BELLOWS FALLS >> Matt Dunne of Hartland expressed his love for Vermont at the FACT TV studio Wednesday and how he'll use that passion if elected governor.
Dunne has served four terms in the Vermont House of Representatives, two terms in the Vermont State Senate, was the Democratic candidate in the 2006 Vermont Lt. Governor's race, and an unsuccessful candidate in the five-way primary during the Vermont gubernatorial election in 2010. Now as a 2016 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Dunne is discussing healthcare, the opiate epidemic, infrastructure, education, wind energy and poverty.
"We've got a primary and a general election and what Vermonters are going to have to decide is who can actually deliver on a promise of an economy that works for all Vermonters and all of Vermont," said Dunne Wednesday afternoon in the FACT TV studio.
He has been a business owner, worked for AmeriCorps VISTA and for Google in the community affairs department. Now his work entails campaigning and "doing a lot of listening," to be ready if he is elected.
Dunne notes that in order for the state's economy to improve, it needs more infrastructure, not in the sense of roads and bridges, but rather with housing, efficiency, multi-unit apartment buildings and broadband.
He mentioned that Vermont was one of the last states in the country to get electricity and said it's following a similar path with broadband.
For the last five years he has focused on Google Fiber, which is the deployment of high-speed Internet to cities across the country. From this experience he has come up with a few ideas of how to tackle the issue.
"These cities are using financial instruments to be able to get large amounts of capital to do that infrastructure building to allow for the economy there to continue to grow and thrive and we just haven't done that," said Dunne.
Dunne noted this could be tackled a few different ways. First he noted an energy efficiency fund, where dollars would be bonded and then paid for by the reduction in utility costs, sometimes known as an ESCO.
"In working with the folks at Efficiency Vermont, we think we can do a $100 million efficiency fund, which wouldn't hit our general fund," said Dunne. "So it would be money we'd be able to front load, put contractors to work, reduce costs for people who live in apartment buildings, improve our apartment buildings and multi-units across Vermont and have the biggest reduction in our carbon footprint of any investment we could make."
Another aspect of Dunne's platform is economic development and leaving room for business entrepreneurs. He feels that the state needs to invest in co-work space, maker spaces, residential innovation centers and networks like Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies. Dunne added that while he thinks the state needs more strategies for keeping young people in Vermont, new entrepreneurs that come to the table are not limited to a specific demographic.
"The goal is to have businesses that export value and import cash," said Dunne. "We're only 625,000 people so we can't necessarily look to our own population as a marketplace for success; we need to look outside, and the opportunity to do that is growing by leaps and bounds, especially if we solve the broadband issue."
He thinks this can be done through creating a micro finance fund and working with community credit unions.
"When I was at AmeriCorp VISTA, one of the most powerful ways to get people out of poverty for the long term, was to support them in starting their own small business," said Dunne.
Another topic of interest in Dunne's interview on Wednesday was regarding health care and its increasing costs.
Dunne noted that this increase comes as a result of Vermont's aging population that tends to have more needs and because of the rise of poverty without investment of community-based care, which leads to expensive emergency room visits.
"The whole system is not a marketplace, it's just broken. And as a result what we're seeing is a real increase of costs of $650,000 a day, more than a dollar every man, woman and child everyday."
In conquering the health care problem, Dunne believes Vermont needs to continue down the path of universal healthcare and regain the trust of the people after the HealthConnect website failed.
"The first thing we do is fix the damn website; I know who I'd bring in, we'd get it done. The second is make sure that we're actually going to pay for public health," said Dunne.
He noted that currently Vermonters pay for each individual service from the "Q-tip to how many MRIs they can crank out in an hour."
Aside from health care and economics, Dunne discussed the state's drug problem and said it should be addressed through further prevention programs. He said he believes that through education, the total number of users will drop.
As for marijuana, Dunne believes it should be taken out of the illegal system, but that further education and prevention around the drug should be introduced to youth, whose brains are still in the developing stages.
Another topic around education that Dunne highlighted was ACT 46.
"My major concern with ACT 46 is that it jumps to a conclusion of consolidation of governance without thinking through a lot of options," said Dunne.
He said those other options include reducing the number of superintendents in business, government or in the non-profit world. He said he looks to do consolidation of overhead.
"To not get rid of the people who are delivering the frontline work like teachers and you really don't wait to put at risk the community involvement, which is the secret sauce in Vermont," said Dunne.
A free Democratic forum will be held between Dunne and opponents Sue Minter and Peter Galbraith, in Hartland at 7 p.m. Monday, March 28. The forum will be held at Damon Hall, located at the Three Corners intersection.
A "get to know the candidates" reception begins at 6 p.m. with a suggested $10 donation. For more information regarding the forum, contact Bill Kuch at 802-885-6388 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275