Pat McDonald and Ben Kinsley are co-hosts of the show “Vote for Vermont.” On a recent show, Ben took a solo run at hosting with guest Robin Chestnut-Tangerman, the leader of the House Progres-sive Party. Robin was on the show in February and provided a list of Progressive priorities for the 2017-18 legislative session. The priorities were: interested in human rights, where all Vermonters live a quality life with dignity of work and wellbeing; a livable wage; affordable and accessible health care; and affordable child care. The primary question Ben asked Robin was “How did you do this year in meeting your priorities?”
Robin was pleased his party made some progress and was cautiously optimistic about the future. He did state that the year started off on a very positive note when Vermont, along with other states stepped up to take the lead after President Trump withdrew from the Paris Accord. Robin said that while Vermont is small many states look to Vermont as a model of what is possible.
As Ben and Robin discussed, Vermont has the lowest total emissions and is the least reliant on carbon-based energy. Robin believes Vermont can still make progress in the thermal efficiency and trans-portation sectors. Robin specifically mentioned the Volkswagen settlement of $4.2M (two part settlement: first at $18M, second at $4.2M) to Vermont and its potential to leverage more clean energy in-vestment in these sectors.
During the 2017 session, Robin was particularly pleased about the paid family leave act. It was not as inclusive as he would like to see but it was a small step in the right direction. Not all employees who need to be covered are covered. But it is very affordable and works because everyone is in.
Another success this session was the State’s tri-partisan response to the President’s travel ban. Robin was particularly pleased that the Feds could not deputize Vermont law enforcement without the Governor’s approval.
Livable wage was discussed this past session but did not make it through the legislative process. Robin confirmed that the topic will return again next year. The main concern as Robin sees it is how do we get to a livable wage without being punitive to small businesses?
Robin talked about health care. He would like to eventually see a single payer system but feels that we have made good progress on mental health this year. We have given mental health the same prior-ity as physical health care so that it is considered a part of the overall health care system and not as a separate, stand-alone issue. As Robin noted individuals dealing with mental health and addiction can now come out of the shadows.
Ben mentioned that there were several very close recounts this past election. Robin commented that the stressful thing about all of the recounts is that they are all handled differently and that he was par-ticularly disturbed by the harsh partisanship that permeated the process. Robin felt good about the end result when an election reform bill was passed and he felt that the Progressives had made their point because voters must have confidence in the process.
Ben asked Robin about the Governor’s budget. He noted that the House tried very hard to meet the Governor’s demands for the budget – to be balanced and not raise taxes. The House delivered a budget which met the Governor’s criteria with only one dissenting vote. Ben noted that this was unprecedented. Robin and his colleagues found it very frustrating that the Governor vetoed the bill after the Legis-lature gave him everything he asked for because of his desire to have the teachers’ health care be bargained at a statewide level. Robin felt that the timing was all wrong. There was no vetting of the state-wide teachers’ contract for health care and the state would be changing the rules midstream.
As for marijuana, Robin said that while the Governor vetoed the bill, he did leave the door open and we will have to wait until the veto session to see what happens.
Robin closed by saying that while he can’t predict the results of the veto session on June 21st, he can say that as a Progressive he doesn’t feel that Vermont is where he would want it to be but we are making progress.
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