Controversial statements uttered last week by Vermont’s Democratic gubernatorial candidates offer undecided voters a last-minute opportunity to get off the fence and vote with confidence Tuesday.
When Matt Dunne, Sue Minter and Peter Galbraith met for their final primary debate last Thursday on VPR’s Vermont Edition, the gloves came off and candidates uttered some of their most revealing statements on what they would do if elected Vermont’s next governor.
For voters who missed the on-air debate or can’t recall the barbs traded between candidates, we’ve identified quotable quotes that are certain to have an impact on Vermont’s future if granted the powers of the governorship.
On whether Democrat candidates for governor agree with Republicans’ pledge not to raise taxes on Vermonters
Sue Minter: “I’m not going to take such a pledge. I see that we have huge problems in our state and obviously across this country. … There are too many children in poverty, too many homeless people, and we need to do our part to meet the challenges.”
Peter Galbraith: “My pledge is to eliminate special interest tax breaks that the Legislature has stuck into the tax code, and my pledge is to adequately fund essential public services, and my pledge is to raise the revenues necessary to do so, and that will include raising taxes on those who are most able to pay.”
Matt Dunne: “I got to say that those kinds of claims are simply irresponsible, and that’s particularly true in the really difficult issues we are facing.”
On whether school district consolidation under Act 46 should be mandatory or voluntary
Peter Galbraith: “Act 46 needs to be changed, and consolidation absolutely should be voluntary. … Consolidation makes sense where communities want to do it. … If I’m governor, there will be no mandate.”
Sue Minter: “The decision to unify under one governance system, I believe, will both be cost effective and valuable to students. But as I have traveled this state running for governor, I hear from small rural communities that one size does not fit all. As governor I will be flexible. As we implement, I will be appointing four new members of the State Board of Education and will look to flexibility so that we can make sure we move forward but not undermine.”
Matt Dunne: “I was a big critic of Act 46 as it was moving its way through the Legislature. … That’s because I do not believe that one size fits all in Vermont. I don’t believe the cookie-cutter legislation works, because it puts in danger our secret sauce, which is our community involvement.”
On renewable energy siting in Vermont
Peter Galbraith: “I will protect Vermont’s ridge lines by banning all new industrial-scale wind developments. … Ridge line wind projects are an ecological disaster. To get to the ridge lines, developers need to build interstate-sized highways, they need to blast away mountaintops, they need to pour tons of concrete, and these industrial scale constructions are destroying our state’s most pristine places — the very places that Vermont’s species need to migrate to in order to adapt to climate change. These projects do next to nothing about global warming … and the energy is not green — we sell the renewable energy credits out of state so that Connecticut utilities and Connecticut industries can continue to burn fossil fuels and call it green. Vermont should not be the dumping ground for Connecticut utilities.”
Sue Minter: “I am committed to our state goal, and it’s an ambitious one of 90 percent renewable by the year 2050. I know it’s going to take a mix of sources of renewable energy to meet that goal, including well-sited wind. I have to say I am surprised by the 11th hour flip of Matt Dunne, who now claims to support wind but (is) enabling a veto power. I think that will take us backwards right when we need to go forward. … The reason this is so important is because climate change is not only here, it is real. I know it from tropical storm Irene.”
Matt Dunne: “I believe that no project should go forward without an affirmative vote from the community where the project will be sited. I do not feel there is a need for new legislation. I don’t think we need to change the (Section) 248 process.”
On restricting Vermonters’ gun rights with new gun control legislation
Peter Galbraith: “From the moment I entered the race, I also was for universal background checks. I’ll tell you where I took the lead, though: in the call to ban military-style assault rifles, by which I mean weapons that have large capacity magazines that are automatic or semiautomatic that are designed to do what you want on a battlefield, which is kill large numbers of people in short periods of time. … These weapons have no use for hunting, no use for self defense, therefore I do not think they should be sold in the state of Vermont. … If you’re on the terrorism list or the no-fly list, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun, and I’m in favor of banning the sale of cop-killing bullets, armor-piercing bullets.”
Sue Minter: “We are dealing with an epidemic of gun violence in this country and Vermont is not immune. That’s why I am proud to have been the first candidate to call for gun safety and specifically background checks for all gun sales. … We have a problem in Vermont and it is actually behind closed doors — I’m talking about domestic violence. Most of the homicides in Vermont are domestic violence related, and most of those are with a firearm. In states where there are background checks on all gun sales, 46 percent fewer women are shot to death by their domestic partners. That’s why I will stand strong as governor to lead on this important issue issue.”
(Editor’s note: Matt Dunne made no comment in this debate on guns, but the candidate supports universal background checks on gun sales.)
On taxpayer-funded “free” college
Peter Galbraith: “My plan is for four years free tuition at all five of the Vermont state colleges … and I pay for it by repealing $28.5 million in special interest tax breaks, like the exemption from the sales tax that owners of private jets have, or the sales tax exemption just enacted for people on the cloud, or the ones for rich people who have municipal bonds.”
Sue Minter: “I am proposing Vermont Promise, two years tuition-free community and technical college and paying for it with a fee on big banks.”
(Editor’s note: Matt Dunne does not have a plan to create taxpayer-funded “free” college.)
On Vermont’s transportation future
Sue Minter: “As the deputy and secretary of Transportation, we’ve expanded public transit. We’ve expanded rail investments. We are determined to get under my administration Amtrak to Burlington and Amtrak back to Montreal. That’s why I’ve been negotiating on a rural Uber system — I call it ‘R-Uber’ to get more rural opportunities, and finally an EV highway to get electrification of the fleet.”
Peter Galbraith: “In a rural state there are real limits to what we can do in terms of transportation. Yes, in our more urban areas, we can have more public transportation. I’d like to build out the broadband and cell networks so we can have an Uber-style app with a trusted driver program and a trusted passenger program. Somebody going from a rural area isn’t going to be interested in a bus that leaves say, my town of Townshend, at 9 a.m. and returns at 4 p.m. for a shopping trip. But if you had an app you might connect with a neighbor who is going to go down and come back in your time frame.
Matt Dunne: “Under my leadership we will expand rail, we will go to Montreal, we will actually have that as a real option for Vermonters. … On electronic vehicles, we have been working really hard as a state to make sure there are plug-in stations around. I don’t know a Vermonter who doesn’t like the idea of what an electric car will bring, which is the equivalent of less than $1 per gallon of gas. We need to continue to build out that infrastructure.”