Gubernatorial candidates meet at Rotary forum

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(Host) With election day just a week away, the major candidates for governor on Monday afternoon discussed health care, Act 60 and economic development at a special forum in Montpelier.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The Montpelier Rotary Club is just one of the many locations across the state where the candidates for governor have met to debate. The candidates received a polite reception on Monday at the lunchtime forum and they disagreed on many key issues.

But they all hit the same note as Rotarians urged them to join in on a song that was very appropriate to mark their thirty-eighth campaign forum:

(Sound of Rotarians and candidates singing) “Getting to know you, getting to know all about you.”

(Kinzel) The candidates, Democrat Doug Racine, Republican Jim Douglas, Progressive Michael Badamo and Independent Con Hogan all stressed the major themes of their campaigns.

Racine told the group that there’s no doubt that the state faces some tough economic times, but Racine says Vermont can survive these times without cutting social services if there’s a comprehensive effort to make government more efficient:

(Racine) “I look at these budget problems and I’m often asked, ‘What are you going to do? Are you going to raise taxes, or are you going to slash programs and hurt people?’ And I reject those as being the only two alternatives. There is a third alternative and that’s to make some structural changes in state government.”

(Kinzel) Douglas agreed that the state faces some challenging years ahead and he said the Republicans offer the best hope to guide Vermont through these difficult times:

(Douglas) “I think that Vermonters are ready for a change. You know, the same political party has run the executive branch of state government for virtually all the last 18 years and we’ve got a lot of problems. Fiscal problems, we’ve got economic problems, the job loss, the infestation of heroin that I mentioned earlier, school funding issues, school quality issues. I think a lot of Vermonters are concluding that the team on the field just hasn’t gotten the job done.”

(Kinzel) Hogan was the most blunt about Vermont’s economic future. He says the state faces some enormous fiscal problems that will require significant reforms of government. Hogan insisted that only an independent governor could implement these changes:

(Hogan) “I am sure that the major party system can’t lead us in those moves. We’re prisoners of those two systems, at this stage of the game. You know between Doug and Jim, they’ve got 50 years added up in elective office. Where are we? We’re not where we need to be.”

(Kinzel) Badamo said Vermont is threatened by economic forces outside of its borders and he says the recent layoffs at Ben & Jerry’s are a signal that the negative aspects of a global economy are present in the state.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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