Issues

  • We may have to go back to 1998 budget levels. This would not be the end of the world. Let’s get real and get on with the decisions we face. We are a strong enough people to weather this storm.
  • We must shrink and restructure the role of State government, giving towns more control and responsibility for delivery of social services, land use and education.
  • We must inspire local communities to band together and recognize that the coming economic storms will require sacrifices of convenience and comfort.
  • The most sustainable government is small, locally accountable democracy.
  • Local control + local values + local responsibility = freedom.
  • We need to chose between:
    • A. Endless growth, centralization, consolidation.
    • B. Sustainability, decentralization, democratization. 
  • Sustainability requires local solutions based on local needs, not one-size-fits-all approaches from a central government. 
  • Bring our constitutional power as a State back from Wall Street and Washington, to Main Street in Vermont
  • Decentralization and sustainability should be our guiding principles of government policy, including how Vermont interacts with the federal government.  
  • Vermont should tax resource-extraction when resources are exported as raw materials. But we should allow significant tax-breaks when companies turn raw materials into value-added products using Vermont labour and capital.
  • However, Vermont residents who consume natural resources for their own sustainance should have never be taxed by the State. For example, the state should never tax people for consuming water from a well on their property.
  • Vermont should explore creating a State-owned bank that would work with private VT-based banks, to insulate VT from Wall Street corruption, and to increase investment capital for VT businesses, modeled after the very successful State-owned Bank of North Dakota.
  • Vermont needs a stable currency that is valued based on our productive activity and not manipulated by Wall Street and the unconstitutional, private central bank known as the Federal Reserve
  • A State-owned bank could also serve as an “Emergency Fund,” offering low-interest loans to any Vermont resident to cover health-care or other emergencies like fuel-assistance, unemployment, temporary food-subsidies for people who are laid off/sick, or otherwise unable to provide for themselves. This emergency-loan function alone could eliminate the need for a bloated state social service bureaucracy while still providing a strong safety net and encouraging personal responsibility.
  • Fiscal policy needs to provide market-based incentives to encourage sustainable production and manufacturing, prioritizing diversified local food production, processing centers and distribution; and through incentives create a revitalized, sustainable value-added forestry and biomass industry.
  • We need to strengthen Vermont's banking and finance sectors with incentives for Vermonters who invest and bank with locally-owned institutions.
  • Vermont should keep all State pension and operating funds invested in Vermont financial institutions, encouraging state-wide clean-energy loan funds and local small-business credit-markets. I know that every teacher in the state would be glad to see Wall Street never get a dime of Vermont public pension funds again.
  • We must reduce school and social-services budgets at the State level, and enable counties and towns to take these responsibilities on based on their needs and budgets. It’s time to do more with less, regardless of any idealogy. We need to use technology and community incentives to increase volunteer support and reduce costs.
  • Education tax: Reform Act 60, decentralize control education and put communities back in control of their school budgets, programs, testing methods and the associated property taxes.
  • Vermont needs to become more energy and food independent using our local natural resources, and we should aim to produce 75% of our own food, power and heat energy by 2020.
  • This will create tens of thousands of jobs and keep billions of dollars in the local VT economy each year.
  • Vermont needs a transition plan that will assure the business community that their energy prices will be predictable in the short term. But we will have to accept some increasing energy costs related to Peak Oil and other market pressures. The more we can insulate ourselves from the Peak Oil factors with local renewable energy, the stronger Vermont’s economic foundation will be in the future.
