Party chairs cite economy as number one concern

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(Host) The heads of Vermont’s major political parties say the condition of the Vermont economy is the number one issue in this year’s state and legislative elections.

But the party representatives have very different ideas on how to strengthen the Vermont economy.

Speaking last night on a special VPR campaign 2008 program, Progressive Party chairwoman Martha Abbott said the time has come for the state to invest more heavily in small businesses and to adopt a single payer health care system.

Abbott says the record of incumbent Republican governor Jim Douglas on job creation has been dismal:

(Abbott) "We’ve spent 200 million dollars in economic development funds over the past 5 – 6 years while Douglas has been governor and we have fewer jobs than we had before the last recession and more and more we have service sector jobs not jobs that we used to have that were higher quality."

(Host) Republican Party Chairman Rob Roper defended Douglas’ record.

Roper says the Governor has battled Democratic majorities at the Statehouse over economic development issues because Roper says the Democrats are too quick to consider tax increases as a solution:

(Roper) "We’ve achieved positive programs with the Promise Scholarship program with the E- State Initiative with governor Douglas passed his economic stimulus package with the sales tax holiday which was a tremendous success those are the kinds of things that Republicans have been doing in the current climate."

(Host) Democratic chairman Ian Carleton says his party wants to take stronger steps to help promote renewable energy industries in Vermont because these companies will create a lot of good paying jobs.

Carleton says Douglas isn’t pursuing this kind of long term approach:

(Carleton) "More than anything else building those industries in a long term way in a stable long term way what we want to avoid is short term fixes like a sales tax holiday that doesn’t make any sense that is not a long term economic development plan for the state of Vermont."

(Host) The three party heads say they expect this year’s presidential election will increase voter turnout in November but they’re not sure how this turnout will have an impact on statewide and legislative races.

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