Carl Rosenquist
Republican

I am running again to continue our efforts to control budget expenditures and uphold our Constitution. I am also concerned with our business climate. We need to foster a climate which will create good paying jobs in order to keep our young people here. I have also been working with several groups to identify the needs and resources for safe, affordable daycare. We also need to strengthen our efforts for clean water in lakes and streams, help those who are afflicted with addictions and keep local control of our schools and school choice.

I have worked the majority of my career in executive management in the food manufacturing sector. I have served on various town, county and state boards and feel my experience is valuable in making decisions to help our community grow and flourish. I am a Vietnam veteran and afterward served in the USAR for 25 years, retiring as a LTC.

I look forward to serving you in the future.

Ed Simon
Democrat

I’m running for the House of Representatives because I want to serve my community. I joined the Vermont Army National Guard to serve the United States, but there are issues closer to home I feel it is my duty to address. Growing up in Georgia I’ve learned the positive influence a strong community has on a child’s life, I want that for the next generation. After speaking with the selectboard, PTO, Georgia/Milton Let’s Grow Kids action team, south village development forums, conservation commission and folks door to door, I get the feeling Georgians want the same thing I do; to invest in the state of Vermont’s future by building upon our high quality public education, strengthening our economy and protecting our environment. With leadership training and experience as an officer in the US Army, education from the University of Vermont and a BS in mechanical engineering, I’m suited for the job.

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?

Rosenquist:
If my math is correct this would average $60,000,000 per year for the next 20 years. This is not an impossible number to begin with if we consider our surplus revenue for 2018 was around $71,000,000.

Another thing to consider, is whether we have the plan and capacity available to spend this money in any given year. I believe, if we are serious about this issue, that we set $60,000,000. aside for the Clean Water fund each year before we start building the budget. If this is the number one priority than this is the first to be funded.

Simon:
Cleaning the lake is one of my top priorities. The issue is multifaceted and very complex, but solving it is paramount to the future of Vermont. The estimated cost to clean the lake averaged over 20 years at $60 million per year is huge. I propose we avoid huge initiatives to clean damage done in the short term and instead dramatically change future damage by limiting pollution in all sectors. We can accomplish this and save money by educating and assisting farmers who aren’t already using the best practices possible and requiring industries to meet the highest level of environmental expectations. Reducing pollutants can be inexpensive. There will still be a bill to pay, I see money coming from future taxes on recently legalized recreational marijuana.

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?

Rosenquist:
I voted against the legalization of marijuana during the last session. I still feel it was the wrong thing to do in the middle of an on going opiate drug crisis. Since it is now law, I would leave it alone for at least one year in order to assess the nature of any unintended consequences. In the long run, it is hard for me to see how I could encourage the monetization of this product, so that we could tax it’s distribution and sales. Taxation for alcohol and cigarettes have not been great examples for success along these lines. We still spend substantially more on health problems for alcohol and cigarette related issues than we take in in tax revenues.

Simon:
Legalizing recreational marijuana was a step in the right direction. Marijuana will become a source of income for the state, and could help solve many of our current issues. If we do this carefully, we can create a safe and regulated market. The only questions we need to answer are how to ensure safe driving laws and roadside tests are implemented. I look forward to working through these hurdles.

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?

Rosenquist:
I voted against the bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. I also voted to uphold Gov. Scott’s veto. I do not believe in mandating any particular wage level. Such action runs counter to our economic system, which is based on supply and demand. Due to the current tight labor market, there are very few jobs paying just the current minimum wage. If we force employers to increase wages to above what their business models can sustain, they may layoff certain workers, cut hours of operation, automate or close their doors. As I interact with employers, all I hear is “I can’t find enough qualified employees”.

Simon:
I would support the gradual raising of the minimum wage by 2024. This is a clear step toward narrowing the inequality among people in our state. Many who are making minimum wage do not have the opportunity to get out of the poverty they are in, regardless of work ethic. Everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed and a livable wage is required for people to have that opportunity.

Apart from the ethical reasons, I believe raising the minimum wage will reflect positively in our economy. Trickle down economics doesn’t work, but building an economy from the ground up does. Logically, those who earn the least have to put every dollar back into their economy. Because low income Vermonters invest every dollar they make back in the economy, it makes sense to increase this investment, while also enabling more people to pursue things like higher education.

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?

Rosenquist:
Vermont dairy farmers are caught in the grip of a federal dairy price support system. It favors the largest dairy producing states to the disadvantage of states like Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, where farms tend to have fewer milking cows and feed costs are higher.

