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Minter Eyes Expanded Role For Government In Economic Development

Patti Daniels
VPR file
Democratic candidate for governor Sue Minter says the state should help stimulate the economy and improve the quality of education. To fund those goals, Minter wants to use revenue raised from the private sector.

From tuition-free college to paid family leave, Democratic candidate for governor Sue Minter has proposed a number of initiatives that would require raising new revenues. And her platform reflects her philosophy about the role of state government in Vermonters’ lives.

The Vermont Constitution is pretty clear about when lawmakers ought to raise taxes. It’s spelled out in Article 9. And it says the purpose for which the money is being raised should “be of more service to community than the money would be if not collected.”

It’s an elegant distillation of the complex dilemmas that policymakers face when considering new government initiatives. And the question of what meets that constitutional criterion, and what does not, offers one of the starker contrasts in the 2016 race for governor.

“I do think that government plays a role in helping to stimulate our economy, helping to support quality education and training to develop a workforce for the future,” Minter says.

Minter’s campaign platform includes a number of proposals that would use revenue raised from the private sector to fund public programs. From maintaining roads and bridges to ensuring public safety, Minter says government provides essential services for the everyday lives of Vermonters.

“People don’t often understand what it is that the public sector provides for them,” Minter says.

Her gubernatorial platform in some instances seeks to expand what government provides in Vermont. For example, Minter wants the state to ensure tuition-free community or technical college for any Vermonter who wants it. The plan would cost $12 million a year when fully implemented. And Minter wants to raises taxes on large banks to pay for it.

"People don't often understand what it is that the public sector provides for them." — Sue Minter

For Minter, presumably, the proposal meets the constitutional maxim, and would be “of more service to community than the money would be if not collected.”

“It’s a win for our students, it’s a win for those businesses, and it’s a win for the economy,” Minter says.

Minter’s belief in the benefits of targeted tax increases is perhaps the biggest distinction between her and Republican candidate for governor Phil Scott. If a proposal that relies on new taxes makes it to his desk, Scott says he’ll veto it. He’s pledged, in fact, not to raise taxes under any circumstances.

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

Minter says there are some tax increases she won’t abide. She says anything that hits working class Vermonters, for instance, would be dead on arrival in her administration.

But she’s rebuffed the no-new-taxes pledge. And some of her keystone proposals, like mandated paid family leave, for instance, rely on the collection of private funds for public gain.

"We don't need to be raising taxes on already overburdened Vermonters. At this time, we can't afford to." — Lt. Gov. Phil Scott

Minter also wants government to have a stronger hand in private-sector activity, notably by requiring employers to pay workers at least $12.50 an hour by 2018.

“Forty-three percent of women who work full-time still can’t meet their basic needs, so I think Vermonters do need a raise,” Minter says.

Scott says he wants to raise wages too. But he says improving the economic climate, not forcing employers’ hands, is the way to go about achieving that goal. Minter says it’s a problem that requires government intervention.

“And I think we need to make sure there are not people in jobs that employ Vermonters where they can’t make ends meet. That is I think a responsibility that we have,” Minter says.

Minter is also open to the idea of using public financing to expand access to health care.

“The goal is to get more people insured, to get more people access to care when they need it and at lower cost,” Minter says.

Minter hasn’t committed to any specific proposal. But she says she’ll seriously consider public financing for primary health care, and using public financing to pay all health care expenses for Vermonters age 26 and younger.

"I am focused on fiscal responsibility. I know that we have to focus in our needs and not just on our wants. I certainly know that as a mom, and that's we talk about at the dinner table." — Sue Minter

Minter says her platform isn’t at odds with the frugal approach many residents are looking for in state government.

“I am focused on fiscal responsibility,” she says. “I know that we have to focus in our needs and not just on our wants. I certainly know that as a mom, and that’s we talk about at the dinner table.”

But Minter says strategic public investments can play a useful role in boosting the economic circumstances of individuals and businesses.

“We cannot be penny-wise and pound-foolish,” Minter says. “We always need to be thinking about the long-term impacts of investments or cuts that we make.”

Minter says she proved her ability to balance large budgets responsibly as secretary of the Agency of Transportation.

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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