624,000 residents, the second lowest in the US, means these challenges are best addressed regionally and the Northwest Regional Planning Commission has been of assistance to Fairfax in many of the town’s recent achievements. State grants and programs are available to provide assistance to communities and providing support for the financial aspect of these opportunities is critical. I can facilitate the rural development in Fairfax by continuing to work on and support ensuring the state budget includes resources to meet these needs.

Candidates were asked to make their final, brief pitch to voters

Beerworth:
It is time for Fairfax residents and voters to be represented in Montpelier by someone who will listen to their genuine concerns. I pledge to be transparent and accountable on important roll call votes. I intend to not only listen, but to keep constituents informed and explain the reasoning behind each important vote cast.

With over 20 years of experience with public policy and having advocated in the State House for legislation that would strengthen families and defend the value of every human life, I am uniquely familiar with the process.

Franklin County Republicans are united in their effort to promote an affordability agenda that will help get our state back on the right fiscal track – to not only keep government budgets in line, but to ultimately win tax cuts for over-burdened Vermonters. In the next legislative session, sustaining a Governor’s veto of a tax and spend budget may come down to one or two votes. If Fairfax voters want to be part of the team that will hold that line, vote Mary Beerworth for Fairfax.

Murphy:
As in my first two campaigns to be the Representative for Fairfax I have continued my fiscal tradition of remaining under the campaign reporting threshold of five hundred dollars spent or received. I have not accepted any donations, let alone those from entities outside our Fairfax community. Instead I’ve chosen to reach out and personally canvas approximately 1,700 Fairfax homes.

In my campaign for reelection I am aware of how much I have learned over the past two sessions. Those four years allowed me to work for Fairfax across the political spectrum. We deserve to have our voice considered and not have this position be used as a tool for one political Party’s agenda. Once elected the candidate in this seat represents all members of our community not just those who share the elected candidate’s Party. If reelected it will be my honor to continue to serve all of Fairfax.