CFV Candidates’ Forum: Q&A for candidates for governor

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CFV Candidates’ Forum: Q&A for candidates for governor

Wed, 07/20/2016 - 2:17pm -- tim

Campaign for Vermont Earlier this month Campaign for Vermont (CFV) submitted to gubernatorial candidates Dunne, Galbraith, Lisman, Minter and Scott a series of questions. Campaign for Vermont was assisted in the development of these questions by volunteers and all questions were reviewed for substance, fairness, importance and non-partisanship by the following balanced group of knowledgeable Vermont observers: Bill Schubart, Neale Lunderville, David Coates and Bill Gilbert. We thank them for their assistance. Forum questions focus upon these important areas:

  • The Vermont State Budget
  • Act 46 and Property Taxes
  • Health Care
  • Ethics in State Government
  • Energy Policy
  • Strategic Planning

Candidates Dunne, Lisman (NOTE: Bruce Lisman is the founder and former head of CFV) and Scott have responded and we hope that candidates Minter and Galbraith will soon join them.

RESPONSES

Matt Dunne: www.mattdunne.com

Context: Joint Fiscal Office data from fiscal 2011 through 2016 shows state spending from state funds (general, transportation, special, tobacco, health care, and fish and wildlife) grew at near 5 percent annually, from $1.87 billion to $2.39 billion. This annual growth rate far exceeds those of Vermont’s Gross State Product (1.8 percent), population growth (6/10ths of one percent) and the Consumer Price Index (1.55 percent), for example, for the time frame. Further, state spending in the 2017 “as passed” budget is up 3 percent or $71.4 million pre-budget adjustment.

For fiscal 2016, the budget adjustment increased spending by $25.8 million over the “as passed” budget. These gaps between state spending and the underlying economy have been closed with numerous tax and fee increases during the above time period. Question: In just six months should you win election you must submit to the legislature a fiscal 2017 Budget Adjustment and fiscal 2018 Budget. To balance these budgets, do you expect your submissions will require net new revenues and if so, in what programmatic areas? If new revenues are necessary, to what revenue sources would you likely turn? Further, given the bottom of the last recession was seven years ago, do you believe Vermont is fiscally positioned to weather the next recession without major cutbacks in state programs and/or tax increases?

ANSWER:

I believe we need to take a holistic look at both sides of our budget, revenue and spending actions. There are tax loopholes that we must close, such as the sales tax exemption on airplane parts, which would raise $1 million that could be used to fund critical social service programs that we drastically cut last year in a manner that I believe was draconian and unfairly balanced the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable Vermonters. We should also eliminate the mortgage interest deduction for second and third homes. These are just a few examples of new revenues that I believe would be equitable and would help fund state spending in areas that we should prioritize — healthcare, providing a safety net for the neediest Vermonters, fighting our vast opiate crisis and other key functions of government that we must preserve. We are not in a sustainable place. We have not transitioned to a new economy or invested in the core infrastructure necessary to build an economy for the future. We also have not looked to models in other states that have done this successfully.

I anticipate the next couple of years as being difficult, particularly as we face a housing crisis and a heroin epidemic. What I believe Vermont is hungry for is a plan.

Having served in the legislature and on the appropriations committee through good times and difficult ones, I know how to balance a budget, but my commitment is to do so without hurting the most vulnerable, while making the investments necessary to build an economy that works for all of Vermont and gets us on a more sustainable trajectory.

Context: No organization is perfectly efficient including our state government.

Question: Using fiscal 2016 as a baseline inclusive of the $2.39 billion in state dollar spending, the $1.25 billion in net education fund spending and the $1.99 billion in federal fund spending, what do you think is a reasonable financial goal for achieving savings in the state budget which can then be reallocated either to maintain or increase services or returned to taxpayers? In which specific areas of state government do you think the greatest opportunities exist for such savings?

ANSWER:

Healthcare costs are rising at an unsustainable rate, and it’s having serious consequences for the state budget. The cost of healthcare in the State of Vermont is rising $650,000 per day. I have a detailed plan for reforming the healthcare system in order to bring down those costs and make sure all Vermonters have access to affordable, high-quality care. Here’s are two key parts of my proposal:

We must change the way we pay for healthcare by moving from the current fee for service model to a model that funds public health. The current system incentivizes providers to order more, expensive tests and to fill hospital beds in order to balance their budgets. A model based on positive health outcomes would establish a set budget for providing care to a specific community of people, and would reward outcomes that showed improved public health rather than more frequent visits.

We should implement a system of universal primary care as a first step on the path to universal healthcare. A primary care doctor is a key player in an individual’s health care team. They can treat health concerns, including chronic conditions, before they become emergencies, saving money and promoting better health for the individual. They can also serve an important role in coordinating services when a patient does have a health emergency. All Vermonters should have access to a primary care physician, and it’s a step that we can take immediately to improve health and save money.

We also spend too much money incarcerating non-violent criminals. By pursuing other strategies for dealing with non-violent criminals, we can get away from the bad practice of engaging private prisons and save resources at the same time. Additionally, we are paying too much for IT services and not strategically using IT enough to deliver state services in a modern, more efficient way. I’ll overhaul the way we use and pay for IT services in order to save money and modernize service delivery.

There are certainly other areas of the budget where we can and should make changes, but the area I believe these are the key areas we can and should begin to address immediately. Context: As of June 30, 2015 the unfunded actuarial accrued liabilities of the state employee pension fund, the state employees’ retirement benefit fund, the teachers’ retirement pension fund and the teachers’ post retirement benefit fund were $542.6 million, $1.093 billion, $1.175 billion and $1.003 billion respectively. As of June 30, 2010 the funding ratios for the state employees and teachers’ pension funds were 81.2 percent and 66.5 percent respectively, falling to 75.1 percent and 58.6 percent respectively as of June 30, 2015.

Question: What ideas do you currently hold to reverse these declining financial trends in the state employees’ and teachers’ retirement and benefit funds?

ANSWER

We simply need to start funding our pensions to meet our liability. When I was on the appropriations committee we increased our allocation to try and catch up, but unfortunately since I have been out of state government we have fallen behind again. We need to be responsible in our budgeting to ensure we meet the commitments we have made to our teachers and state employees.

The biggest driver for the increased cost of benefits, however, are the healthcare benefits that now exceed cash benefits and are rising much faster than inflation. Reforming our healthcare system will go a long way in ensuring we can meet our fiduciary obligation. Again, healthcare reform will be absolutely critical to ensuring that our state budget expenditures do not outpace our gross state product.

Act 46 and Property Taxes

Context: In January of this year the legislature’s education consultant delivered their report entitled Using the Evidence-Based Method to Identify Adequate Spending Levels for Vermont Schools. The Report cost close to $300,000. The consultant concluded the following:

“Using data for school year 2014-15, the Vermont EB model estimates an adequate funding level of $1.56 billion or some $163.9 million (approximately 10%) less than Vermont school districts spent for PK-12 education that year.”

Since 2011, education property taxes, net of income sensitivity, have risen by $121 million to $1.039 billion despite a decline in the student count of 3,791.

Question: Do you think Act 46 is the policy and legislative initiative that will finally provide real property tax relief? If not, what further proposals might you present to the legislature upon your inauguration?

