BENNINGTON >> As governor, Bruce Lisman would undo most of what the Shumlin Administration has done in the past few years by scrapping Vermont Health Connect, Act 46, and putting a moratorium on large-scale renewable energy projects.
Lisman is running as a Republican. He grew up in Burlington, graduated from the University of Vermont, worked multiple jobs before getting in to finance, and in 2011 founded Campaign for Vermont, which his campaign website describes as, "...the non-partisan advocacy group formed to educate and engage Vermonters on important public policy challenges facing Vermont."
"I'm running because I think the state is heading in the wrong direction," he said during a recent visit to Bennington. "I think this governor and his administration are not competent. Their self-indulgence has led to a catastrophic experimentation on Vermonters' healthcare and an economy that's a fragile thing, dangerously thin outside of Chittenden County."
He said the other candidates' platforms are merely different versions of the Shumlin administration's current strategies.
The Shumlin administration has been full of ideas and legislation that have been hastily constructed and poorly thought out, meant for for its glory than the benefit of Vermont, said Lisman.
Vermont Health Connect
The federal Affordable Care Act required that states either create an online health care exchange or accept one supplied by the federal government. Vermont opted to create its own and when it first rolled out it was rife with problems.
"Good public policy executed well comes out with great results, bad policy executed badly is mean as could be," Lisman said. "Like (Vermont Health Connect), that's the meanest deal you ever saw, it traps people. There's no one on the phone at the other end, your card may not arrive, you don't know if you're insured, you might get too many invoices, you might pay too many bills, you might not get your money back, all that for $300 million."
At this point, he said the system should be scrapped and no more money spent on it.
"It was for them, for their headlines, for their glory, it didn't have anything to do with us or how Vermonters deserve to be treated," he said.
The law offers incentives for school districts to merge. Few would argue that is has cause a great deal of anxiety, confusion, and debate amongst Vermont's school leaders.
"It needs to be scrapped, throw it all out," said Lisman. "My competitors talk about tweaking it."
He said there are different paths the state might take to reduce education spending and property taxes.
"Most of the cost structure is people and staff, so we should collapse back offices," he said. "Not every school needs to have all those services, we can do it in two or three locations."
The student to teacher ratios could also be adjusted, he said. Right now, Vermont's appear to be too low and should be made comparable to other states with higher-ranked education systems.
"Another way is to bring democracy back to the local area," he said. "Right now, your vote doesn't matter because you vote about your budget, but it's a shared budget, statewide, so the great controls they might have here don't necessarily result in a lower property tax, they go up 3 to 5 percent regardless."
He said locals are smart and if given goals by Montpelier they can figure out how to reach them on their own, often in a way far superior to what legislators living elsewhere might come up with.
"I've said that we ought to have a moratorium on large solar, large wind," Lisman said. "Frankly, I think wind is a disastrous ecological adventure, but I'm willing to reconsider with more information."
Lisman said the current administration's goal to ultimately have 90 percent of the state's power come from renewables is far too lofty and the plan to do it was ill-thought out and imprecise.
For the state to move forward with renewable energy development a greater focus has to be placed on the needs of local residents, not developers. He said Denmark has a strategy in which it compensates those living near such projects for the hardships they create, such as lost property values, damaged views, and noise.
"We talk callously about people who are forced to leave their homes or suffer illness, or towns that don't want it looming overhead, or a solar panel in an area they see as a viewshed," he said. "We need to humanize it. The siting is really import, it's a test of our democracy."
He said a number of strategies need to be pursied to improve Vermont's economy. One is that regions within the state need to work together more. Another is that while the state should look into developing closer communication ties with big companies based out of state, it also needs to look at smaller, homegrown businesses.
Lisman said a business in Vermont doesn't need to have 10,000 employees to be a success, that a business of 50 in a place like downtown Bennington is a huge boon to the local economy and is the sort of thing that should be fostered.
"What we want to know is, what gets in the way of their prosperity? Let's find the small business that aspire to be huge," he said.
Lisman said he is opposed to the current efforts to legalize the purchase and use of marijuana. He said Colorado has had major problems with and that it has cost that state money. Children having greater access to the drug is also a concern of his.
He is, however, in favor of decriminalizing small amounts and not bogging the justice system down with marijuana charges. He also supports its medicinal use.
— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115