Voters in the Chittenden 10 district will choose two of the three candidates running for a House seat in the general election November 6. Ahead of the vote, the Milton Independent posed Republicans Chris Mattos and John Palasik and Democrat Todd Buik three questions, giving them 500 words to split between their responses.
Here are our questions; the candidates’ answers follow.
- What is your strategy to balance the state budget? What taxes or fees, if any, would you be willing to increase? What services, if any, would you cut?
- Vermont legalized recreational marijuana last legislative session. Should the state tax and regulate it — why or why not?
- Is the state doing enough to clean up Lake Champlain? Explain.
Editor’s note: Responses edited only for newspaper style.
1. The state budget is a self balancing budget. To balance a shortfall in the budget, the legislature can increase taxes or fees to close the gap. If there is a windfall, like the scenario we had this year, the legislature could reduce or maintain tax rates, but that did not happen this year. The average homestead tax rate was maintained for the next year, but the non-residential rate was increased. We need to spend within our means like each of us do in our own households. I don’t believe we need to increase taxes or fees in order to have a balanced budget. Under the direction of Gov. Scott, we have seen over the past two years taxes and fees do not need to be increased in order to do this. With this being my first year in the legislature, it was a big learning curve to review the state’s budget. There seems to be an opportunity to seek efficiencies between departments to minimize duplication. For instance, the Agency of Education and the Agency of Human Services both monitor childcare depending on the setting. Making one agency in charge of the program, it could streamline the experience for the children, parents, schools, private centers and the state while saving everyone money.
2. With recreational marijuana now legal, the state should work to tax and regulate it. There is an opportunity to increase revenues by taxing marijuana. Last legislative session, I voted no on the legalization of recreational use due to the public safety worries with no new revenue to support those concerns. The new revenue could be used to increase funding for law enforcement related to drug enforcement and recognition. Currently, there is no “breathalyzer” equivalent like that of drinking and driving which is a concern. Also, funding could be provided for the education in schools and to the public for more information on the effects of marijuana. Additional revenues could be used to fund after school programs, transportation, and Lake Champlain clean up as a few examples.
3. The state has appropriated millions of dollars for the clean up of Lake Champlain, but yet there is still a problem. Again this summer some of our beaches have been closed and waters have been filled with algae blooms and bacteria. Most notably, Burlington’s wastewater treatment systems have been failing by dumping millions of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage directly into the lake. The state can continue to spend millions of dollars reacting to what has already happened to our waters, but until the root cause is solved, the problem will not go away. The recent announcement of a $30 million plan in Burlington to rehab its outdated systems is a step in the right direction.
1. When proposing the state budget, some significant things should be seriously considered. Very importantly is how much taxes can people really afford to pay. High taxes contribute greatly to the excessive high cost of living in Vermont. We have thousands of our citizens that have major difficulty paying taxes. We all should be able to live a comfortable life in Vermont, yet there are many who do not.
A tax being considered is the carbon tax. It’s claimed a carbon tax will help reduce carbon pollution and it may do this. However, this tax will significantly increase the current tax on gasoline for our cars and trucks and other fuels to heat our houses. A carbon tax is something Vermonters can’t afford.
At this point I don’t know what services I would cut if any. Vermont helps provide citizens with mental health and social services. We need services for the opiate epidemic. Our senior citizens have worked long and hard and our veterans have sacrificed greatly. These and others need to continue.
Increased economic development and opportunities for new business will help relieve the tax burden on our citizens. I plan to oppose increases in current taxes. I also plan to oppose new taxes. We simply can’t afford additional or new taxes.
2. I would not have voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana. However, this was passed and is now permitted by law. I believe it is reasonable to consider regulating and taxing it, however I think there are numerous factors to review.
The positives must outweigh the negatives. Positives might include tax revenue that could be used to help provide funding to fight the opiate epidemic or help support our schools. Other positives might include tax revenue for roadside testing technology and drug recognition education for our law enforcement officers to help prevent driving under the influence on our highways. Regulating production of marijuana might produce a safer product. A negative might be that regulation could cause for black-market production and sale of marijuana, which has many inherent issues.
There is a fair amount of research on this matter. I believe this data needs careful study and may take some time for the legislature to make an informed decision on whether to tax and regulate recreational use of marijuana.
3. The state is working to clean up Lake Champlain however this is an enormous and expensive undertaking. Millions of gallons of wastewater are flowing into our lakes. A couple of the largest cities in Vermont have become a center of attention on this matter. Green algae is a reoccurring problem requiring constant monitoring. Cities and towns need to upgrade facilities and internal monitoring equipment. On a good note, Milton’s wastewater treatment facility has very high marks and it’s been determined the water we send back into the river is actually very clean. That is something to be quite proud of.
Buik did not answer multiple attempts to reach him before our set Tuesday deadline.