ANSWER

I do not believe Act 46 will result in significant property tax relief. By the end of the legislative debate, even the advocates for the legislation acknowledged any cost savings would be minimal.

Declining enrollment is creating challenges, but it is important to remember that despite dramatic decreases in total number of students, the number of special education students has remained the same. With that case mix, the cost of education per pupil will naturally rise if we do right by these students. As we anticipate a new cohort of students who were born with opiates in their systems, this ratio is unlikely to improve.

The decline is student population is also due to the loss of our economic base. If we jump to consolidation, in some cases, it will mean an hour-long commute for kindergartners.

I believe there are other ways we can address these costs without jumping to consolidation, which can cause real problems for our young people. We must do everything in our power to keep our incredible community based schools. The drop in enrollment is not the kids’ fault, so we need to make sure the solutions aren’t at their expense.

My proposal is to consolidate back end operations. We don’t need 60 superintendents for ~80,000 students. Each school system should not be running its own payroll systems or electronic student records. From there, we can look at our schools as a statewide system, develop a system of assisted distance learning and deliver a model for rural education without losing our secret sauce which is community engagement.

We also know that investment in early childhood education and intervention specialists at early grades can drive down special education costs. New social impact bonds are now emerging that could allow us to get ahead of special ed costs and reduce property taxes.

At the end of the day, the area that will make the biggest impact on the bottom line is healthcare costs. Reform to bring overall healthcare costs under control will do the most to get at the overall administrative cost of running our schools, which will also have a positive impact on property taxes.

When it comes to property taxes specifically, we need to also make sure the education fund receives the statutory allocation from the general fund. Balancing the state budget on the back of the property tax is regressive and poor fiscal policy.

More on Matt’s position on Act 46 is available at:

http://www.mattdunne.com/blog/2015/10/23/act-46

Context: The Education Fund was created as part of Act 60 in 1997. Yet, despite the fact that school districts, not the state, negotiate and sign teachers’ contracts which then drive the cost of pension benefits, it is the general fund and not the education fund which covers teachers’ pension benefit costs. In 2012 the general fund contribution was $51.7 million, then rising at a 14.2 percent annually rate to $101 million 2017. As a point of comparison, the entire 2017 general fund contribution to higher education is $84 million, inclusive of a mere $700 thousand increase over fiscal 2016.

Question: In order to align the teachers’ retirement and benefit costs with those who actually negotiate and determine such benefits, could you support transferring the state’s current general fund pension and benefit contributions to the Education Fund and as well transfer to the Education Fund the responsibility for covering future costs in this area?

ANSWER:

No. I do not believe this will lead to any greater sense of accountability at the local level when negotiating contracts since there would be no direct relationship between a specific contract negotiation, corresponding pension costs and the local property tax, and such a step will simply increase property taxes in Vermont.

Context: Many believed, including legislators voting favorably, that the Act 46 initiatives to consolidate school districts would allow choice districts to merge with their neighbors and still retain choice for their students. Subsequent to the passage of the law, the State Board of Education, relying on an untested legal opinion of their attorney that such mergers are not constitutional, has adopted the policy that choice districts cannot merge with operating districts when common grade levels are in play unless the choice option is abandoned. In the last session, the legislature refused to allow an amendment to Act 46 to clarify this matter though other lawyers have opined that the Board’s attorney’s opinion stands on weak legal ground.

Question: Should school choice districts be able to merge with operating districts and still retain choice? Will you support a change to the State Board of Education policy now inhibiting this?

ANSWER:

I think the current structure to allow schools without high schools to tuition works. We must, however, look at the economics of a particular merger and tuitioning arrangements. Instances in Vermont that have allowed for tuitioning while operating a school have lead to undermining the fundamental economics of the operating school and unintentionally led to the closing of that operating school.

Health Care

Context: The transitions in Vermont under Obama Care and Act 48 have been marked by massive cost overruns, failed technology projects, no-bid contracts and mismanaged eligibility determinations , to name a few of the pitfalls. Yet, Vermont has achieved near 97 percent insured coverage during this period, up from 93 percent pre-Obama Care and Act 48 and among the best in the nation. Some Vermonters say stay the course to 100% universal coverage as a top priority with the focus on the Green Mountain Care Board, the establishment of large Accountable Care Organizations and an All-payer funding system. Others say Vermont needs to first fix the operational flaws in the current system before venturing further into the uncharted waters of the further roll-out of Act 48.

Question: What is your view of this duality and where can Vermonters expect your focus to be with regard to health care reform during your first year as Governor?

ANSWER

The implementation of the Vermont Health Connect website was a real failure, and resulted in a loss of trust in the state’s ability to make real progress on healthcare reform. I have a plan to turn things around, starting by fixing the website, for once and for all. Given my private and public sector experience running projects very similar to this one, I am uniquely qualified to do this. I have the relationships and technical expertise to bring in the right team and hold them accountable. It’s what I’ve done in the past and one of the very first things I would do as governor.

We do need to move to a system of universal healthcare, and I believe the way to do that is by starting with changing our reimbursement system to funding public health, then moving to universal primary care.

In order to do any of this we need to rebuild trust and that would start with fixing Vermont Health Connect.

More details of my plan are available at www.mattdunne.com/healthcare

Context: Vermont is an aging population, second oldest in the nation. Many Vermonters and their employers have contributed tens of thousands in Medicare taxes to the Medicare system since the inception of the Medicare tax in 1966. Generally, those now eligible for Medicare are happy with it.

Question: Do you support redirecting the Medicare benefits of Vermont’s seniors into the proposed all-payer system and if so, how does this benefit Vermont’s seniors over the services they now enjoy?

ANSWER

We need to ensure that we have a reimbursement system that funds public health, rather than the current fee for service process. In order to do that, we need all payers to reimburse based on population health. The end result will mean greater investment in preventative healthcare for seniors that are not currently covered including telehealth, clinics based in senior centers and even investment in programs like meals on wheels. Seniors will not see any decline in quality of healthcare provided and will actually be able to enjoy better engagement from their healthcare providers.

Under my plan we would also bulk purchase pharmaceutical drugs in order to lower prices for seniors. These costs are out of control and we need to use our buying power to get better prices.

Context: Under the State’s push for health care reform, Vermont’s health care system is becoming more concentrated with fewer but larger and more powerful players. Health care providers are being steered into a couple of “accountable care organizations” under the roofs of UVM Medical and Dartmouth Hitchcock. The Green Mountain Care Board has been established to regulate hospital budgets and approve rate increases. VtDigger reports in May 2016 that Vermont’s two exchange health insurers, BC/BS and MVP, have requested approval from the Green Mountain Care Board for 8.2 and 8.8 percent rate increases respectively. These requests are on top of approved increases for 2015 and 2016 of 7.7 and 5.9 percent for BC/BS and 10.9 and 2.4 percent for MVP.

Question: Should Vermonters worry that the State’s reform measures are creating concentrated relationships among a handful of large institutions that are becoming “too big to fail”, which will ultimately place the financial interests of these institutions over health care affordability and service choices for Vermonters?

ANSWER

The current system we have is broken. I support the increased use of Accountable Care Organizations because we need to treat our rural healthcare more as a system. We should be urging our community health centers, hospitals and care providers to collaborate via accountable care organizations to improve outcomes for patients and reduce costs. We are already seeing the benefits of ACOs across Vermont using technology and coordination among providers such as the partnership between the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Hanover to support the Medicare population. Investing in this approach can help save money, improve outcomes, improve communication among providers and patients, and empower Vermonters to take control of their own personal health.