  • Land and the environment is best “conserved” by being put to productive, sustainable use. A major myth of mainstream "environmentalism" is that we should lock away land and prevent it from being used in order to "save it." Instead, we must integrate with our natural resources, put our landscape to work and use our land and resources sustainably. We need to stop locking away our resources in misconstrued “conservation” programs. The Center for Whole Communities in Fayston is a national leader in training community leaders for sustainability, and they have many programs and published works that make this point beautifully.
  • Act 250 needs to be reformed to reflect our current economic development needs while removing bureaucratic barriers to sustainable and appropriate land use based on local control and needs.
  • The State should make available low interest loans to any home, business or institution that has a good location for solar, wind, efficient biomass or micro-hydro-power, and attach the loan-payments to the annual land-value property tax payments, with an interest rate of less than 5%.
  • A similar program should be put in place to finance local food processing and distribution centers and viallage-markets and by encouraging local diversified food production.
  • We need to help our dairy farmers transition to diversified and sustainable agriculture. Federally subsidized monocrops like milk are a dead-end market. So let's help our farmers make this transition by creating a Vermont market for diversified agricultural products.
  • VT has the strongest organic farming and local food movements in the country, DESPITE state and federal policies that create obstacles for progress. We need to align our policy with our real values.
  • VT Yankee needs to be shut down and fully decommissioned to remove this dangerous liability from our State. The ISONE Grid, which all VT utilities buy power from, currently has 14,000 megawatts of excess capacity. VT Yankee is offering VT around 200 megawatts of capacity, which we can easily replace on the open market or from Hydro Quebec.
  • There will be no economic loss or significant power price increase from shutting VT Yankee down. The price and terms they have offered for their renewal application would be a very bad deal for Vermont. They are offering half the power available to Vermont as is available today (we’ll have to replace half of that power, let’s just replace all of it), a 45% price increase, and no commitment to fully fund the decommissioning fund = No Thanks Entergy. We’ll put those 200 Vermonters who used to work at VT Yankee, along with thousands of other people, to work installing solar panels, operating biomass/biogas plants, harvesting biomass, and weatherizing homes.
  • Biomass gasification and biogas generation offer tremendous potential to meet all of Vermonter’s heat-fuel needs while adding more than $700 million to the local Vermont economy. Solar and wind can meet 40% of our power needs by 2020. In-state hydropower and biomass could meet more than 30% of our power needs by 2020. We can not only cover most of our own energy needs with renewable energy, but we can do it at a lower cost than we’d be paying for fossil fuels and nuclear energy. By shifting our energy economy to local renewables we’ll create thousands of green-collar jobs, incredibly strong local economies, high-value export products and services, while preserving and enhancing our tourism economy.
  • I view Vermont's sovereignty and political and economic independence as a means to sustainability.
  • I don't claim to understand "who is to blame" for the corruption we face from DC and Wall Street. In my view, it doesn't matter which political party is in power, because the system itself is corrupt beyond repair. I also don't buy into the "anti-socialist" or "anti-capitalist" rhetoric. I believe the US government has simply overstretched its Constitutional boundaries and has become "too big to succeed." My hope is to turn Vermont into a model of good government and a strong economy for the rest of the world, proving that "small is beautiful."
  • Given that our National political system is hopelessly corrupt and leading VT down a path of dependence and weakness, Vermont should consider all avenues toward a stronger, more independent state. And while the possibility of peaceful political secession from the United States might seem crazy or impossible, I believe there is value in simply putting the question on the political agenda.
  • At a bare minimum, Vermont needs to exert its Constitutional States’ Rights.'
  • One way or another, Vermont must stop being lead by Washington. We must lead ourselves based on our values. Washington and Wall Street have lost all moral authority over Vermont.
  • Vermont should nullify Federal laws, mandates and programs that violate the US Constitution such as NCLB.
