Eileen “Lynn” Dickinson
Republican

I am running for office to continue to serve the residents of St. Albans Town. I have served for ten years and on three House Committees and bring experience in several areas that have an impact on my community, such as insurance, economic development, workforce development, corrections, and issues dealing with the court and justice system. I also served for ten years on the Board of BFA as a Trustee and School Board member, learning a great deal about our education system and the consolidation issues involved in our school systems. I also serve as a Legislative Trustee for the Vermont State College System.

I am proud to have been the lead sponsor for two bills that became law: the Lyme Disease Bill and the bill expanding Medicaid participation for independent Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors. I would like to continue this work for the citizens of St. Albans.

Dave McWilliams
Indpendent

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?

Dickinson:
In 2014 and 2016, I sponsored a bill that would address the cost of cleaning up the lake. It would take the money from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Trust Fund that is earmarked for land conservation and apply it to the water cleanup fund. Since approximately 25 percent of Vermont’s landmass is already under land conservation easements, applying this money to cleaning up of our waterways would follow the intent of the Conservation Trust Fund and its goal of preservation by also protecting our waterways and lake. According to the Legislative Council, this would result in $6 million dollars a year for 20 years and would be a good start for funding this important need. This is especially true since the State has transferred money out of this fund to the General Fund almost every year since 2001 to be used for other items funded by the General Fund.

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?

Dickinson:
I do not support legalization of marijuana with some exceptions for medical marijuana. Our drug epidemic is extremely harmful to our society and is personally destructive to those addicted and to their families. Legalizing another gateway drug is counterproductive. We did work on a saliva test to help law enforcement determine drug impairment this session and it would provide a real time field test that would be similar to the breathalyzer and data master test we use to determine alcohol impairment. But the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Dick Sears, killed it in his committee. We need this test to protect all of us from drivers impaired by drug use on the roads. I will work in the next session to pass a bill developing a saliva test.

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?

Dicksinson:
A $15 minimum wage sounds great, until you realize that it will probably hurt the low skilled worker and the young who especially need the entry level jobs that make minimum wage. Technology has been eliminating these jobs for awhile. Technology is not a friend of workers. We have self service gas stations, car washes and ATM machines, now for a couple of decades. We process our own transportation tickets with machines. We have self service check out at retail and food stores, iPad service at restaurants and robotic feeders and milking machines for dairy cows. Machines/technology don’t need health insurance, workers comp or unemployment insurance. Vermont employers say they cannot find enough workers to fill their needs yet employers especially need workers with the soft skills that most of us learn at our first entry level job. Don’t give employers another excuse to avoid hiring folks for these jobs.

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?

Dickinson:
National policy on dairy pricing determines what farmers get paid for their milk. Vermont has some programs, mostly through VEDA to help farmers borrow money with low interest loans. Vermont government does not have the revenue to subsidize farmers on a regular basis, especially since 2009 when the state revenues were down and we had to make cuts in our budgets because we were running deficits. The state’s regulations on farms do have an impact. The legislature has passed more stringent regulations in the past few years, mostly dealing with improving water quality and preventing phosphorus from getting into our lakes and waterways. Farmers have worked with the UVM Extension Service, the Farmers Watershed Alliance and others to improve their farm practices to comply with these regulations. Ultimately, the federal government and our Congressional delegation need to find a more stable solution to this ongoing problem.

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?

Dickinson:
Vermont has a strong tradition of hunting, to provide food, as a sport and as a tool of wildlife management. Other sports using guns include target shooting and biathlon.

The US Supreme Court has upheld the Second Amendment rights of citizens in the Heller v. DC decision; however, states have the right to further regulate guns. Guns can also be used in crimes and in targeted shootings. This becomes a public safety issue and that is what the guns laws of the 2018 session tried to address. In these laws, the search and seizure and the due process protections in the Bill of Rights must also be followed. Several of the sections of the gun bills are being challenged in court to determine the constitutionality of these provisions. I do not think these gun laws will be reversed; since there aren’t enough votes in the legislature to do this.

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?

Dickinson:
A government mandate requiring paid family leave may sound like a good idea, but it is another unfunded mandate which working people will have to pay for. The bill created a small percentage payroll tax on all workers to pay for it. As a result, the pool of money that would be created would be unable to cover the costs for the employees who want to take advantage of this benefit. It also did not include the startup costs of the program. The state of Vermont already has many programs to help our citizens that are underfunded and reimbursements that are too low to maintain these services. Underfunded pensions for school and public employees, Medicaid payments to providers, child care subsidies for working families are just some of the examples. The real cost of providing this benefit will ultimately increase taxes, and make Vermont less affordable for all of us.

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?

Dickinson:
With declining population and increasing costs since 1997, Act 46 had two main goals. One was to cut education costs by placing a “cap” that schools could only increase their budgets based on their equalized per pupil cost. If they spent more than the “cap,” they had to send double the money to the state for the Education Fund. It was a return to the sharing pool concept of Act 60 and was draconian. School boards and superintendents objected and the Legislature repealed the “caps” and mandatory cost savings. The second was to provide educational opportunities to students in small schools that didn’t have the breadth of educational options that larger schools provide. Now, the districts that were ready and willing to merge, have already done so. The choices left by law for the remaining schools are now more difficult. The State Board of Education now has the final decision if there is no change to Act 46.

