Commentary

By Rep. Heidi Scheuermann, September 6, 2018

 

It has been a distinct honor and privilege to represent my hometown of Stowe in the Vermont House of Representatives.

For the first time since the election in 2006, the race for our community's sole seat in the House is contested.  I want the people of Stowe to know where I stand on some of the important issues facing our community and the state, and my priorities for another two-year term.

 

What is my economic development and growth philosophy?

I have spent much of my time over the past 12 years advocating for policies to grow our economy.  Working closely with legislators from across the political spectrum, we have made some progress, but there is still a great deal more to do.

My philosophy regarding economic development is summed up in three words: Encourage. Reward. Protect.

  • Encourage Vermont entrepreneurs and small business owners to invest in their ideas and their work.  We must ensure that our entrepreneurs and business owners are encouraged to succeed rather than challenged to survive.
  • Reward Vermonters for their innovation, ingenuity, and hard work.  We should help our small businesses get off the ground and, as they grow and become more prosperous, we should reward them as they reinvest in their businesses and for their employees.
  • Protect Vermont small businesses from policies that could harm them financially and force them to eliminate jobs or close their shops.

 

Why am I in favor of fiscally-responsible budgeting and spending within our means?

For too many years, we spent well beyond our means, and paid for that spending with higher taxes and fees on Vermont families and businesses.  Over the last two years, thanks to the leadership of Governor Phil Scott, we have put the state on a path of affordability rather than unsustainable spending.

For two years in a row, we have passed state budgets that make greater investments where we desperately need them (e.g., housing and tourism), while protecting the most vulnerable, all without assessing new and higher taxes and fees.  I believe strongly that we must continue down this road of fiscally-responsible stewardship.

 

Do I support raising the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour?

Not only did I support a significant increase in the minimum wage in 2014, but I supported indexing it to inflation every year, so that our lower wage workers receive a wage increase each and every year.

An almost 50% legislatively-mandated increase on the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour at this time will break the backs of many of our small businesses.

 

Do I support a voluntary Paid Family Leave program?

Yes.  I am committed to doing all we can to ensure the ability of Vermonters to take the time needed to care for their family and themselves.

I do not support a fiscally-irresponsible, mandated, government-run program that would cause insolvency of the program itself, and would significantly increase taxes on employers and employees alike.

 

What does local control of education mean to me?

As Stowe's representative in the legislature, I have fiercely advocated for education finance reform and local control of education.

Unfortunately, as the years have passed, the disturbing trend has been to wrest more and more control from local school districts and voters and put it in the hands of the state.  The most recent example - the forced consolidation of school districts under Act 46 - was something I fought fiercely against, as it was an attack on local authority and decision-making by school boards and voters.  I am against a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to education.

 

Do I support proficiency-based learning and grading in the form of a mandate that comes from Montpelier?

No.  Instead, I support proficiency-based learning and grading that is adopted by local school districts on a voluntary basis.

 

Do I support a woman's right to choose?

Yes.

 

Do I support the carbon tax?

No.  I do not support the effort in Montpelier to significantly increase the cost Vermonters pay to heat their homes and drive their cars.  I have opposed several proposals to pass a carbon tax over the past four years, including one bill that would have raised the cost of heating oil by $1.00 per gallon.

Vermont continues to be the lowest of all 50 states in carbon emissions.  I supported the entry by Vermont into the Regional Greenhouse GAs Initiative - a nine-state effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions - and I support common-sense, financially-viable efforts to address climate change.

But advancing policies that require Vermont families and businesses - especially those in rural areas - to bear the burden of addressing our entire world's climate change challenges is unfair and fiscally irresponsible.

 

Am I an environmentalist?

Yes.  As a native Vermonter, and as Stowe's representative in the legislature, I have advocated, and will continue to advocate, to protect our environment and ensure economic prosperity.  I believe strongly that the two are not mutually exclusive and, in fact, go hand in hand.

 

Why am I running for re-election?

I am running to ensure that Stowe continues to have an experienced, independent, and thoughtful voice in Montpelier: a voice that has, time and again, worked across the political spectrum to advance good, sound public policy, but is also willing to fight against bad policy.

I have demonstrated these qualities while serving as your representative in the House over the past 12 years, and I'd be honored to continue to do so.