That said, as Governor, I will work to ensure that no institution becomes at risk of being “too big to fail,” or putting taxpayer dollars at risk. The Green Mountain Care Board exists to review rate increases and rejecting those requests that are out of line. I would empower the board to be stringent in those reviews so that rates don’t unnecessarily rise. Additionally, as we move to a universal primary care model, ACOs and insurance companies will realize savings because health conditions will be treated before they become crises. Additional savings will be captured by moving to a system that incentivises positive health outcomes rather than the current fee for service model.

More details of my healthcare plan are available at www.mattdunne.com/healthcare

Ethics in State Government

Context: The ethics bill, S.184, as originally introduced by Senator Pollina and prompted by Campaign for Vermont had teeth. It created a code of ethics for legislators and executive branch officials and created a fully staffed ethics commission to investigate and adjudicate violations of this code. The bill had strong support and no opposition. However, S.184 as passed out of the Senate Government Operations Committee is what Senator Pollina himself described as “a shadow of its former self.” In the end, after two years of deliberations, S.184 went nowhere.

Yet, during this biennium period, issues of sexual misconduct, unseemly real estate agreements, campaign contributions from EB-5 developers, no-bid contracts by the executive branch, and revolving door employment between government and private entities, among others, occurred.

During deliberations on S.184, the following aspects were considered:

Should governors and legislators be required to publicly disclose sources of income and other financial interests?

Should legislators and executive branch employees be prohibited for a transitioning time period from accepting private sector employment with businesses they regulated?

Should Vermont establish an ethics commission, independent of both the executive and legislative branches, to investigate allegations of ethical misconduct?

Question: As Governor, what would your position be on these aspects of S.184 profiled above?

ANSWER

I support sweeping reforms to increase transparency and make public officials accountable to the people they serve. I support increased public disclosure of financial interests, believe we should close the revolving door between public officials and lobbyists and agree that we must establish an ethics commission. More details of my transparency proposals can be found at

www.mattdunne.com/transparency

Energy Policy:

Context: The most recent federal Energy Information Administration profile of Vermont’s energy consumption (June 16, 2016) shows that Vermont has the lowest consumption of petroleum fuels among the 50 states at 15.9 million barrels, equaling 2/10ths of one percent of the nation’s total. Of this total, 21.5 percent is consumed by the residential sector for heating and 58.3 percent for transportation purposes. Of total national carbon dioxide emissions, Vermont is the source of only 1/10th of one percent. In 2013, Vermont’s per capita emission of carbon dioxide was third lowest in the nation and trending even lower.

Question: Does our state government’s emphasis on the construction of large wind and solar projects make practical sense, especially when the Renewable Energy Credits for such projects are mostly sold? In your administration, what will be the three key energy policy goals and what changes, if any, would you recommend to the Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP) to address those goals?

ANSWER

I believe we do need to continue down the path to 90% renewables by 2050. We are very fortunate to have the leadership of Mary Powell at Green Mountain Power and our other utility leadership that is leading the nation with the use new technology like batteries. As is clear in my platform, my first goal is to invest in efficiency and the Green Jobs Fund (functioning like an ESCo) will make a larger difference in the efficiency of our apartment buildings. I also believe we should be encouraging more microgrid development to allow communities to own their own renewable production and increase transmission efficiency. Finally, we should continue to explore all kinds of renewable energy development to achieve the goal including harnessing hydro from existing dams that are not currently producing energy, geothermal, wind and solar.

Question: Do you agree neighbors of industrial wind projects in Vermont have legitimate grievances regarding turbine noise, aesthetic and environmental impacts, and loss of peaceful use and enjoyment of their properties? If so, what would you do to ensure their property rights are protected?

ANSWER

I believe strongly that the interest of the community needs to be taken into account when siting renewable energy projects. The most important appointments I will make as governor will be the new chair of the public service board. I will ensure that the chair is someone who will be sensitive to the wide variety of interests and impacts of renewable energy siting.

Question: How will you ensure that the benefits of Vermont’s energy transformation policy flow to ordinary Vermonters and their communities and are not disproportionately captured by developers and utilities? What measures would you recommend that give the distribution of these benefits transparency in the eyes of Vermonters? Should taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies, for example, that subsidize energy projects become a component of the state’s Tax Expenditure Report similar to those profiled for the Vermont Economic Growth Incentive (VEGI) program?

ANSWER

Transparency is an incredibly important part of this process, and I would work on efforts to create more transparency throughout state government. In addition, we must develop microgrids so people can benefit from energy produced in their local community. Microgrids also provide increased efficiency because keeping locally generated power close to where it is utilized means we don’t lose as much energy through transmission.

A cornerstone of our energy proposal is the energy efficiency effort that will benefit people who live in apartment buildings throughout the state of Vermont. While Vermont has led the nation in energy efficiency, we can do much more. The biggest challenges are leased commercial and rental properties where there is typically little incentive to make efficiency improvements. We have the opportunity to create a $100M Green Jobs Initiative, funded through an energy service company (ESCO) bond that would provide free upfront capital to increase efficiency, provide renewable energy, and install heat pumps across the state to significantly reduce our carbon footprint and make home heating costs more affordable.

We will also work with Vermont Technical College to ensure that we have the workforce to meet the significant need created by this investment. ESCOs have a strong track record; we can make this kind of investment and infuse significant capital into Vermont without affecting the state’s balance sheet.

Context: The CEP establishes a goal of weatherizing 80,000 of the state’s homes by 2020. This particular goal looks increasingly out of reach. In fact, the primary focus of Efficiency Vermont is electric consumption rather than reductions in fossil fuel consumption. Vermont’s weatherization programs are not strong and broadly available, but buried in the Agency of Human Service and require an income test. Further, we lack statewide on-bill financing for energy efficiency and we are not using existing smart meter systems to their fullest extent to aggressively advance efficiency and conservation.

Question: What will you do to prioritize reduced fossil fuel consumption and change current delivery mechanisms, financing systems, and policies to allow us to reach a variety of efficiency goals including, but not limited to, weatherization of more than 80,000 homes within the next five years?

ANSWER

I don’t need to tell you that as our planet warms, Vermont will suffer. Our snowfall will become erratic, sugaring seasons inconsistent, and it will be harder to stem the spread of algae as the average temperature of our lakes rise. We must do our part to combat climate change.

I also don’t need to tell you that our economy is hurting. Bennington county has seen a 50% increase in the number of people in poverty, and 10% of kids in North Hero Vermont are homeless. Poverty is rising -- contributing to addiction and depression -- and we are at risk of leaving our kids in a much more difficult situation than we had as children growing up.

That’s why I’m proposing a Green Jobs Initiative. Here’s how it works: using $100 million of bonded capital, we put people to to work across Vermont making multi-unit residential buildings more energy efficient. These buildings are in relative disrepair -- but because utility costs usually get passed on to tenants, there is little motivation to improve them. (Until now.) Once the buildings become more efficient, tenants will see a large savings in their utility bills. Part of this savings will be diverted to paying down the bonds -- it’s that simple. And it’s worth reiterating -- there is no need to use the general fund to pay for it.