  • Vermont needs to become a lifeboat and a shining example of what hard-working, honest and reasonable people can do when they take responsibility for their future. To do that, it is arguable that Vermont needs to become more independent of the US political system, while maintaining economic and trade relationships with the States and the world economy.
  • Vermont is the healthiest state in the nation, but increasing health-care costs have driven state expenses to unacceptable levels while hurting small business and individual budgets. A State-wide single-payer system without insurance company profit margins and the 30% administrative overhead could in theory make a lot of sense, BUT not until we take major steps to also reduce the costs of health care and determine a fair way to pay for a single-payer system.
  • Any single payer system should be funded by some combination of a flat tax and/or a sales-tax of unhealthy products such as cigarettes, soda and candy,  NOT an income or property tax. These questions will take tie to sort out, but in the short term VT needs to trim state health-care related budgets with only a low-level safety net for those in need.
  • Until there is a well-designed single-payer system in Vermont, un-insured adults should not have their costs be covered by public funds. We each need to take responsibility, but the State can enable that with low interest loans to the uninsured who cannot afford their medical bills. With a State-owned bank such as the Bank of North Dakota, Vermont could easily setup a low-interest emergency loan fund that automatically covers the uninsured, with a streamlined process by which recipients pay back the loans over time, creating a small extra revenue stream (the interest on those loans) for the state.
  • Vermont should nullify any federal health care or health insurance mandate. The US Government has absolutely no authority to require individuals to purchase health-insurance with in a State. The Commerce Clause of the US Constitution gives Congress authority to regulate inter-state commerce only. Any attempt by the US government to fine or imprison people who chose to “self insure” or not buy private health-insurance should be made illegal by state law.
  • Freedom of choice and personal responsibility should be the prevailing principles. All health insurance policies should be required to cover costs of non-traditional and preventive medicine, including naturopath and Chinese medicine, chiropractic and any other treatment that individuals consider to be health-care.
  • We need to reduce costs and overhead by "tort-reform," meaning reducing the costs of malpractice insurance and limiting the amount of money that can be won as a "pain and suffering" aspect of a malpractice lawsuit.
Health Care
  • Tax only unearned-income, (investment income) not salary/wages.
  • Phase out property tax completely, moving to a land-value-tax, (taxes only the value of the unimproved land, vs buildings etc). This will create a progressive incentive toward sustainable economic development and remove the ever-increasing property-tax burdens that we currently place on those who create the most value.
  • Economic Development: Over one billion dollars in potential tax revenue are siphoned off from Vermont yearly, by large corporations that are extracting Vermont's resources. We should explore collecting tax revenue on these resource extractions, in order to free Vermont's people and businesses from paying taxes on their earned income. This could be accomplished in a manner similar to Alaska and Norway have accomplished the 'Citizen's Dividend.'
  • What should be the amount of these taxes? It should be the fair market value of that which has been used, spoilt, consumed. For example, a polluter's tax would be the cleanup costs, the cost of restoring the environment to the state in which it was, before the pollution took place. 
    Shifting tax to site and resource values will immediately accomplish the following:
  1. Groundwater: $671 million: Coca-cola, Nestle, Perrier, etc.
  2. Minerals: $96.8 million (2005) mostly Omya of Switzerland
  3. Surface water: $7.6 million
  4. Wireless Spectrum: $375 million to media companies
  5. Forests: TBD
  6. Hydropower: 550MW of hydropower owned by TransCanada. 
  • Preliminary estimate of total revenue: $1.2 Billion per year
  • Vermont should repeal all taxes on business that are based on value added, productivity, Capital etc. These taxes should be replaced with a simple tax on unimproved site values, raw materials extraction, pollution, the private usage of any Common assets. 
  • Vermont should tax the importation of fossil fuels at the borders and funnel those funds toward the development of in-state renewable generation.  