 

 

 

https://www.stowetoday.com/stowe_reporter/opinion/opinion_columns/key-elements-are-missing-from-state-budget-proposal/article_403401aa-4ee3-11e8-b0ec-1b5ed0071467.html

... the fiscal year 2019 state budget is winding its way through the process, and without much debate at all, if any, passed the Senate earleir this week.  While I supported the budget as it emerged from the House of Representatives, I have some concerns about the Senate version of the bill.  Specifically, two of the investments I most want to see pass are not funded in the Senate-passed bill.

https://www.stowetoday.com/stowe_reporter/opinion/opinion_columns/a-night-occupancy-fee-is-back/article_93120ac4-43f4-11e8-a717-43a7b5d99019.html

We simply cannot make it more difficult for these small Vermont businesses to achieve success.

https://www.stowetoday.com/stowe_reporter/opinion/opinion_columns/minimum-wage-worthy-goals-but-may-bring-more-harm-than/article_3ba2b8fa-38f6-11e8-a20b-df2beb2ec34a.html

From what I understand, from the perspective of proponents of the mandated increase, the underlying goals are simple, and include: 1) reducing poverty; 2) reducing income inequality; and 3) putting more money in the pockets of low-wage workers so that things are more affordable for them.

Indeed, these are all very worthy goals. Unfortunately, this proposal will do little to address them.

https://www.stowetoday.com/stowe_reporter/opinion/opinion_columns/bill-levels-the-playing-field-for-brewers-and-distributors/article_772d4ae2-2de4-11e8-ac85-af48df7cfab5.html

After a great deal of consideration in the House General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee, H. 710, a bill I co-sponsored that reforms Vermont's beer franchise laws as they apply to small brewers, passed the full House overwhelmingly last week.

A number of items continue to progress in the Vermont Legislature as we head toward Town Meeting Day Break.

The House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee, the committee on which I serve, will soon be taking up the #1 priority of some of the Democratic leaders in Montpelier: the increase in the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.

 

This legislation passed the Senate two weeks ago on a 20-10 vote.  Specifically, the bill proposes to increase the minimum wage to $15.00/hour over the course of the next six years.  While the implementation is now over six years, rather than four, this is still a very problematic proposal for our local small businesses.

A number of items continue to progress in the Vermont Legislature as we head toward Town Meeting Day Break.

The first of these is the #1 priority of the Democratic leaders in Montpelier: the increase in the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.

This legislation passed the Senate last week on a 20-10 vote, and will now be sent to the House where I believe it will be referred to the committee on which I sit.  The bill proposes to increase the minimum wage to $15.00/hour over the course of the next six years.  While the implementation is now over six years, rather than four, this is still a very problematic proposal for our local small businesses.

While playing politics is certainly not unusual among leaders under the Golden Dome, last week’s particular effort at political opportunism came as a bit of a surprise to many.

 

We are all acutely aware, as it has been well-documented for several years, that Vermont has a significant challenge with regard to our demographics.  As one of the grayest states in the country and one with one of the lowest birth rates, the Vermont workforce is inevitably decreasing.  As a result, many of us are laser focused on trying to reverse that trend.

 

For some reason, however, last week the President Pro Tem of the Senate, Tim Ashe (D-Chittenden), tried to claim that Governor Phil Scott’s oft-repeated emphasis of this challenge is “just not true.”

Ever the optimist, I am pleased to report that for the first time in a very long time, there seems to be some acknowledgement on the part of some Vermont legislators that, in fact, our education funding system is broken. 

 

As most in our region know, this is a tune I have been singing since I arrived in the House a decade after Act 60 went into law.  Unfortunately, though, it has been a lonely road – even as I unveiled various reform proposals through the years.  Now, however, it seems as though the looming 9.4 cent increase in the statewide property tax rate have have lit a fire under other legislators, as well.

Vermont State Legislators returned to Montpelier this week facing significant, although not unexpected, challenges.

 

While last year, thanks to the leadership of Governor Phil Scott, we passed a state budget that did not rely on any increased taxes or fees, it is clear now that it was merely a first step in trying to restore fiscal responsibility and sustainability to our state government.  For too many years prior, we increased state spending by a far larger percentage than our economy grew, simply giving the bill to our hard-working Vermont families and businesses in the form of increased taxes and fees.  Not surprisingly, this resulted in investment being constrained, and anemic economic growth.

 

Now, even as we worked together to find real savings last year, we still face a $45 million budget gap for Fiscal Year 2019, so the finding of greater efficiencies and belt-tightening must continue.