A retired Milton police officer, Republican John Palasik is running for re-election to the Vermont House of Representatives because he's proud of the commitment he has made to his constituents.
"I think I've done well in the last two years," he said. "I think I've made some good decisions. I've made some good votes. I vote with my heart."
Palasik has lived in Milton since 1966 and currently serves as chair of the town selectboard and as a Justice of the Peace.
As a first-term legislator, Palasik said he spent much of 2019, his first year in the House, on a learning curve.
"You have to learn the political system and the rules of the State House," he said. "You need to learn all of the issues we're spending billions of dollars on before you make your decision and cast your very, very important vote."
The decades Palasik spent in law enforcement and public safety help him in his position on the Committee on Government Operations, which considers matters including the organization and oversight of state government, as well as compensation for police and public safety.
Palasik recently spoke with the Independent over the phone. His responses have been edited for length. See italicized Editor’s Notes for more context and links for fact-checks.
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?
We've made some good progress, however we still have a lot more to do on the issues of racial bias and excessive use of force.
We are doing at lot at the state level with the Department of Public Safety and Vermont State Police, but we need to be making more progress at the municipal level too.
There's a lot of work to be done with mental health issues. All the years I served in Vermont law enforcement, I don't recall ever receiving any substantial mental health training.
A lot of departments are considering embedding mental health personnel in their departments. Vermont State Police have the money to do this kind of thing, but a lot of municipalities don't. The legislature has got to spend time on this, and I think we need to look at our budgets and so our best to get more mental health counselors on board.
What should legislators do to address the impact of COVID-19 on low-income Vermonters?
I really, really hope we get more federal money because there's a lot of things we still need to do.
A large portion of our federal Coronavirus Relief Fund has gone to financial assistance for businesses because if businesses go under, workers have their hours reduced or their jobs can be eliminated totally.
If we don't get the federal money, we'll have to try to find it somewhere else. Where do you find it? You find it in state funds — there are some surpluses to work with.
Economists are expecting Vermont to face shortfalls when it is time to prepare the fiscal year 2022 budget, especially the Education Fund. How should the state address that loss?
I think a way to solve the problem is to get our businesses up and running. Restaurants and lodging are important because our sales tax and rooms and meals tax goes into the Education Fund.
When you get people back to work, people will have money. People will buy things, and when they buy things they pay a 6 percent sales tax. That's how will get rid of the deficit and get back up to a positive revenue.
Scientists largely agree action is needed to delay the worst impacts of climate change. 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?
I will tell you that I certainly understand and agree that we as Vermonters need to do our part for climate change.
I do support climate change, always have and always will. I also think we need to do something about water quality because we've got an awful lot of beautiful lakes in Vermont.
But I don't think now is the time. It's going to cost money and I don't think we have that money right now. We need to get people back to work. We've got to get our revenues back up and then maybe the issue can be re-addressed.