The Green Jobs Initiative will be a win for tenants who will have more cash in their pockets; win for landlords whose property values will go up; win for our economy as we create jobs across Vermont; and just as importantly, a win for our planet.

This isn't some pie-in-the-sky plan. Vermont's own VEIC is a world leader in proving that efficiency projects like this are both good for the environment, and the economy. And when I was working for Google out of an office in White River Junction, I was part of a team that set up a similar program in New York City. I say, now it’s Vermont’s turn.

Strategic Planning

Context: The executive and legislative branches of government have not benefited from any formal, data-driven strategic planning since the Snelling Administration. As a result, initiatives from both branches are frequently reactive to past events or failures rather than to predictable changes and trends. "We govern over the stern," as is often stated.

Question: Would you support a cost-efficient State Strategic Planning resource comprised of volunteer non-partisan professionals: economists, demographers, technologists, environmental scientists and other experts to provide context and data to support improved decision-making in both branches of government?

ANSWER

Yes.

Question: Where do you stand on a four-year leadership term for both branches and an extended budget planning cycle with an eye towards supporting a more strategic and less reactive approach to governing and the making of law?

ANSWER

Yes, I support a four-year term for both branches.

Bruce Lisman: www.lismanforvermont.com

 The Vermont State Budget:

1. Context: Joint Fiscal Office data from fiscal 2011 through 2016 shows state spending from state funds (general, transportation, special, tobacco, health care, and fish and wildlife) grew at near 5 percent annually, from $1.87 billion to $2.39 billion. This annual growth rate far exceeds those of Vermont’s Gross State Product (1.8 percent), population growth (6/10ths of one percent) and the Consumer Price Index (1.55 percent), for example, for the time frame. Further, state spending in the 2017 “as passed” budget is up 3 percent or $71.4 million pre-budget adjustment. For fiscal 2016, the budget adjustment increased spending by $25.8 million over the “as passed” budget. These gaps between state spending and the underlying economy have been closed with numerous tax and fee increases during the above time period.

Question: In just six months should you win election you must submit to the legislature a fiscal 2017 Budget Adjustment and fiscal 2018 Budget. To balance these budgets, do you expect your submissions will require net new revenues and if so, in what programmatic areas? If new revenues are necessary, to what revenue sources would you likely turn? Further, given the bottom of the last recession was seven years ago, do you believe Vermont is fiscally positioned to weather the next recession without major cutbacks in state programs and/or tax increases?

LISMAN ANSWER: Our state budget should not be approached as a spending list, rather a strategic plan for how we can best deliver the critical services Vermonters need. From our kids' education, to public health and safety, government is a key partner in many of our most important social contracts.

Vermonters have a generous spirit, and their hard-earned tax dollars are paid to the state with the expectation that they will be used wisely. But despite the best efforts of our dedicated state workers, good intentions are often frustrated by an outmoded and inefficient bureaucracy that wastes resources. Politicians keep making the same mistake year after year. They spend more than they take in, then scramble to raise revenues to balance the books.

As governor, I will build a strategic budget grounded in thorough, realistic analysis. I believe our government can become more efficient while improving the standard of service. It won’t be easy. It will take hard work and perseverance, but I am optimistic that it can be done. Here are the steps that I would take to put Vermont on the path to a sustainable budget.

The first thing I will do is lay out for the public the $700 million in increased spending that has occurred over the past six (6) years that has required increases in taxes, fees and surcharges.

Here is my budget plan:

1. Hold spending increases to 2% per year for the next three years

2. Require agency and department heads to collaborate across state government to deliver 1.5% in additional efficiencies

3. Move from Vermont Health Connect to the federal exchange (currently costing us $56 million)

4. End the practice of tapping reserves and relying on one-time funds

5. Conduct an audit of the Medicaid program

6. Require full compliance with best practices for issuing state contracts, ending the practice of sole sourcing which is inexcusable.

7. And I will create a culture of hard work and accountability, this will take time but it will provide greater transparency and accountability across state government to re-establish the sadly broken bond between the public sector and private sector.

A strong economy is the foundation for building a more prosperous Vermont and improving our overall quality of life. We must start by addressing state spending.

2. Context: No organization is perfectly efficient including our state government.

Question: Using fiscal 2016 as a baseline inclusive of the $2.39 billion in state dollar spending, the $1.25 billion in net education fund spending and the $1.99 billion in federal fund spending, what do you think is a reasonable financial goal for achieving savings in the state budget which can then be reallocated either to maintain or increase services or returned to taxpayers? In which specific areas of state government do you think the greatest opportunities exist for such savings?

LISMAN ANSWER: Good intentions will not produce good outcomes without a competent administration that follows through with persistence and determination. Vermonters deserve a government that works for them. I will work hard to produce an honest budget that delivers quality programs, reduces spending growth, and avoids irresponsible shortcuts like tapping reserves and using one-time funds.

The first thing I will do is secure patient’s personal files related to the dysfunctional operation of the health exchange (Vermont Health Connect), then I will shut down Vermont Health Connect which will yield approximately $50 million in savings, and transition to the federal exchange to fulfill the ACA’s requirement of offering health insurance through an exchange to our citizens.

In my experience in leading others, I believe requiring agency and department heads to collaborate across state government will deliver at least 1.5% in efficiencies.

For years, I have been an outspoken advocate for greater transparency and accountability within our state government. In response to my public calls for accountability, the Governor created the role of Chief of Performance Officer within the Department of Finance. My administration will ensure that this function is allocated the necessary resources in order to publicly disclose all the information it produces about where and how well taxpayer money is spent. Only then will we have a government that is truly accountable to the people and on a path to results-based budgeting.

No other candidate has called for a full audit of Medicaid except for me. Conducting an audit of this program goes hand-in-hand with providing an accountable government. Other states have conducted audits of their Medicaid programs resulting in millions of dollars of savings. We will ensure access to quality care to offer more affordable health insurance choices and options.

My Administration will also require full compliance with best practices for issuing state contracts, ending the inexcusable practice of sole sourcing which is currently taking place.

3.Context: As of June 30, 2015 the unfunded actuarial accrued liabilities of the state employeepension fund, the state employees’ retirement benefit fund, the teachers’ retirement pensionfund and the teachers’ post-retirement benefit fund were $542.6 million, $1.093 billion,$1.175 billion and $1.003 billion respectively. As of June 30, 2010 the funding ratios for thestate employees and teachers’ pension funds were 81.2 percent and 66.5 percent respectively,falling to 75.1 percent and 58.6 percent respectively as of June 30, 2015.

Question: What ideas do you currently hold to reverse these declining financial trends in the state employees’ and teachers’ retirement and benefit funds?

LISMAN ANSWER: Part of the reason that pension funds everywhere are falling behind their actuarial assumptions, is that investment returns have declined. Yields on highly rated bonds, which are a cornerstone of pension portfolios, have been cut in half over the past five years.

In order to compensate for declining investment returns, pensions would need to increase current contributions. However, in Vermont, we have increased spending across the state budget so dramatically, that there is no money left to top up pension contributions.

The first thing I would do is to ask the Vermont Pension Board to review its actuarial assumptions and ensure that they are in line with the reality of today’s investment climate. The second thing I would do is bring state spending under control so that we could make appropriate contributions to our pension plans. And finally, I would suggest that future contract negotiations reflect a more realistic assumption of what likely future investment gains will be.