We need to continue our efforts to emphasize the quality of our milk in Vermont and create a niche market where customers are willing to pay a premium for high quality milk produced in Vermont.
The State Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the Department of Commerce and Tourism should increase their efforts in promoting the Vermont brand.

Simon:
This issue should be considered from multiple fronts. Farming and dairy in Vermont are integral to our community. They are part of our history, significant to our economy and culture. Agriculture in Vermont is also a major contributor to phosphorus in our waterways, something that must be addressed. The solution is to assist and reward farmers who instill best practices to mitigate water contamination. Farmers already struggling with low milk prices can’t afford to be penalized; instead we should help them with dollars in the environmental fund. Reduction in phosphorus will clean up our lake, and giving farmers incentives to do this will both help farmers survive and keep the water clean

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?

Rosenquist:
I voted against the final version of the gun bill. In prior versions, amendments were made to separate portions of the bill. During this process, I voted to support the banning of bump stocks, since these devices turn a gun into an automatic weapon. These devices are already illegal. In the next session, I would support legislation to remove limits on magazine size on both rifles and pistols. The arbitrary setting of ten and fifteen rounds, respectively, are not based on any specific facts that I’m aware of.

Simon:
The laws passed should not be reversed and no additional legislation is needed now. Now the focus needs to be on enforcement of current law. The reason these laws were passed was a near miss in our state, one that was not solely an issue of gun ownership. There needs to be more effective detection of mental illness and treatment incorporated at younger ages. To mend this problem, we need to offer support to early child care and education, which studies have shown to reduce the risk of mental health issues.

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?

Rosenquist:
I voted against the Family Leave Bill (H-196) during the last session. This bill would mandate a new payroll tax on ALL employees in the state. Even though the tax rate is quite low in the early years of the program, it will be the responsibility of the Legislature to fund this cost for subsequent years. Many of us are working hard to make our state more affordable for our citizens. This bill would be taking us in the opposite direction.

Simon:
Yes, I support paid family leave. Making jobs more attractive to people in Vermont is a good move. I believe it is critical that we attract more workers to the state, and this bill does that. The more working Vermonters, the faster our economy grows. Besides an investment in the future of our state, it is the right thing to do. Giving workers time off in conditions of illness or child birth is the expectation of civilized society. I support the payment method laid out in the bill.

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?

Rosenquist:
Act 46 was, overall, a well intentioned proposal to consolidate school districts in order to reduce possible redundant administrative costs. In many cases, the potential mergers were obvious and decisions were made quickly due to an incentive system worked into the law.

The various school boards have presented well thought out alternatives to potential forced mergers under Act 46. They have been rebuffed and rejected repeatedly by the Educational Department and both past and new Secretaries of Education.

We need to make changes to the law to accommodate their overwhelming decisions at the local level in order to maintain the current status or the suggested changes to organization and changes in their community. This is a major issue of local control. If the plan is not supported by local residents it will fail or they will lose their involvement with the educational process. This was not the intention of Act 46. Local decisions need to be respected.

Simon:
Merging schools can be beneficial to the state’s economy in the short term, but detrimental to families and students. From the town of Georgia, I do not support mergers. With that said, direct democracy is in my opinion a perfect way to decide something like this, and I’m confident Georgians would not vote to close our schools.

Those being forced to merge will undoubtedly have issues with their new school systems. Cost savings for schools should come from people in the community, not from an outside source.

There is something special about small schools and communities that is difficult to measure in dollars. When I went through the Georgia school system my brothers and I missed the bus one day. My parents had to go to work and couldn’t drive us in, so one of our teachers drove to pick us up. It’s not time to make sacrifices in our education, it’s time to bolster it.

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?

Rosenquist:
I have been working at both the State House level and the grass roots level on this issue over the last year. So this statistic does not surprise me.

Due to increasing regulatory requirements to become, or remain, a registered daycare provider many individuals have elected to either go out of business or to offer services outside of the registered or regulated market. There are obviously more providers out there providing daycare/early childhood development outside of the system, otherwise where would all these parents be sending their children?
The real issue is why so many providers have left the regulated system? Could it be over regulation and unnecessary requirements thrust upon providers?

I think the state needs to review this over regulated home based and nurturing business model and reduce burdensome educational and associated unnecessary requirements. The primary focus should be on places where parents can send their little ones that are nurturing and loving.

Simon:
After the first Georgia/Milton action team meeting put on by Let’s Grow Kids I had a solid understanding of the major gap we have in our state. They have already done tremendous things in moving toward affordable high quality child care for Vermonters that I have seen work. That said, we must address the remaining gap on both sides, providers and parents. Programs need to be affordable for low income Vermonters, and providers need funding to keep the doors open, ensuring we have plenty of 4 and 5 star programs. Like education, it is the responsibility of the state to fund child care, to set up children and families for their best future.

