(Host) Vermont’s gubernatorial candidates made their pitch to strengthen the state economy at a special business forum on Thursday.
All of them want to create thousands of new jobs, without raising taxes. The question is: how to do it.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) The setting was the annual Vermont Business Expo in Burlington. The forum took place in a large ballroom with a big digital sports clock counting down each candidate’s allotted time.
Republican Brian Dubie said steps need to be taken to make Vermont more business friendly because he says right now it isn’t.
(Dubie) "When the last Legislative session overrode a governor’s veto for the first time in the history of the state of Vermont never happened before imposed new taxes 26 million dollars in new taxes the world watched Vermont businesses watched and outside people watched."
But Democrat Susan Bartlett said a different approach is needed – one that’s more positive.
(Bartlett) "I think going around and saying gee we’re bad for business gee we’re bad for business is not a particularly good sales pitch….we have a really good workforce we have great workforce training programs and we’re going to figure out how to do all of those things better and we are absolutely open for business."
(Kinzel) Democrat Doug Racine said it’s a mistake for business leaders to focus solely on specific tax rates. He urged them to look at the bigger picture.
(Racine) "We need to talk about the services that we need to deliver and what Vermonters need our families our businesses and our communities and then try and set a fair tax policy and fair tax rates in response to that."
(Kinzel) Democrat Matt Dunne said one his top business priorities is to achieve 100% Internet and cell phone coverage throughout the state by 2012.
(Dunne) "We are dead last in internet connectivity in the entire country 50th and we need to do better than that if we’re actually going to create jobs not just in certain parts of the state but all across the state."
(Kinzel) Democrat Peter Shumlin said it was critical for businesses to have access to reasonable power rates and Shumlin says that means closing Vermont Yankee down in 2012.
(Shumlin) "Re-licensing that aging nuclear power plant is not going to get you cheap power it’s going to get you tritium cobalt cesium into the ground water in Windham County it’s going to get you a company you can’t trust and it’s going to get you a future that your kids will not be proud of."
(Kinzel) Democrat Deb Markowitz said a decision by lawmakers and Governor Douglas to cut spending on economic development in the Challenges for Change bill was shortsighted.
(Markowitz) "The idea that at a time when our top priority has to be jumpstarting job growth that we’d be cutting the economic development budget by half without talking to the folks who are actually delivering the services that to be was outrageous."
(Kinzel) Independent candidate Dennis Steele wants Vermont to secede from the United States and he believes the state economy would benefit from such a move.
For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.