By Curt Peterson
RUTLAND—The debate between Republican Governor Phil Scott and his rival Christine Democrat Christine Hallquist was well-managed, informative, and remarkably civil on Oct. 10 at the Paramount Theatre.
Outside, a half-dozen protestors complained that five independent candidates were excluded from the VTDigger-sponsored debate. VTDigger editor Anne Galloway did not respond when asked why only two candidates were included.
Estimates put the crowd at 200.
Mark Johnson, senior editor and reporter for VTDigger, acted as moderator.
On affordability, Scott said he wants to improve income for every Vermonter.
“Raising the minimum wage is unnecessary – New Hampshire has a great economy, and their minimum wage is $7.25.
We’ll create new jobs, resulting in a demand for labor, raising wages,” he said.
Hallquist had different opinions.
“Trickle-down economics is a myth,” she said. “Two-thirds of the jobs in Vermont don’t support housing. I believe fiber-optic cable and broad-band access in rural Vermont will bring young people here.”
On affordable housing, Hallquist suggested changing the tax system.
“We could create a state co-op providing mortgage loans – help with financing the house in exchange for a share in appreciation when the home is sold. The tax system needs changing so that it’s income-based. It isn’t giving money away it’s being a civilized society,” she said.
Scott explained his bond proposal.
“I’m proposing a $30 million bond issue to be matched by $65 million in private investment, to build affordable housing. It’s just as important to reduce the costs of housing – maintenance and reducing taxes, including the education portion,” he said.
Johnson, the moderator, asked the candidates where they stand on climate change, in light of the United Nations report saying we have a 12-year window to avoid catastrophe.
“Climate change is real,” said Scott. “I am committed to 90 percent renewables-produced power by 2050, but Vermont produces less than 1 percent of U.S. greenhouse gases – we should collaborate with other states, and buy hydro and wind-produced power from Canada to be effective. I am not in favor of wind towers on Vermont’s ridgelines. I believe the solution resides in better large-scale storage batteries.”
Hallquist said,Vermont purchases $2 billion in fossil fuels from outside the state. Let’s keep that money here.
Scott said he would avoid a carbon tax. Hallquist said she would “ favor a carbon tax if less affluent Vermonters were rebated carbon taxes paid.”
The moderator moved the conversation to forced school mergers?
“We’ve lost 30,000 students in Vermont in the past 20 years,” said Scott. “Something has to be done. A Democratic governor and legislature created Act 46 school consolidation – it wasn’t my idea. And the anti-merger proposals are now in the hands of the State Board of Education, most of whom I did not appoint.”
Hallquist wanted to save the small schools.
“Schools are the heart of small towns,” she said. “People won’t move to towns that don’t have schools. I think we can grow our population, which will put more students back in those schools.”
In closing statements, both candidates mentioned the friendly campaign.
“I like Phil Scott. I voted for him, but I’ve been disappointed in his administration,” said Hallquist.