McWilliams:
It was good for small schools with about 50 kids, when it its came into effect in Vermont. It was supposed to decrease our percent in our tax rate for the next several years. Than as you have seen in the Vermont education department in Montpelier, has now told the taxpayers your education rates are going up in Vermont.
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The city and Town of St. Albans and Fairfield are in a district now, so for example if the town of Fairfield has $20 million in debt owed who will pick up that debt from that school. Guess what the district will pay for that debt and that means the town and city will help to pay off the bills owed by Town of Fairfield.

If the voters vote not to be in any merger with others schools then they should do what the taxpayers voted for and not get into district. Act 46 wants all schools to do at the wishes of the Vermont education board and not putting money behind to pay for all increase in our taxes in Franklin County.

The last thing is we are losing local control of our schools in Franklin County to our State of Vermont.

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?

Dickinson:
We need reliable and quality day care for families, but it is expensive for Vermont families. Vermont has had many home based day cares. Larger day care centers often provide on site preschool classes for the children. The State of Vermont has increased regulation of all of these child care centers trying to increase the quality and education of staff. The increased regulation, especially in education requirements of staff, has increased the cost of providing the care and many small day care centers have decided to close rather than meet these new requirements. Low and moderate income families also have a difficult time finding spaces for their children in day care because of inadequate state subsidizes. There has been a bill introduced to put a moratorium for additional education requirements for day care providers. I would support a more common sense approach to make this service more affordable and available for Vermont families.

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?

Dickinson:
I worked hard in the 2009-10 session to get broadband expanded in my district, a town that had received a Vermont Telecommunications Authority grant in 2008. I got the tower installed and they had an improvement in broadband reception. I worked as well with a farmer in my district who wanted better cell service and I worked to get AT&T to install a tower to his silo. I also helped a constituent with his contract with VTrans for a lease on a tower used for public safety. Cell phone service requires a license; therefore it is more difficult to expand the service than broadband. Expanding broadband is not like expanding rural electrification done in the mid 1900’s; once the electric lines were in place it was finished. Broadband requires increased speed that makes it harder to consistently provide adequate service to everyone. The goal is to keep the services affordable for Vermonters while building out to underserved areas.

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?

Dickinson:
Vermont does suffer from an affordability crisis. Our living expenses make Vermont unaffordable: high taxes, high rent and housing costs, high fuel costs, high electric rates, high property taxes for pre-K to 12, high tuition for state colleges, high health insurance rates, etc.

Regulations contribute to this affordability crisis. The added costs of permits make it difficult to build moderate priced new single family houses. We have regulations on energy for renewable sources that add to the cost of our electric rates. We have regulations on health insurance, and we have created an Education Fund that increasingly takes in more taxes to serve a declining population of students. All this happens while we raise taxes on Vermonters. My goal is to create a place where Vermont is open for business with good paying jobs. We need to provide tax relief and review regulations to make Vermont more affordable and create more prosperity for Vermonters.

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

Dickinson:
If reelected I will reintroduce a bill, H.209 which would simplify and reform the Act 250 permitting process. There is a Rural Economic Development Caucus in the House of Representatives that meets Thursday mornings. In many counties of Vermont, the rural towns and areas are losing population and have no or little economic development. The loss of jobs, income and the economic stagnation is alarming. They have limited infrastructure and are facing increased costs for their small municipalities. St. Albans Town shares many of the concerns of these towns. Act 250 has been around for 50 years and there is a legislative study committee examining the statute and its impact. It has no Republican Representatives on the committee and it appears it wants to expand Act 250 instead of simplifying it. Unfortunately, there will be no rural economic development without serious reform of Act 250 that makes it more responsive and timely in the application and appeal process.

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

Dickinson:
I am running for re-election to the House of Representatives to continue to serve the residents of St Albans Town. I have served for ten years and have served on three committees: Commerce and Economic Development, Corrections and Institutions, and Judiciary and through these committees I have learned in depth about diverse issues important to the citizens of St. Albans. Previously, I have spent ten years serving as a trustee and school board member at BFA and am currently a legislative trustee and Vice Chair on the Vermont State College Board of Trustees. I have introduced legislation on issues important to the Town, often to address the concerns of my constituents and others in the St. Albans community. I will continue to work with anyone for common sense solutions that improve the lives of Vermonters. I humbly ask for the votes of my constituents in St. Albans Town to continue this work.

McWilliams:
I am running for 3-2 district because of the following reason.

We need a two tier- wages for the following reason.

Minimum wages for high school students then we need $15 per hour for people that have graduated from high school.

We need to get Vermont residents off welfare and back working and getting a livable wage and benefits.
Then any candidate who vote for carbon tax should resign or not be elected to office in the state of Vermont.

We need to fund money for the clean up of our Lake Champlain before it dies and than it will cost more than what the state wants to put into the fund to clean up the lake.