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?

Rosenquist:
I believe we should continue to encourage service providers to connect to rural areas through the Connectivity Initiative, which provides grants for connecting rural customers. A very encouraging model is the EC Fiber Network connecting 24 towns in east central Vermont with fiber optic connectivity. Five towns started this initiative by forming a municipal entity to coordinate and raise funds through long term bonding to build the required infrastructure. Their build-out continues with five other towns fully connected and nineteen others partially connected to the system. This seems to be a model example of local people working together to solve a tough issue.

Simon:
I support Democratic candidate for Governor Christine Hallquist’s plan to get the state connected with fiber optic cable. We should pass legislation that would require electric utilities to hang fiber-optic cable in their service areas. The power companies could make money by leasing the fiber to internet service providers. Utilities would not be allowed to compete with traditional telecom companies by selling internet service directly to customers. This win-win is a clear solution to an outdated problem. Vermont desperately needs to get it’s people connected like the rest of the country, to improve our economy and our quality of life.

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?

Rosenquist:
Yes, Vermont does have an affordability crisis. This is due to high real estate (education) taxes, housing costs, high cost of daycare, income taxes and costs associated from burdensome regulations for new construction, etc. We need to address each of these areas and reduce the effect they impose on Vermonters. One breath of fresh air on this issue was the inclusion in the final budget bill that exempted state income taxes on Social Security income for family incomes below $60,000.. This should help some of the exodus of retired people from Vermont.

Simon:
Those being forced out of the state are the young, the retired, and the lower class. It is important for the future of this state to make it possible to earn a decent wage without extreme expenses for those that can’t afford it. The solution is multi-faceted. We need to raise the minimum wage, making new workers have a better chance at starting out here. This will be a boost for the economy because those that put every dollar they earn back into the economy will have more dollars to spend. We must make property taxes more affordable by shifting the cost of our high quality education to income taxes, making a more fair taxation system which doesn’t force out low income Vermonters. While there are many more angles to the issue, the last I’ll address is the need for affordable child care. We should increase spending in this area and find ways to use existing infrastructure like schools and businesses to double as child care facilities, saving money. In order to drive economic development, investments are necessary. These will bring us to a successful future.

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

Rosenquist:
Prior to the enactment of Act 60, (the Education Law), Vermont had a very effective Rural Development tool. Through the diligent efforts of our Selectmen and other community members, Georgia was able to attract a world-class corporation by offering initial tax incentives to help the corporation through the construction and early start up period. The advantage to the community was that the increase in Grand List value and the ultimate tax revenue was kept local to help offset the cost of our school and municipal tax. Unfortunately, under Act 60, the increased revenue to the Georgia tax base was shared across the entire state. This was a major blow to a really effective Rural Development tool.

We need to find some other means that encourage local investment while discouraging regulations, i.e. Act 60, that stifle local efforts. I will continue to do my best in Montpelier to help this happen.

Simon:
Georgia has plans in store for development and restructuring infrastructure. The Georgia South Village development plan entails traffic improvement with the implementation of either a stop light or roundabout at several high traffic locations. These changes would be necessary for the increase in traffic due to new business planned for the new central hub of town. What politicians can do is make sure federal dollars are properly allocated for these expensive projects. Most of the bill can be covered if the right resources are tapped into, keeping affordability reasonable for Georgians while driving the economic engine and growing our town. There is a lot in store for Georgia in the next 20 years, I’m ready to make sure we maintain our quaint communities, and have a town restaurant too.

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

Rosenquist:
The one constant comment I have heard while out campaigning is, “I can’t afford to live here anymore.” These comments, coupled with the demographic tidal wave of fewer students, negative overall population growth and the fact that our population is getting older, must be addressed. I am running for re-election to hold the line on budget growth. We must live within our means as we deal with the realities of demographic change. I believe my experience as a business leader and my involvement on many state and local boards over the last forty years, gives me the background to bring a common sense approach to solving the complex issues our state faces. I ask for your vote on 6 November.

Simon:
Thank you readers for your attention to issues as we approach this important election. As I’ve said throughout this campaign, I’m running for the Vermont House of Representatives because I care about the future of this state. I grew up here and can’t picture leaving. As a young Vermonter, I’ve seen friends and family come and go, and learned why many couldn’t afford to stay in the state they love. To invest in the future of this state we must ensure people have every opportunity to live here and raise a family, and to do that we must safeguard our high quality education, pristine environment, and invest in our economy and job market by raising the minimum wage. This state has a bright future, let’s make sure we guide it there together. Please vote for me on Nov. 6.