This is a prime example of where both "sides" of the national political spectrum are wrong. D.C. Republicans pretend we don't need health-care reform, then they complain that the cost of health-insurance for employees is crushing their businesses. D.C. Democrats pretend that this bill, "while not perfect" is somehow progress, even though the core idea behind the original bill, single-payer, was never really even on the Democrat agenda. 

Forcing people to buy health insurance is not progress, this is just corporate welfare for the insurance industry. Just look at what insurance stocks did after this passed.

This question should be left up to each state, the US Constitution gives the federal government no authority over an individual person's decisions regarding their health care. 

I think Vermont should build a plan to create a single-payer system, because this would save the people and businesses of this state hundreds of millions by eliminating 30% of the cost that is now going to cover insurance-overhead.

But I also realize that going to single-payer tomorrow is a short-term challenge, given the state's budget crisis. To transition to single-payer, we would need to help businesses and individuals shift from paying insurance-premium costs, to an increase in taxes, in a way that didn't interrupt our cash-flow. If done properly, the increase in taxes should be less than what we'd no longer be paying in premiums.

Vermont does not have a health-care crisis, we are the healthiest state in the nation, so let's take our time, do this right, and not be distracted by the national drama from D.C.

Below is from a letter posted on the Vermont Commons website, and is an eye-opener on this topic.

Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) - Advocates for Universal Coverage

With 17,000 members nationwide, PNHP is an independent, non-partisan, voluntary "physician organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to implementing a single-payer national health program."

Its March 22 press release expressed dismay with the new law saying it "take(s) no comfort in seeing aspirin dispensed for the treatment of cancer."

Instead of fixing the "the profit-driven, private health insurance industry....this costly new legislation will enrich and further entrench (it by forcing) millions of Americans to buy" defective coverage leaving them worse off than before at a cost of hundreds of billions of tax dollars given predators to game the system for even more.

PNHP's listed problems include:

-- besides millions underinsured, nine years out, 23 million Americans will be uninsured, "translate(d) into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths annually and an incalculable toll of suffering;"

-- millions will be forced to buy insurance "costing up to 9.5 percent of their income but covering" only 70% of their expenses, leaving them one serious health emergency away from bankruptcy and loss of their homes;

-- for most, good policies will be unaffordable or "too expensive to use because of the high co-pays and deductibles;"

-- Insurers will get around $450 billion in public money "to subsidize (buying) their shoddy products," and be more than ever emboldened to block future reform;

-- safety-net hospitals will lose billions in Medicare and Medicaid payments, threatening tens of millions of under and uninsured;

-- workers with employer-based coverage will face higher costs, fewer benefits, and restrictions on selecting providers; most will be hamstrung with future stiff costs because of unrestricted premium hikes, higher deductibles and co-pays;

-- costs will keep rising exponentially because Obamacare doesn't contain them;

-- so-called new regulations (like ending pre-existing condition denials) are riddled with loopholes, ambiguities, and legal interpretations to let insurers manipulate them advantageously; and

-- "women's reproductive rights will be further eroded, thanks to the burdensome segregation of insurance funds for abortion and all other medical services."

As a result, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats scammed the public with a package of expensive mandates, new taxes, sweetheart deals, and "a perpetuation of the fragmented, dysfunctional, and unsustainable system that is taking such a heavy toll on our health and economy today."

Obamacare may or may not be good politics, but for most Americans it's disastrous health policy in lieu of simple, effective, affordable solutions - universal single-payer coverage. Everyone in. Nobody out except predatory insurers gaming the system for big profits, declining benefits, and unaffordability for growing millions.

Major bill components won't kick in until 2014, meaning 180,000 Americans will die in the next four years and hundreds of thousands more won't have expensive injuries and illnesses treated. PNHP calls these stakes unacceptable in "pledg(ing) to continue (their) work for the only equitable, financially responsible and humane remedy for our health care mess:" universal coverage, "an expanded and improved Medicare for All." What members of Congress get, you get. Nothing less provided we fight for it until it's gotten. It'll come no other way.

It's Over but not Entirely - State Government Challenges Over Mandated Coverage

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 or more states may pass anti-mandate laws, 33 have introduced bills, and Idaho's CL "Butch" Otter became the first Governor to sign one into law. The Virginia House and Senate passed its own, expected to become law shortly. In Arizona, a proposed constitutional amendment will seek voter approval in November.

