This commentary is from John McClaughry, Vice President of the Ethan Allen Institute and a former member of the House and Senate.
The 2022 general election campaigns are now underway, and it is time for citizens to identify where legislative candidates stand on the issues they are likely to face in 2023.
I say “run away” because many, if not most candidates, are nervous about telling voters where they stand on specific issues. This is partly due to their limited understanding of the issues and their anxiety about having to consistently defend any clear position.
But voters have a right to know. So here are 16 timely, well-phrased questions for voters to ask legislative candidates seeking their vote. If the candidate can’t handle at least most of these, he or she is probably not well prepared to handle the job they seek.
1. Should the Legislature require Vermont’s wealthiest 5% of taxpayers to pay a $30 million income tax surtax to fund a “Green New Deal”?
2. Should the legislator expand the current 6% sales and use tax on goods to include services (such as haircuts, lawn care, plumbing, legal advice, etc.) .)?
3. Should the Legislature make it an annual practice of contributing at least 10% more than the required annual contribution to the two state pension funds in order to eliminate their unfunded liabilities of over $5 billion? by 2040?
4. The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2020 set mandatory carbon dioxide emission reduction targets for 2025, 2030 and 2050. This must be accomplished through rules controlling all use of gasoline, diesel fuel, natural gas , oil and propane. These rules would go into effect without any votes from elected officials. Should all of these rules be presented to the Legislative Assembly for approval before coming into force?
5. The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2020 allows “any person” to take legal action against the state if emission reduction rules fail to meet adopted targets. Should this “sue the state” provision be repealed?
6. Under the Congressional Review Act, a simple majority of both houses of Congress can pass a resolution of disapproval to kill a ruler. Should one-fifth of Vermont’s House or Senate members be allowed to force an official vote on a resolution disapproving new state rules that will have significant economic impacts?
7. Should Vermont join 10 other states in a multi-state agreement called the Transportation Climate Initiative, in which Vermont pledges to discourage fuel use by raising gasoline and diesel taxes from 5 to 17 cents per gallon, using the revenue to subsidize “green” projects like electric vehicle subsidies, EV charging stations, electric buses, etc. ?
8. Should the Legislature pass a “clean heat standard” designed to raise the price of home and commercial heating oil to raise funds to fund weatherization, electric heat pumps and other favored “green” projects by the Public Utilities Commission?
9. Should the legislator make “carbon neutrality”, either through the use of construction materials and processes, or the purchase of “carbon offsets”, a requirement for obtaining a building permit? development under law 250?
10. Should the legislature require residential buildings to meet state-established “green” energy efficiency standards before title can be transferred?
11. Should people be free to make personal use of drugs such as heroin and fentanyl, provided they accept financial responsibility for the medical treatment of overdoses?
12. Should the legislator require electric vehicles to pay the equivalent of a fuel tax to the Transportation Fund, as gasoline and diesel road vehicles do, to pay for the maintenance of national roads and bridges? ?
13. Should the general election ballot offer voters a choice among teams of gubernatorial and lieutenant governor candidates, with lower state positions filled in a nonpartisan manner by nomination and confirmation? (The One Big Choice Plan).
14. Should able-bodied people receiving state welfare be required to perform 10 hours per week of voluntary service in their communities?
15. Should the Legislature allow all parents to choose the school or educational program that best meets the needs of their children from a wide range of providers, with their share of the Education Fund dollars following the child ?
16. Should the Legislature approve a “Community Resilience and Biodiversity Act” (vetoed in 2022) to designate 30% of Vermont as non-developable “conservation” districts by 2030, and 50% by 2050 ?
Of course, many other questions could be asked. But pressuring candidates to respond to them will give voters a good idea of the views and abilities of candidates for elected office. Voters deserve to know what they will get for voting. This is what makes democracy work.