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By Kara Herlihy
With the November 4 election fast approaching, state representative hopefuls Adam Greshin, Independent, Warren, and incumbent Carol Hosford, Democrat, Waitsfield, brought their campaign promises to the Big Picture Tuesday evening, for a well-attended candidates' forum. Both are aiming for the single seat in the Vermont Legislature representing the Washington 1 district of Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston.
Following each candidate's opening statements, The Valley Reporter editor and forum moderator Lisa Loomis asked the potential representatives a question, allowing time for each individual to respond to their opponent's answers. Questions were submitted by mail, as well as fielded from the audience.
On the issue of legal equality, specifically Vermont's current civil union law, Democratic incumbent Carol Hosford said, "Separate but equal is not equal," and that it's time [for same sex couples] to "have a marriage relationship."
Democratic candidate Adam Greshin agreed, stating that, "Vermont is unique, and it's time to bring it up again, in a very personal way."
Regarding the prospect of open voting for Vermont governor, should any candidate fail to receive a majority of the vote, both candidates agreed that government, when possible, should always be open. Hosford commented that she "sees no need for it not to be an open process," and she is in favor of an open process in general.
Greshin concurred, stating, "I see no reason why it shouldn't be as open as possible," and, "Government works best while open."
When the candidates were questioned on the issue of state corrections spending, Hosford said, "We spend more on corrections in Vermont than we do on higher education, and there is a lot wrong with that," and Vermont has the "highest percentage of people incarcerated than other states."
Hosford said she is not in favor of building new prisons in Vermont, while she is in favor of removing non-violent inmates, that "are not a threat to society" into other, more rehabilitative programs.
Greshin pointed out that "Vermont spends more than other states," and that there is a "struggle to distribute funds." Greshin also said that he supports the idea of the mental well-being of the incarcerated."
When asked for their position on public transportation Greshin said that public transit is a "sustainability issue" and in order to attract more people to The Valley, "public transit is unquestionably the way go." Greshin said he would not be in support of publicly funded rail systems, but would support private funding.
Hosford said she is in support of increased public transportation, and spoke of the failed Montpelier/Valley commuter bus, and that "the ridership doesn't support the service."
When the issue of tax revenues was raised, Greshin commented that the "Vermont tax burden tops the charts" and that "there is no place to go but down." Greshin said the tax base needs to be broadened and suggested "reaching into the pockets" of second home owners who don't reside in Vermont full time.
BROADEN TAX BASE
Hosford agreed with Greshin, stating that broadening the tax base would attract more people to Vermont. Both candidates agreed that toll roads are not the way to go and would be detrimental to Vermont's rural character.
When asked how each candidate could cut spending, Greshin said, "It's never easy to cut spending, but I'd be surprised if we can't find more savings." Both candidates agreed that increasing tourism revenues would be a beneficial way to save money and increase revenues.
Both candidates were asked about their feelings towards Vermont's Act 60 and 68. Greshin said that he knows that "not many are happy with educational funding in Vermont" and that the "surplus from the education fund should be returned, instead of this backdoor redistribution. There is a lot of carrot and not a lot of stick," he continued.
Hosford said, "We need to look at every possibility to make Act 60/68 work," and suggested an income-based tax to support the education fund. Greshin also suggested rewarding schools for spending less.
The candidates disagreed on the issue of Vermont's nuclear power operation, Vermont Yankee. Hosford spoke of investigating and utilizing alternative energy sources like wind and hydro-electric power from Quebec. As a part of this initiative, she said, Vermonters "need to be prepared to pay a premium."
Greshin disagreed stating that Vermont should "source our energy locally, not from other states or countries," and his long-term goal would be to phase out nuclear power, but he added, "If it's safe, we should keep [Vermont Yankee] open."
"It's not wise to drive a stake through the plant without alternatives," Greshin continued.
Hosford said she "fears the cooling towers falling," which would "finish the image that Vermont has worked so hard to build." Hosford said she is in favor of shutting the nuclear power plant down "ASAP."
Where healthcare is concerned, Greshin called the Catamount plan "a good first step, with too few people signed up." He pointed to "the glaring absence" of young people signed up for the healthcare plan and said, "Unless people sign up, we can't afford it."
Hosford called healthcare an "impossible problem, because were not going to turn anyone down," saying that Catamount needs to be expanded. Both agreed, "Healthcare is a right for all."
In his closing statement, Greshin said he hopes to be elected so as to "contribute to the dialogue and legislation." Hosford promised to "listen to you, work very hard, and represent you well."