Gubernatorial candidates clash over multiple isses in debate

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(Host) Vermont’s gubernatorial candidates clashed over property taxes, job creation, health care and crime issues last night during their first debate of the campaign.

Speaking last night on VPR’s Switchboard debate, Democratic candidate Scudder Parker asked Republican incumbent Jim Douglas if Douglas had ever supported a tax increase.

Parker asked the question because he thinks Douglas has unfairly portrayed him in a new TV spot as a person who wants to increase many taxes.

Parker reminded Douglas that the governor backed a sales tax increase as part of Act 68 – the state’s education financing law. Douglas said he supported the sales tax hike because it would be offset by a reduction in property taxes. Parker was not impressed with this answer:

(Parker) “So your position is that it’s ok to raise taxes if you can explain why you did it”

(Douglas) “You can raise taxes if you’re exchanging it for an equal reduction somewhere else.”

(Parker) “And your charges against me haven’t given me any opportunity to explain that history or that that might be a better way of investing or a fairer way of addressing the issues that we need to address.”

(Host) Douglas wanted to know if Parker would support a GOP backed plan to keep violent criminals in jail beyond their sentence if the person had refused treatment in prison and was deemed to pose a danger to society:

(Douglas) “So I gather the answer to my question is that you do not support a civil confinement law. The law that passed is a good one. I signed it. But it does nothing for the population in our institutions now who are untreated and, who law enforcement officials say will be a danger to the community when they’re released.”

(Parker) “And what I’m saying is that the Legislature considered that bill. I don’t look to that bill as the top priority for what we need to do in the state of Vermont. I think we have taken aggressive action. We are caring for the kids in our community. We are making our communities safer.”

(Host) Liberty Union candidate Bob Skold said he wanted to see the state of Vermont adopt a single payer health care system so that all Vermonters can have access to health care services at a reasonable cost.

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