By Stephen Seitz
SPRINGFIELD—Springfield resident Keith Stern has set his sights on the governor’s office.
Stern, a Republican, said he plans to challenge Gov. Phil Scott in next year’s primary.
“I’m challenging Phil Scott because I don’t like the job he’s doing,” Stern said. “I think he needs to look more at cutting government waste. That should be priority number one. We could eliminate Vermont Health Connect. My health care plan would eliminate the need for that, and we’d save $30 million right there.”
Stern is a lifelong resident of Springfield, and he is the proprietor of Stern’s Quality Produce, which is in White River Junction. He previously ran for Congress in 2010.
Asked why he’s running, Stern said, “The state of Vermont is so unaffordable. People keep saying, ‘We have to move. We can’t afford to stay here anymore.’ That has to change.”
Stern said he would accomplish this by a thorough audit of government spending.
“We’ll be going through the government, finding waste and inefficiencies,” he said. “I’m looking at $100 million in savings. Health care reform. I’ve got a plan to reduce the cost of health care by at least 20 percent.”
According to his campaign website the plan works like this: “A healthcare provider performs a service and sends the list of services to this company who, in turn, would: first, create a bill that would then go to the insurance company, government agency, and/or patient as the situation calls for, and then second the company would send a payment electronically to the healthcare provider. This results in no billing cost to the healthcare provider and no delay in the healthcare provider being paid. No risk of delays, inability in receiving payment, and minimal billing costs for healthcare providers means lower overhead costs which can be passed along.”
Stern said this wouldn’t cost any money.
“It will be a nonprofit business owned by the health care providers. It will do the billing, collecting and procurement. If someone needs an MRI, they can shop around for the best price. It’ll create competition. Eventually, this will be a single-payer system, but it’s not government run. It’ll be privately owned.”
Stern’s most radical proposal is to eliminate the Department of Education.
“I would do away with the state Department of Education and the state school board,” he said. “Instead of having a state school board, I would have the local school boards meet a few times a year to get together and discuss issues. They’ll talk about what’s working for them, what’s not, and generate ideas. Letting the school boards get together would be a lot more efficient. I don’t think we need statewide governance.”
Stern did acknowledge he has some homework to do when it comes to energy.
“I don’t really have an energy plan,” he said. “I haven’t talked to anybody. I can say I’m not for solar, because it’s heavily subsidized. I’d rather see that money put into research and development. I’m not really a fan of wind power. I don’t think we should chop down the mountaintops.”
Stern said he would handle the opioid crisis by cracking down on offenders and expanding treatment. “We have to spend more money on treatment centers,” he said. “My plan is for drug dealers to go to prison boot camp. These people don’t have respect for others. They don’t have discipline, no sense of responsibility. People need to learn that to become useful citizens.”
Stern’s complete set of proposals can be found at his campaign website, vermontgetsstern.org.