Act 46 and Property Taxes

1. Context: In January of this year the legislature’s education consultant delivered their report entitled Using the Evidence-Based Method to Identify Adequate Spending Levels for Vermont Schools. The Report cost close to $300,000. The consultant concluded the following:

“Using data for school year 2014-15, the Vermont EB model estimates an adequate funding level of $1.56 billion or some $163.9 million (approximately 10%) less than Vermont school districts spent for PK-12 education that year.”

Since 2011, education property taxes, net of income sensitivity, have risen by $121 million to $1.039 billion despite a decline in the student count of 3,791.

Question: Do you think Act 46 is the policy and legislative initiative that will finally provide real property tax relief? If not, what further proposals might you present to the legislature upon your inauguration?

LISMAN ANSWER: No, there is no evidence that Act 46 will result in real property tax relief or produce better outcomes for our students. 5

While school mergers might be the right choice for some communities, it should not be mandated for all communities.

I am the only candidate who has called for the repeal of Act 46 because it eliminates local control, puts at risk school choice, does not address quality of education, and further confuses the link between the vote a resident takes and the consequence it will have on his or her property taxes.

My proposal will replace Act 46 with a system that restores transparency, reduces overall spending growth, focuses money in the classroom where it belongs, protects school choice, and gives districts greater control over their own budgets and property taxes. My plan will ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to access and education that would allow them to meet state proficiency standards, will provide adequate funds for that purpose and provide schools with measurable benchmarks.

Here are the steps we should take:

1. Reduce administrative and central office redundancies.

2. Reform special education spending.

3. Reduce health care costs.

4. Bring transparency to the budget process.

5. Make the education finance system more transparent, and simplify the tax calculation.

6. Set a realistic five-year goal for cost containment and give local districts the freedom to choice how they will meet those targets.

We can’t afford to leave the future of our student’s education in the hands of lawmakers who do not do their homework. I will return power to our local communities.

2. Context: The Education Fund was created as part of Act 60 in 1997. Yet, despite the fact that school districts, not the state, negotiate and sign teachers’ contracts which then drive the cost of pension benefits, it is the general fund and not the education fund which covers teachers’ pension benefit costs. In 2012 the general fund contribution was $51.7 million, then rising at a 14.2 percent annually rate to $101 million 2017. As a point of comparison, the entire 2017 general fund contribution to higher education is $84 million, inclusive of a mere $700 thousand increase over fiscal 2016.

Question: In order to align the teachers’ retirement and benefit costs with those who actually negotiate and determine such benefits, could you support transferring the state’s current general fund pension and benefit contributions to the Education Fund and as well transfer to the Education Fund the responsibility for covering future costs in this area? 6

LISMAN ANSWER: I believe that it is important to connect spending decisions with those who will pay the bill. So it does make sense to incorporate teachers’ retirement benefits into contract negotiations with the school districts. This way, voters and their representatives on the school boards will see the cost of pension benefits and negotiate appropriately.

I would go further. In order to have proper transparency and accountability to voters, contract negotiations should be conducted in the open, and voters should not be asked to vote on a school budget before being informed of any tentative agreement or proposals under consideration.

While these measures should make future pension obligations more transparent and fair, we cannot transfer the current unfunded pension liabilities from the general fund to the education fund. Those existing liabilities will need to remain in the General Fund and be sorted out along with the State Employees Retirement fund deficits.

3. Context: Many believed, including legislators voting favorably, that the Act 46 initiatives to consolidate school districts would allow choice districts to merge with their neighbors and still retain choice for their students. Subsequent to the passage of the law, the State Board of Education, relying on an untested legal opinion of their attorney that such mergers are not constitutional, has adopted the policy that choice districts cannot merge with operating districts when common grade levels are in play unless the choice option is abandoned. In the last session, the legislature refused to allow an amendment to Act 46 to clarify this matter though other lawyers have opined that the Board’s attorney’s opinion stands on weak legal ground.

Question: Should school choice districts be able to merge with operating districts and still retain choice? Will you support a change to the State Board of Education policy now inhibiting this?

LISMAN ANSWER: Yes, school choice districts should be able to merge with operating districts and still retain choice. Yes, I will change the State Board of Education policy that now inhibits choice.

Health Care

1. Context: The transitions in Vermont under Obama Care and Act 48 have been marked by massive cost overruns, failed technology projects, no-bid contracts and mismanaged eligibility determinations, to name a few of the pitfalls. Yet, Vermont has achieved near 97 percent insured coverage during this period, up from 93 percent pre-Obama Care and Act 48 and among the best in the nation. Some Vermonters say stay the course to 100% universal coverage as a top priority with the focus on the Green Mountain Care Board, the establishment of large Accountable Care Organizations and an All-payer funding system. Others say Vermont needs to first fix the operational flaws in the current system before venturing further into the uncharted waters of the further roll-out of Act 48.

Question: What is your view of this duality and where can Vermonters expect your focus to be with regard to health care reform during your first year as Governor?

LISMAN ANSWER: Governor Shumlin’s health care and health insurance experiments will come to an end under a Lisman Administration. Everyone agrees that in a perfect world, our health care system would be efficient, innovative and provide high quality care at a reasonable cost

Under Shumlin, Vermont raised the percentage of those with medical insurance up by a few percentage points, but did so at an enormous and unsustainable cost. It didn’t have to be that way. We could have covered more people without wasting three (3) years debating a single-payer scheme that was never going to work.

We could have expanded Medicaid coverage without abdicating our responsibility for oversight – who in their right mind would throw open the window for Medicaid expansion without bothering to check eligibility, without having a plan to pay for it, and without any sort of audit to know if they had done a good job?

Rather than being humbled by its failures, the Shumlin Administration is pushing forward on a new scheme to redesign Vermont’s health care system. Behind closed doors, the Governor is pushing us towards an “all-payer” model.

This is a complex topic, but my plan is simple:

1. Secure patient’s personal files.

2. Shut down Vermont Health Connect and transition to the federal exchange.

3. Audit Medicaid and cut waste.

4. Stop the move toward single-payer, government-run health care and health insurance.

5. Promote more affordable health insurance options and choices.

6. Enact tort reform to put an end to defensive medicine.

7. Allow Vermonters to buy insurance from licensed insurers in other states.

8. Review the certificate of need (CON) regulations.

I will also slow down the implementation of the “all-payer” model to ensure that patients’ rights are protected. The new ACO that will be regulated by Vermont’s Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB), is an unaccountable body that may or may not be competent to oversee an endeavor of this scale.

You know better than anyone the dangers of rushing into health care reform without careful study.

As Governor, I would take a different course. I would put the interest of consumers first. No administration should make a decision this important without thoroughly understanding the new system and openly explaining it to the public. There are too many questions that still need to be answered.

Health care is a uniquely frustrating topic for so many of us because it has such a big personal impact – both physical, mental, and financial – yet we have so little control over it. Between changes to federal law and the ill-considered experiments of the Shumlin Administration, Vermonters have been subjected to confusing and chaotic disruptions in their health care – it must stop.

I will lead Vermont in a new and better direction. My policies encourage transparency, competition and fairness. Empowering consumers and lifting the veil on pricing will help control health care expenses, and bring the price of insurance back in line with underlying costs.

