As I travel around Windham County, I encounter many businesses, working families, retirees and students who are just barely hanging on. Clearly, the number one priority for the next legislature must be to strengthen Vermont's economy. If our economy grows, tax revenues will increase and this will help solve our state's fiscal crisis.
Vermont is a small state with limited resources. By ourselves, we cannot undo a national and global economic crisis set off by Wall Street's excesses, the greed and incompetence of the big banks, and the failure of the federal government to enforce sensible regulations. But, there are things we can do strengthen our business environment in Vermont and Windham County.
Vermont's economy must play to its strengths. We have a beautiful state, quality schools, an educated and skilled work force, and a strong sense of community. Protecting our environment and preserving our quality education and services makes Vermont a special place where people want to live and do business.
In the 21st century, people can do high paying work from anyplace on the world, provided they have the right technology. Unfortunately, this does not include large parts of Windham County where there is neither cell phone coverage nor broadband Internet access. Not only do we lose out on jobs, but we are hurt in other ways. Realtors tell me that homes without connectivity sell at a 10 percent to 20 percent discount as compared to those with both cell coverage and broadband.
As we look to grow our economy, we should avoid actions that can cause further harm. Vermont has almost no additional tax capacity and I am particularly concerned that we hold the line on property taxes.
Vermont is part of a national and global economy. I hope to use my extensive international experience and connections to help attract investment to Vermont and to market Vermont products, technologies and services around the world. Vermont is well positioned to be part of the coming revolution in green energy technologies but, if we are to be successful, we will need much larger markets than those here at home. The largest markets for these technologies are in the densely populated and rapidly growing countries of South Asia and the Middle East, parts of the world I know extremely well.
The new federal health care law provides an opportunity for us in Vermont finally to reach our goal of affordable care for all. I consider a single payer system the most effective way to do this, but I am mindful of the difficulties of trying to implement such a system in a single state. If it is not fiscally feasible to move immediately to a single payer system, I will introduce legislation to create a Vermont Public Option. Fixing health care is good for Vermonters and will help business.
I have an unusual background for a candidate for the state senate. Although I began my career teaching international relations at Windham College in Putney and the School for International Training in Brattleboro, I went on to become a diplomat serving as the first U.S. Ambassador to Croatia in the midst of the Bosnia and Croatia Wars, as part of the interim government that led East Timor's transition from war-devastated Indonesian Province to independence, and in Afghanistan. I have learned that even where warring parties have seemingly irreconcilable positions, they have many common interests. By listening carefully to both sides and focusing on common ground, I was able to negotiate the peace agreement that ended the war in Croatia and to make substantial progress in improving relations between Indonesia and newly independent East Timor. As Vermonters of different political stripes, we nonetheless have much in common. We wish to preserve our state's special beauty, we want affordable health care, we want clean and safe energy, and we all want to improve our economy. If elected, I will focus on making progress on what we have in common.
Peter Galbraith is a Democratic candidate for the Vermont Senate from Windham County.