In addition, on March 23, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's press release said Idaho "has joined a multi-state lawsuit" against the Department of Health and Human Services, Treasury Department, and Department of Labor, "challenging the constitutionality of" new health care legislation, stating:

"Our complaint alleges the new law infringes upon the constitutional rights of Idahoans and residents of the other states by mandating all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage or pay a tax penalty. The law exceeds the powers of the United States under Article I of the Constitution and violates the Tenth Amendment....Additionally, the tax penalty required under the law constitutes an unlawful direct tax in violation of Article 1, sections 2 and 9 of the Constitution."

The press release also says Obamacare infringes on state sovereignty by imposing onerous unfunded mandates at a time most states face severe budget shortfalls, can't handle their current obligations, so they're cutting them.

Joining the lawsuits are the Attorney Generals of South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington, Florida, and South Dakota. Virginia Attorney General, Kenneth Cuccinelli, plans a separate suit in Richmond federal court, stating:

The Constitution's Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) doesn't apply because:

"If a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person by definition is not engaging in commerce. If you are not engaging in commerce, how can the federal government regulate you?"

Indiana's Senator Richard Lugar asked his Attorney General to file suit, and other states have pledged to do so. Opponents raise serious concerns over the fundamental "do no harm" patient safety rule. For American Health Care Reform.org:

"Single-payer national health insurance will save our economy, prevent medical bankruptcy and above all, save lives. Medicare for All is the Right Prescription for America. We need National Health Insurance. Anything else is just voodoo."

 

Health Care

www.CollateralMurder.com just released a military-video from WikiLeaks that was obtained from someone in the military. This blood is on ALL of our hands. We are all paying for this and allowing this to continue on a daily basis. The irony of it all is that Vermont has an $87 million dollar deficit, yet the federal government is spending $1.5 billion Vermont tax-payer dollars annually to fund the United State's global military overstretch.

Our military machine is purely a subsidy for the oil and defense contractor industries. Vermont does not have a budget crisis, we have a foreign policy crisis. Do you support continuing to send $1.5 billion Vermont tax-payer dollars per year to subsidize the oil industry and if so, how do you justify that given Vermont's budget shortfall?

Vermont is slashing social programs, education and health care budgets, so that we can spend $1.5 billion per year to terrorize and murder people in Bagdad? For what? Didn't we get rid of Saddam years ago? Why are we there?

Personally, I cannot tolerate this and that is why I'm running for Vermont State Senate in Washington County to attempt to get Vermont to stand up to the federal insanity that is being forced down our throats.

And I am not alone, as there are at least 10 other independent candidates running for Vt offices state-wide, who share this perspective. Support this movement: JOIN US. Run for Vermont State Senate in your county. Spread the word.

www.GaelanBrown.com

www.Vermont30.net

www.GovernorSteele.com

www.VtGarritano.com

 

Myth #1: “Solar power doesn’t work in Vermont.”
Truth: Vermont gets 15-percent more sun on an annual average, than any place in Germany, yet Germany is the global leader in solar power installations as a percentage of its power sources. There are two residential solar installation companies that are now the national/regional leaders, which were both started in Vermont. Solar power works in Vermont. 
 
Myth #2: “Solar power doesn’t make economic sense in Vermont, so Vermont should not invest tax dollars to subsidize solar power. Vermont would be better off investing in other types of energy systems.”
Truth: Solar power does make economic sense in Vermont, even though that was questionable in the recent past. When solar systems cost five times what they cost today, the economics of solar power didn’t work, compared to utility prices. Now that has changed. Investments in solar hot-water and solar electric systems make a lot of economic sense in Vermont. Most solar hot-water systems in Vermont will pay for themselves in less than eight years and last for 25+ years after that. For a residential solar electric system, the cost with today’s prices and incentives, over the 25-year warranted life of the system, is 11 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is lower than most Vermonters pay now.
 
The fact that solar electric systems last 40 or more years means that the real cost of solar electricity is significantly lower than today’s utility rates. Even if you believe that utility prices in 2030 will be the same as they are today, you would still save money by installing a solar electric system on your roof.
 