2. Context: Vermont is an aging population, second oldest in the nation. Many Vermonters and their employers have contributed tens of thousands in Medicare taxes to the Medicare system since the inception of the Medicare tax in 1966. Generally, those now eligible for Medicare are happy with it.

Question: Do you support redirecting the Medicare benefits of Vermont’s seniors into the proposed all-payer system and if so, how does this benefit Vermont’s seniors over the services they now enjoy?

LISMAN ANSWER: No, as I stated in the previous answer, Governor Shumlin’s health care and health insurance experiments will come to an end under a Lisman Administration.

I will do everything in my power to slow the implementation of the “all-payer” model which will authorize the establishment of a single Accountable Care Organization (ACO) which amounts to a near-monopoly. The ACO will be paid a fixed amount per patient under its care and given a set of health outcomes to achieve for the population. The ACO will then have the discretion to provide whatever care it deems suitable, it will be regulated by the Green Mountain Care Board (GMCB), an unaccountable body that may or may not be competent to oversee an endeavor of this magnitude.

Vermonters know better than anyone the dangers of rushing into health care reform without careful study. As Governor, I would take a different course. I would put the interest of consumers first. No administration should make a decision this important without thoroughly understanding the new system and openly explaining it to the public.

There are too many questions that need to be answered, including the following:

 What is the Green Mountain Care Board’s role in the all payer waiver deal?

 Do they have the capability to manage disbursements and evaluate quality of care and outcomes?

 Is the GMCB a reliable partner? The State of Vermont has not been very dependable, particularly when it comes to health care.

 Why isn’t the ACO simply dealing directly with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services?

 How would populations be assigned?

 How would people in an assigned population access health care when they are out of state? Who would pay?

 What happens if private insurers or ERISA plans don’t want their patients in a capitated ACO environment? Will their patients still be able to access the ACO doctors and facilities on a fee for service basis?

 Who determines reimbursement rates? How transparent will that pricing be?

 Can Medicare patients be assured that their care will be unchanged? Will they be able to see the same doctors and access the same level of care that they do now?

 An ACO seems to work a lot like an HMO in that patients would be locked into a defined provider network and access to care would be rationed. We are told that ACOs would be held to quality standards in terms of patient outcomes. How are those measures defined? Who creates the definitions? Who monitors the ACOs compliance to those standards? What happens if the ACO does not meet those standards? What recourse does a patient have if she feels her care was substandard?

What happens if hospitals underestimate the cost of care that they need to provide and end up in deficit? Who pays that cost?

Will there be an internal audit function to monitor financial performance and compliance?

How do all of our community health partners, like VNA and SASH, fit into the new system?

These are just some of the important questions that have not been publicly addressed or answered. Vermonters deserve better. I won’t put Vermonters through another disruptive health care reform experiment. We should certainly aspire to a more affordable and rational health care system – which may include some form of ACO. But we should not rush into wholesale changes without making sure we do it properly, and without including Vermonters in the conversation.

As Governor, I will work to build a more affordable and resilient system by engaging both patients, designated agencies, and providers, especially our world class health center at UVM. I think we can make progress by taking steps to reduce regulation, promote transparency and encourage competition so consumers have better and more affordable access to the care they need.

Context: Under the State’s push for health care reform, Vermont’s health care system is becoming more concentrated with fewer but larger and more powerful players. Health care providers are being steered into a couple of “accountable care organizations” under the roofs of UVM Medical and Dartmouth Hitchcock. The Green Mountain Care Board has been established to regulate hospital budgets and approve rate increases. VtDigger reports in May 2016 that Vermont’s two exchange health insurers, BC/BS and MVP, have requested approval from the Green Mountain Care Board for 8.2 and 8.8 percent rate increases respectively. These requests are on top of approved increases for 2015 and 2016 of 7.7 and 5.9 percent for BC/BS and 10.9 and 2.4 percent for MVP.

Question: Should Vermonters worry that the State’s reform measures are creating concentrated relationships among a handful of large institutions that are becoming “too big to fail”, which will ultimately place the financial interests of these institutions over health care affordability and service choices for Vermonters?

LISMAN ANSWER: Yes, I am very concerned that our health care system is becoming too concentrated. It is moving towards a state-sanctioned monopoly that will be bad for patients. Just recently, VTDigger.org reported that under the new structure, hospital profits have been growing and their administrative salaries continue to rise as patients suffer under higher insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

The move towards the “all-payer” model must be slowed so that we understand what it means for patients. And if strong patient rights cannot be guaranteed under that system, then we must not move forward with it.

I am the only candidate who has vowed to stand up for Vermonters in defense of their health care rights. I am the only one who has said he will slow the move to all-payer, and the only one who has consistently form day one opposed the idea of single payer.

Under a Lisman Administration, the move towards greater concentration and state control of health care will stop. We will:

 Repair the private insurance marketplace and restore Vermonters freedom to choose, including the ability to purchase insurance from licensed insurers in other states.

 Promote greater choices to affordable health insurance so that consumers get the coverage and actuarial value that they want at a price that is fair.

 Advocate for the elimination of unreasonable legal and regulatory restraints and invite insurers from other State’s to serve Vermont’s market to offer more affordable choices and options.

 Advocate for the enactment of tort reform to drive down costs associated with defensive medicine. We need a law that provides a safe harbor for physicians who practice defined evidence-based medicine while ensuring that patients who are harmed are adequately compensated.

 Review the certificate of need regulations that assumes the Vermont’s health care system is closed to the outside world. If we had greater capacity than what is immediately demanded by our own populations, we might be able to attract consumers from outside our borders – particularly Canada where long waiting lines for elective procedures and diagnostic imaging are common.

Ethics in State Government

Context: The ethics bill, S.184, as originally introduced by Senator Pollina and prompted by Campaign for Vermont had teeth. It created a code of ethics for legislators and executive branch officials and created a fully staffed ethics commission to investigate and adjudicate violations of this code. The bill had strong support and no opposition. However, S.184 as passed out of the Senate Government Operations Committee is what Senator Pollina himself described as “a shadow of its former self.” In the end, after two years of deliberations, S.184 went nowhere.

Yet, during this biennium period, issues of sexual misconduct, unseemly real estate agreements, campaign contributions from EB-5 developers, no-bid contracts by the executive branch, and revolving door employment between government and private entities, among others, occurred.

During deliberations on S.184, the following aspects were considered:

 Should governors and legislators be required to publicly disclose sources of income and other financial interests?

 Should legislators and executive branch employees be prohibited for a transitioning time period from accepting private sector employment with businesses they regulated?

 Should Vermont establish an ethics commission, independent of both the executive and legislative branches, to investigate allegations of ethical misconduct?

Question: As Governor, what would your position be on these aspects of S.184 profiled above?

LISMAN ANSWER: Yes, it is absolutely shameful that Vermont is only one of three states that still does not have ethics standards. Although I am proud that this has become mainstream conversation within the halls of government since Campaign for Vermont started promoting the issue back in 2012. However, talking about it simply isn’t good enough, that is why I voluntarily released my personal financial information, last December, to include my interests in companies, boards, and charitable organizations, as part of my pledge to be transparent with Vermont voters. It was a comprehensive and thorough disclosure and I called on all other candidates to do the same; they have not.

As Governor, I will work hard to enact comprehensive ethics standards governing elected officials at the state level. Vermont is one of only three states without such laws.

