Voting is Underway in Brattleboro

Brattleboro is in Windham county, where a state senate seat is up for grabs. No Republicans are running, so whoever wins the August 26 Democratic primary will almost certainly win the general election in November. Four candidates are running for two spots. One of the candidates, senator Jeanette White, is running for re-election. Her voting record has won praise from www.vpirg.org and the Vermont AFL-CIO.

The other candidates are Roger Allbee, Becca Balint, and Joan Bowman. They all have campaign web sites. Allbee ran previously as a Republican, and lost. He was appointed to run the Vermont Agency of Agriculture by Republican governor Jim Douglas. Douglas made national headlines in 2009 when he vetoed gay marriage. He also vetoed universal healthcare and a bill that would have required Entergy Corporation of Louisiana to clean up its billion dollar mess at the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.

For the vacant Windham county state senate seat, there are two Liberty Union party candidates, but no candidates from the Progressive Party. Three of the 30 Vermont state senators are members of the Progressive party, which favors taxing the rich more than the Democratic party. No Liberty Union candidate has won an election.

Windham county residents can vote now at their town office or by requesting a mail-in ballot from that office.

The Valley Post e-mailed a list of questions to the four Democratic candidates on July 16. All four confirmed they received the questions, but only one, White, answered the questions. Here are the questions and her answers. Clarifications from Valley Post editor Eesha Williams are in brackets.

The Valley Post:

What will you do to make sure that the system of sirens, "tone alert" radios, and automatic phone calls in case of a nuclear emergency continues until all the nuclear waste is out of Windham county? Entergy wants to end the alert system in 2016. The waste will be here much longer than that and will be deadly for 1 million years, according to the federal government. So-called “dry cask” storage is much safer than the giant water-filled tank where the waste is now.

Senator Jeanette White:

There is more involved here than just the alert system. I have been working on the Radiological Emergency Response Plan budget for the past 10 years. Entergy should continue funding that program until all the spent fuel rods [nuclear waste containers] are transferred into dry casks. [The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) doesn't requires this to be done until the year 2075.]

Entergy should continue to fund the town emergency directors, help fund certain state agencies, etc. Once all the spent fuel rods have been moved, the alert system should continue to be part of the security system that Entergy should be providing for the waste. I continue to urge the Administration to press those two issues. We are at a real disadvantage with Entergy since the NRC allows them to discontinue that funding. But we will continue to negotiate and use whatever leverage we have. The Administration agrees with this position.

The Valley Post:

Do you support doubling the budget for farmland and forestland protection (through www.vhcb.org) and paying for this increase by raising taxes on the richest 25 percent of Vermont residents?

Senator Jeanette White:

The issue of doubling the budget for farm and forest land through VHCB is not as simple. I'm not sure if the question is, should we double VHCB budget, or should we double efforts to preserve farm and forest land. There are many other programs that help preserve farm and forest land -- current use, tax credits, elimination of sales tax for farm uses, etc. [None of these guarantee permanent protection the way VHCB does.]

We need to look at them all as a whole and decide if they are effective and how best to use them. We have started doing more “outcomes-based budgeting” so this approach should be helpful. Where the funding comes from is also complicated. We should revisit our tax system. But I would be remiss if I said right now what the answer would be.

The Valley Post:

Do you support free health care and dental care for all Vermonters, using the kind of system that every rich nation in the world except the USA uses? (Canada and Europe provide free universal health care.) If yes, when should this take effect? Do you support paying for this by taxing the rich?

Senator Jeanette White:

Every Vermonter deserves health care, including dental, vision and mental health. It is not free; someone pays. The best system is one where “everyone plays and everyone pays.” That said, the pay should be based on one's ability to pay. It isn't just a matter of taxing the rich -- everyone needs to be in, but as I said before, based on ability to pay.

Rather than premiums to insurance companies for those who have the means, it should be paid for by a broad-based tax -- probably a combination of payroll and income. [Payroll taxes are taxes that employers withhold from their workers' paychecks, like Social Security.] Whether or not there will be co-pays is an open question. And whether everything is covered is again open. Prevention and certain early interventions should not involve a co-pay. We are well on our way to a good system that will serve the needs of Vermonters. It should become effective as soon as possible, but we need to make sure it is well thought out so that it doesn't fail because of poor planning.

Comments

Mary Hasson said she will be

Mary Hasson said she will be on the November ballot as an independent candidate for Vermont senate from Windham county. "My web site will be up and running hopefully this week," she said in an e-mail sent on July 27.

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