NEWPORT CITY – Things are heating up as November’s general election approaches. On Sept. 14, Democrats held a gathering at the Gateway Center. Last Thursday, it was the Republican's turn at the microphone at the Eastside Restaurant.
Minority Leader Rep. Don Turner of Milton told the crowded room that during the last session most Republicans stood together against tax increases, increased spending, the proposed single payer healthcare plan, and attacks on Vermont utility ratepayers, employers and small businesses.
“Caucus members offered numerous amendments throughout the biennium that could have reduced spending and protected the most vulnerable, however, each of these were voted down one-by-one, because a Republican proposed it,” said Turner. “The choices made by the Democratic super majority in the 2011-2012 sessions increased overall state spending at a rate of six percent, raised millions in new taxes and fees, increased the statewide educational property tax by additional two cents in FY 2013 and set us up for larger increases in the future.”
Republicans hope to win 60 seats at the State House. It won’t be easy, but possible, Turner said. It is also important to gain control of the House in 2014, he said. Every Republican House candidate has been asked to solicit 100 early voter or absentee ballots prior to the general election.
“I don’t want a repeat of the last election cycle where a number of candidates lost by less than 15 votes,” said Turner. “If every candidate does this, it will mean 7,000 Republican ballots will be in the bank prior to Election Day.”
Republicans need to make sure people vote, added Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. He said many of the lost races were by a handful of votes; something he feels is not acceptable. Scott also spoke about integrity of the Republicans.
“We need a voice,” said Scott. “We need to get common sense candidates reelected again.”
Local politicians also had their turn to urge constituents to vote for them. They also encouraged the packed room to remind their friends, neighbors and family members to vote.
Senatorial hopeful Bob Lewis of Derby said legislators would have to address the deficit as soon as they return to the floor in January. Lewis is also concerned about the increasing cost of fuel.
The upcoming election is one of the most important ones in a generation if not in a lifetime, said Jay Dudley of Orleans. Dudley warned that a single payer healthcare system means the government will decide what, if any, treatment a patient will receive.
Rep. Duncan Kilmartin of Newport City opted to use his time to speak about State Treasurer Wendy Wilton instead of himself.
He called Wilton a “Godsend on illuminating the lies and deceit on Shumlin’s healthcare proposal,” said Kilmartin. “She has integrity, she has transparency and she thinks.” Wilton’s husband, Chuck Wilton, represented his wife at the gathering.
The reason the region doesn’t have qualified people to fill high skilled and high paying jobs is because it lost two generations who moved out of the area, Kilmartin said.
Rep. Mike Marcotte of Coventry talked about a woman who earned her college degree, but declined a raise because she would lose her government assistance and the raise would still be less than her subsidies. He also said anyone who makes a few cents above the cap loses his or her benefits.
“Are we helping people up?” asked Marcotte? “No, we’re not; we’re pushing them down, we’re oppressing them. We need to change that system. That system has to work in order to bring these people up. We need a graduated step. As these people earn more money, we reduce their subsidy, we don’t cut them off.”
Rep. Mark Higley of Lowell wants to make it as reasonable as possible for people to live and work in Vermont. He said a service tax could affect a lot of area businesses, including individuals like beauticians and those who do lawn care. He said the owners of potential businesses are looking at other states that are more welcoming. The best thing to help the welfare system is to have a good economy.
The state needs mental health coverage, programs for senior citizens, and more money to cover everything, Rep. Lynn Batchelor of Derby said.
The state also needs a moratorium and and a step back from industrial wind projects, to sees what they will do or won’t do and to see whom those projects will benefit besides developers, said Batchelor.
Rep. Vicki Strong of Albany said she thinks about whether a bill will affect her constituents and local businesses and votes according to fiscal responsibility and constitutional principles.
Loren Shaw of Derby, who left the legislature for personal reasons in 2008 after serving for eight years, is seeking his former seat currently held by Lewis. Shaw called his first time at the State House “exciting.” Shaw said he would be watching out of businesses.
“I hate new laws,” said Shaw “I think we need less laws.” Shaw is also against high taxes and fees. “I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’m ready to rumble with these guys down there.”