I will work hard to promote the enactment of Ethics Standards that:

 Provides clarity on conflicts of interest.

Establishes an independent ethics commission to provide guidance and enforcement.

A two-year revolving door policy.

Requires financial disclosure of statewide office holders and candidates for those offices.

Together, we can create a more accountable, transparent, and ethical government that truly serves the public. Vermonters are ready for a new direction. I am ready to lead Vermont in a new and better direction.

Energy Policy:

1. Context: The most recent federal Energy Information Administration profile of Vermont’s energy consumption (June 16, 2016) shows that Vermont has the lowest consumption of petroleum fuels among the 50 states at 15.9 million barrels, equaling 2/10ths of one percent of the nation’s total. Of this total, 21.5 percent is consumed by the residential sector for heating and 58.3 percent for transportation purposes. Of total national carbon dioxide emissions, Vermont is the source of only 1/10th of one percent. In 2013, Vermont’s per capita emission of carbon dioxide was third lowest in the nation and trending even lower.

Question: Does our state government’s emphasis on the construction of large wind and solar projects make practical sense, especially when the Renewable Energy Credits for such projects are mostly sold? In your administration, what will be the three key energy policy goals and what changes, if any, would you recommend to the Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP) to address those goals?

LISMAN ANSWER: No, Vermont’s energy plan does not make sense. Vermont’s energy plan should (1) prioritize the health of our economy while protecting our environment and citizens, (2) it should be transparent and responsive to concerns of local communities, and (3) should be flexible enough to allow us to adapt to future technological advances and changes in the energy landscape.

The Comprehensive Energy Plan, crafted by the Shumlin Administration, is a political document that was marketed to the public as a nation-leading initiative to save the climate, with a target of 90% renewables by 2050.

My Administration will base our plan on thorough analysis, while recognizing that we are often subject to forces beyond our control. Vermont’s small size means we can’t impose our will on energy markets or the climate, but it does make us able to benefit from agility and flexibility should we chose to capitalize on new opportunities. We will approach state energy policy with the goal of making Vermont more economically prosperous for all Vermonters while protecting the environment.

2. Question: Do you agree neighbors of industrial wind projects in Vermont have legitimate grievances regarding turbine noise, aesthetic and environmental impacts, and loss of peaceful use and enjoyment of their properties? If so, what would you do to ensure their property rights are protected?

LISMAN ANSWER: Yes, the voice of local community’s matter. Vermont’s pristine environmental beauty is threatened by the rapid development of large industrial size wind and solar projects.

In October of 2015, I called for a two-year moratorium on the development of these industrial projects so we can: balance the value of renewables with the rights of local people to control the future of their communities, tell Vermonters what the cost will be to meet well-intended long-terms goals, and to be honest about the impact we’ll have on climate change and Vermont’s environment.

3. Question: How will you insure that the benefits of Vermont’s energy transformation policy flow to ordinary Vermonters and their communities and are not disproportionately captured by developers and utilities? What measures would you recommend that give the distribution of these benefits transparency in the eyes of Vermonters? Should taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies, for example, that subsidize energy projects become a component of the state’s Tax Expenditure Report similar to those profiled for the Vermont Economic Growth Incentive (VEGI) program?

LISMAN ANSWER: My Administration will insist on greater transparency and accountability at the Department of Public Service, and return focus on the best interest of consumers. The Shumlin Administration’s approach has been too political, and has benefited energy developers at the expense of local communities. We need an oversight body that is fully accountable to the public, and will give voice to Vermonters’ priorities. The organization will be staffed by experts who are free from conflicts of interest and will prioritize consumer affordability and reliability.

There should be complete transparency to taxpayers and ratepayers on both the cost of energy subsidies as well as who the beneficiaries are.

First, energy utility bills should be more transparent, so that ratepayers can easily see the costs of the state’s energy policy and programs, so renewable subsidies and Efficiency Vermont charges will be displayed in a clear and simple format.

Secondly, both the renewable subsidies and Efficiency Vermont charges should be calculated reported in aggregate by the state government so that taxpayers and ratepayers can see the results of those programs – who benefited and how much was spent.

4. Context: The CEP establishes a goal of weatherizing 80,000 of the state’s homes by 2020. This particular goal looks increasingly out of reach. In fact, the primary focus of Efficiency Vermont is electric consumption rather than reductions in fossil fuel consumption. Vermont’s weatherization programs are not strong and broadly available, but buried in the Agency of Human Service and require an income test. Further, we lack statewide on-bill financing for energy efficiency and we are not using existing smart meter systems to their fullest extent to aggressively advance efficiency and conservation.

Question: What will you do to prioritize reduced fossil fuel consumption and change current delivery mechanisms, financing systems, and policies to allow us to reach a variety of efficiency goals including, but not limited to, weatherization of more than 80,000 homes within the next five years?

LISMAN ANSWER: We should take full advantage of the Hydro-Quebec (HQ) resource. We are fortunate to have access to a competitively-priced, green power source in HQ. Let’s contract for as much power as possible to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

Supporting the New England Clean Power Link will bring 1,000 MW of clean competitively-priced energy from Canada into the New England grid. Not only will it help ease energy cost pressures in New England, and reduce our regions greenhouse gas footprint, it will also bring an estimated $900 million in tax and lease payments to Vermont over 40 years. It is a sensible way to make our energy portfolio greener and more affordable without impacting our landscape. While most of the energy will continue on to other New England states, we must ensure that Vermont is able to draw on that resource and further diversify its energy portfolio.

A Lisman Administration will freeze utility surcharges for Efficiency Vermont (EEU). The budget for the EEU has increased by 65% since Shumlin took office. While efficiency improvements are a powerful tool for restraining energy consumption, we must control consumer costs, and take an objective look at whether or not the current efficiency delivery model is operating as effectively as it could.

Strategic Planning

Context: The executive and legislative branches of government have not benefited from any formal, data-driven strategic planning since the Snelling Administration. As a result, initiatives from both branches are frequently reactive to past events or failures rather than to predictable changes and trends. "We govern over the stern," as is often stated.

1. Question: Would you support a cost-efficient State Strategic Planning resource comprised of volunteer non-partisan professionals: economists, demographers, technologists, environmental scientists and other experts to provide context and data to support improved decision-making in both branches of government?

LISMAN ANSWER: Yes, Vermonters deserve a government that considers issues thoughtfully, by identifying and studying the consequences of proposed solutions before jumping into action. They cannot afford expensive mistakes like the poorly designed health care exchange or the shoddily conceived education reform law, Act 46.

We can do better and Vermonters deserve better. As Governor, I will bring accountability and transparency to state government.

2. Question: Where do you stand on a four-year leadership term for both branches and an extended budget planning cycle with an eye towards supporting a more strategic and less reactive approach to governing and the making of law?

LISMAN ANSWER: Most state governments run on a four-year electoral cycle, presumably because it allows for more stability and strategic planning. Having said that, Vermont is a tiny state and under the energetic leadership of a well-prepared governor, change can happen in a much shorter window of time. I would leave it to the people of Vermont to decide on what length of term for public office they think is appropriate.