Refer to the chart below for a breakdown of the economics of solar power in Vermont, based on today’s costs and incentives for an average residential solar electric system that would meet more than 80 percent of the average monthly residential power bill. Feel free to check the math. The conclusion: solar power for homeowners in Vermont is already cheaper than utility power.
 SolarEconomicsInVermont.gif
The only real economic challenge with solar power is that you must pay for 25-plus years of power up front (purchase and installation), and the financing options other than home equity loans have been limited. Thus there is a need for government subsidies and assurances to provide the right investment climate.
 
Today’s state and federal subsidies, which remove about 40 percent of the cost of most installations, are part of why solar power makes economic sense. The other main factor is that solar-system prices have dramatically declined as the industry has matured.
 
Governments have always heavily subsidized energy systems. All of the utility lines were installed with government subsidies. Every power plant ever built received government subsidies. Until recently, the only categories of energy that did not get any government subsidy were the clean, renewable energy technologies that Vermont needs to become energy independent. As I highlighted in my January column, just during the past eight years the U.S. government spent more than $1 trillion on oil/gas subsidies, and only $12 billion on wind/solar subsidies. We still have a long way to go until the playing field is level.
 
The main difference in “common” values related to using tax money to subsidize fossil fuels vs. solar power (also wind, hydro and various types of biomass) is that a significant amount of the solar-power subsidy dollars stay in the local economies, providing local jobs, as opposed to going to out-of-state corporations and imported fossil fuels. It’s true that solar panels are not currently made in Vermont, but more than 30 percent of the money invested on a solar installation goes to the local engineers, consultants and installers who actually build and maintain the systems. Every megawatt of solar power installed creates eight to 10 jobs on the sales/design/installation side of the business.
 
If Vermont were to make a long-term commitment to renewable energy, by either extending and broadening the “Feed in Tariff” concept that forces power companies to pay a premium for clean energy, or by seceding from the union and investing in renewable subsidies instead of spending our tax money on foreign oil wars and corporate bailouts, factories that produce wind turbines and solar panels would sprout up within 12 months.
 
In fact, Vermont is already in negotiations with a potential solar panel factory that wants to go online in 2011 in Chittenden County, and we already have two international leaders in wind-power technology who produce their systems right here in Vermont. This would mean that for every megawatt of solar power installed, Vermont would gain 15 to 20 more permanent jobs in solar panel production, sales and installation, vs. just 8 to 10 on the installation side of the equation.
 
VPRIG’s exhaustive study “Repowering Vermont,” has Vermont getting 15 percent of its energy from solar power by 2032, by installing 734 megawatts of solar electric capacity between now and then. Taking a conservative jobs-factor of 15 jobs per megawatt, this would mean more than 11,000 clean-tech jobs would be created.
 
Today the cost to install megawatt-scale solar systems (a megawatt of solar would power 250-plus homes and require about 10 acres), before any subsidies or tax breaks, is around $5 million per megawatt. This would mean covering most flat-roof commercial buildings in Vermont with solar systems, and using some “brown field” land or non-arable land for larger ground-mount systems. There are compelling arguments against using arable land for ground-mount solar systems, as we also need to maximize our food-production resources.
 
Each megawatt of solar energy, properly sited, can produce 1,200,000 kWh per year in Vermont, or about 36 million kWh over 30 years. That means that the cost per kWh, without any subsidies, for commercial-scale solar electric today would be about 14 cents. That’s $.14/kWh, which is only slightly higher than what Vermonters are paying right now for power from the utilities. What do you think power will cost in 2030?
 
This is known as “grid parity” – meaning that the non-subsidized cost of solar is at the same cost per kWh as utility power. We are just about there, today, on large-scale systems, even without subsidies. With residential-scale systems, which cost more per installed watt, solar power is already cheaper than utility power, including the current subsidies.
 
Now is the time for Vermont to commit to a clean-energy future, building our economy on a foundation of clean, affordable energy from local and renewable sources.