(Host) Vermont’s general election campaign got off to a rousing start today as the state’s political parties outlined their themes for the 2006 election.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
(Kinzel) Republicans held a pep rally at the Statehouse to showcase their legislative and statewide candidates.
Governor Jim Douglas said GOP candidates will campaign on a common theme this year – the enactment of the governor’s so called affordability agenda. It’s a plan he says will help lower property taxes, make college less expensive for many families and control the cost of health care.
(Douglas) “We believe that every Vermonter deserves a governor and Legislature who understands that the economic security of our state depends on the ability to make Vermont a more affordable place to live work and raise a family. That is what our plan, the affordability agenda, is all about.”
(Kinzel) The heart of the Republican plan to control education costs is a provision to cap local spending at roughly 3 %. This cap could be exceeded only if 60 % of voters in a town back the higher amount.
(Douglas) “The solution isn’t to make an exceedingly complex system more complicated. And the solution isn’t to shift the burden from one tax to another. The solution is to make our investments in education sustainable by putting a cap on property taxes.”
(Kinzel) House Speaker Gaye Symington says Douglas’s proposed cap is a simplistic solution that will hurt the quality of education in many communities. She argues the factors driving local spending are issues that local school boards have little control over, such as increased costs for health care, energy and special education.
(Symington) “Where do they turn in order to keep the spending at 3 %? Wouldn’t it be more effective if we could actually help schools with those underlining issues rather than put them in the position of having no alternative but to hurt kids as a way of keeping their budgets under some arbitrary Montpelier-based cap?”
(Kinzel) Democratic gubernatorial candidate Scudder Parker says his race against Douglas is an opportunity to hold Douglas accountable for what Parker says is a lack of leadership on many issues.
(Parker) “It isn’t just his first term he’s had four years to govern this state, to provide leadership to take charge of the factors that are driving up the cost of living for Vermonters and he has failed to do that.”
(Kinzel) Progressive Party chairman Anthony Pollina says his party is putting much of its energy this year into 15 legislative races in an effort to build on the 6 House seats it current has. However it is running candidates for Lt. Governor and Auditor.
He says Progressives have different solutions to help make life more affordable for many Vermont families.
(Pollina) “And have the political courage to stand up and do what’s right for working folks. It’s not necessarily about cutting budgets and trimming things back. It’s also about generating revenues and directing the money where it should go, which is into the pockets of working families and with farmers.”
(Kinzel) Pollina says Progressive candidates will also push for comprehensive health care reform because they don’t believe the recently passed Catamount Health plan addresses the basic needs of the state.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier