Wednesday October 31, 2012

The Windham-Bennington-Windsor state representative race is more critical than some might think. Our incumbent representative, Oliver Olsen (R), has decided not to run again; subsequently, voters must choose between two new candidates, both running as Independents.

Since my opponent, Tim Goodwin, and I both have decided against running on a party ticket, I want to make sure that voters clearly understand my platform. That way, they can differentiate between us.

One of the most pressing issues facing this district -- and, arguably, the state -- is the lack of human capitol. We need to increase our population. An increase in the year-round population means more business, more jobs, more revenue and perhaps most important, less talk about any tax increases.

I believe we can do this, and economic development is key. For example, there are a number of grant programs and tax credits available to businesses willing to invest here. The Vermont Employment Growth Incentive (VEGI) is one such program that could prompt businesses to come here.

Basically, VEGI -- which, since 2010, has created 1,300 jobs and brought in over $5 million in tax revenue -- can provide a cash payment to businesses based on the revenue and jobs they create.

Although a larger year-round population will increase our economic growth, it's important to note that the tourism industry is a huge economic boon to our state. Tourism accounts for nearly half of our gross state product. So we must continue to market Southern Vermont as the place to vacation in the Northeast.

If we want to portray the district, and Vermont, as the attractive place to live and work that it really is, we also need to make sure that we're not overtaxing potential or current residents. Perhaps the towns in the district and the State could offer tax holidays for new Vermont homeowners, for a certain amount of time.

Oftentimes, potential homebuyers want to live in an area with strong schools. So a strong education system is also vital. We need to responsibly fund education without increasing property taxes on homeowners who are already paying through the roof. This means that we cannot use the Education Fund as a piggy bank. That money is there for education and it should not be diverted elsewhere, as it has been before--to the tune of more than $27 million!

Population growth and education also go hand-in-hand. In the last 15 years, Vermont has seen an exodus of school-age children. In 1997, there were 107,000 kids enrolled in public schools; last year there were 87,000.

As your Representative I want to make our District a more affordable place to live. We must create a place that can sustain young families over the long term so that their children will want to raise their families here. This requires higher paying jobs, great schools without increased costs, a safe community and leadership with fresh ideas and a strong voice in Montpelier for Southern Vermont.

As a farmer, agricultural issues are also near and dear to my heart. But agriculture is also an integral part of our state economy, contributing roughly $107 million to it. Farms are also on the rise, according to the most recent Census of Agriculture -- published in 2007. The data state that, despite the decline of dairy farms, farming overall increased by six percent from the last Census. That said, the state is making agricultural issues a priority. We also have to pay close attention to the farming industry because it prompts a lot of people to move here. After all, that's why I decided to settle in the state.

As I said before, this race is important because voters are being asked to choose between two new candidates--each with different credentials and experiences. On Nov. 6, I ask that you vote for me, because I'm the only candidate with the on-the-ground, practical experience that really matters.

Emmett Dunbar writes from South Londonderry.