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Scott And Minter Clash Over Fiscal Policy During PBS Debate

screenshot of YouTube video
On Thursday night, Liberty Union Candidate Bill Lee, Democrat Sue Minter and Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott debated on Vermont PBS. While the candidates often agree on challenges facing Vermont, proposed solutions varied.

Democrat Sue Minter and Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Scott jousted over fiscal policy in a televised gubernatorial debate Thursday night, and the candidates are offering voters some clear contrasts as Election Day nears.

The candidates often agree on the challenges facing Vermont. It’s how they’d go about fixing them when the differences begin to emerge. And in a debate on Vermont PBS on Thursday evening, Scott returned again and again to one of the singular themes of his 2016 campaign.

Audio for this piece will be posted.

“I don’t believe that we should be taxing our way out of this,” Scott said. “We don’t need to be raising taxes on already overburdened Vermonters. At this time, we can’t afford to.”

Scott’s no-new-taxes pledge is the foundation of his gubernatorial platform; it’s a promise he says will guide his approach to government spending.

“I will not propose or sign a budget that grows faster than the economy did in the previous year, or wages grew in the previous year,” Scott says.

Minter says Scott’s pledge might sound good on the stump.

“But I want to say one thing that’s important, because Phil has not mentioned what he’s planning to cut,” Minter says.

Scott says cuts won’t be necessary, and that he’ll modernize government in ways that reduce costs without impacting services.

“We can find savings in state government… We’re just not looking hard enough,” Scott says.

Minter, however, says if Republicans’ previous strategies to avoid tax increases are any guide, then Scott’s approach to budget management will hobble key programs and services.

“Those are not the way that I think are going to support middle-class families and grow our economy,” she says.

Minter in many cases wants to expand the role of government, with a higher mandated minimum wage, paid family leave and tuition free higher education.

WATCH: Vermont Gubernatorial Debate, Oct. 7, 2016

Minter, for instance, wants to use a new tax on large banks to fund free community or technical college for any Vermont student who wants to take advantage of it.

“I think that banks can pay their fair share so that our students get a fair shake,” Minter says.

Scott says Minter’s $12-million-a-year plan for tuition-free college reflects the kind of fiscal philosophy that Vermonters are growing weary of. He says tuition for students under her plan would be anything but free, since banks would simply pass the costs onto customers.

“They are going to charge us,” Scott says. “We’re going to pay for it in some way, whether it’s in checking account fees, or fees at your bank.”

Minter says the new revenue is investment in the future workforce that will yield needed dividends down the road.

“Listen, we can’t afford not to do this,” Minter says.

Both the Scott campaign and the Republican Governors Association have criticized Minter as a tax-and-spend liberal who supports a carbon tax, as well as extending the sales tax to services.

Minter used Thursday’s debate to push back on those accusations, and sought to assure working-class voters that they’ll be safe under her administration.

“What I do know is what I won’t raise is new sales or service taxes that are going to hurt the middle class,” Minter says.

And Minter says her market-based, cap-and-trade program for automobile emissions will create economic incentives to fight climate change, without impacting prices at the pump.

“I do not support a carbon tax for Vermont,” she says.

Minter, Scott and Liberty Union candidate Bill Lee face off in their final debate on Nov. 3 on VPR.

The Vermont Statehouse is often called the people’s house. I am your eyes and ears there. I keep a close eye on how legislation could affect your life; I also regularly speak to the people who write that legislation.
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