Phil Scott: www.philscott.org

The Vermont State Budget:

1. Context: Joint Fiscal Office data from fiscal 2011 through 2016 shows state spending from state funds (general, transportation, special, tobacco, health care, and fish and wildlife) grew at near 5 percent annually, from $1.87 billion to $2.39 billion. This annual growth rate far exceeds those of Vermont’s Gross State Product (1.8 percent), population growth (6/10ths of one percent) and the Consumer Price Index (1.55 percent), for example, for the time frame. Further, state spending in the 2017 “as passed” budget is up 3 percent or $71.4 million pre-budget adjustment. For fiscal 2016, the budget adjustment increased spending by $25.8 million over the “as passed” budget. These gaps between state spending and the underlying economy have been closed with numerous tax and fee increases during the above time period.

Question: In just six months should you win election you must submit to the legislature a fiscal 2017 Budget Adjustment and fiscal 2018 Budget. To balance these budgets, do you expect your submissions will require net new revenues and if so, in what programmatic areas? If new revenues are necessary, to what revenue sources would you likely turn? Further, given the bottom of the last recession was seven years ago, do you believe Vermont is fiscally positioned to weather the next recession without major cutbacks in state programs and/or tax increases?

Answer: Budgets are about setting priorities. As Governor, my priority will be to help Vermonters get ahead and keep more of what they earn. I talk with many folks who are at a breaking point; they simply cannot afford to live in Vermont and provide their children with an equal or better quality of life then they grew up with.

Most Vermonters I speak with have no capacity to pay higher taxes. Marginal income taxes and property taxes are near the highest in the nation. Retailers in eastern Vermont already suffer because they have to compete with no-tax New Hampshire. State fees jumped again in 2016. Candidates who believe “new revenues are necessary” are out-of-touch with the challenges facing working families in Vermont.

A disciplined approach to budgeting has been missing in Montpelier since 2011, the year one party took control of the House, Senate, and Executive branch. As Governor, I will restore balance and common sense to our State finances. I will never propose – and I will never sign – an annual state budget that grows more than the economy or inflation-adjusted wages did in the prior year.

2. Context: No organization is perfectly efficient including our state government.

Question: Using fiscal 2016 as a baseline inclusive of the $2.39 billion in state dollar spending, the $1.25 billion in net education fund spending and the $1.99 billion in federal fund spending, what do you think is a reasonable financial goal for achieving savings in the state budget which can then be reallocated either to maintain or increase services or returned to taxpayers? In which specific areas of state government do you think the greatest opportunities exist for such savings?

Answer: Allowing the State budget to outpace Vermonters’ ability to pay is what started the crisis of affordability. Holding budget growth to less than the rate of growth in the economy and wages in the previous year is the right strategy for ensuring state government stays within taxpayers’ ability to pay. This is my central, guiding budgetary principle so I want to be clear: A Phil Scott administration will never propose – and I will never sign – an annual state budget that grows more than the economy or inflation-adjusted wages did in the prior year. For example, if the economy only grows at 1 percent this year, growth in the budget I propose for the next fiscal year will be limited to no more than 1 percent. If the economy and wages are flat, then the following year’s budget will be level-funded or reduced. If the economy contracts, state government will have to find more efficiencies and further reduce costs and spending. Other candidates have suggested we should limit state budget growth to 2 percent each year, or have no limits at all. An arbitrary 2 percent limit is an inadequate solution for years when economic growth and inflation-adjusted wage growth do not reach 2 percent. The unfortunate reality is that those years have been very common.

In addition, at its core, state government is trying to manage 21st century challenges using 20th century tools. It’s like trying to send emails with your old flip phone -- it’s profoundly inefficient. Vermont desperately needs an upgrade. As Governor, I have a plan to modernize state government starting on Day One of my term when I will create a Government Modernization and Efficiency Team (GMET) to:

 Empower a team of experts to implement agency efficiency audits, strengthen data-driven planning, and implement a digital government strategy focused on our citizens, and issue recommendations with the first 100 days to improve operations;

 Implement proven IT project management to restore faith in the State’s ability to manage projects that are critical to the State’s transition to a digital organization; and

 Establish annual innovation savings targets that will spur creativity and focus every agency and department to set priorities between the vast web of competing government initiatives. Trimming one cent for every dollar we currently spend could generate as much as $55 million in savings.

3. Context: As of June 30, 2015 the unfunded actuarial accrued liabilities of the state employee pension fund, the state employees’ retirement benefit fund, the teachers’ retirement pension fund and the teachers’ post retirement benefit fund were $542.6 million, $1.093 billion, $1.175 billion and $1.003 billion respectively. As of June 30, 2010 the funding ratios for the state employees and teachers’ pension funds were 81.2 percent and 66.5 percent respectively, falling to 75.1 percent and 58.6 percent respectively as of June 30, 2015.

Question: What ideas do you currently hold to reverse these declining financial trends in the state employees’ and teachers’ retirement and benefit funds?

Answer: Like most Vermonters, I believe that providing a reasonable retirement plan to public servants is part of being a good employer. However, the State is facing the same challenge as many other public employers: defined benefits plans, established decades ago, have been chronically underfunded by legislatures and previous administrations and have also failed to evolve with changing market conditions.

The most immediate and meaningful step to curb the State’s growing liability is to offer new State employees and teachers a defined contribution plan (similar to a 401k). In a defined contribution plan, the State matches employee contributions up to a certain amount, which will help to limit the State’s liability over time and provide the employee with tax-preferred retirement fund.

For existing State employees and teachers, the State must honor the agreements it has already made. I do not think it is fair to ask employees to renegotiate the terms of employment agreements that were made years ago.

Finally, in recent years, poor returns and high fees have contributed to the unfunded liability. The State retirement system should look closely at how it invests its funds. Many public pensions are moving away from high-cost fund management, where so called Wall Street experts promise unattainable returns and charge exorbitant fees, to more stable, lower-cost index funds.

Act 46 and Property Taxes

1. Context: In January of this year the legislature’s education consultant delivered their report entitled Using the Evidence-Based Method to Identify Adequate Spending Levels for Vermont Schools. The Report cost close to $300,000. The consultant concluded the following:

“Using data for school year 2014-15, the Vermont EB model estimates an adequate funding level of $1.56 billion or some $163.9 million (approximately 10%) less than Vermont school districts spent for PK-12 education that year.”

Since 2011, education property taxes, net of income sensitivity, have risen by $121 million to $1.039 billion despite a decline in the student count of 3,791.

Question: Do you think Act 46 is the policy and legislative initiative that will finally provide real property tax relief? If not, what further proposals might you present to the legislature upon your inauguration?

Answer: Creating real education reform and providing meaningful property tax relief will require a dramatic rethinking of our education system in Vermont. Nearly two decades of trying to fix the failed experiment known as Act 60 has created a complex knot of laws and regulation that will need more than a single piece of legislation to unwind.

Vermonters have been begging for property tax release for nearly two decades dating back to Act 60, but the legislature has failed to make real progress. Act 46, however, could prove to be the beginning of an incredibly important discussion. While it is far from perfect, we are seeing local communities having the tough conversations about how to lower costs AND increase quality. Their conclusions, in many cases, is that we must reduce overhead and operating costs so that we can afford to provide our children the educational experiences they need to succeed in the 21st Century. It is important to note that these discussions -- and these decisions -- are occuring at the local level.

As I note further below, Act 46 can be improved. The law created an opportunity for positive change, but is falling far short of the real cost containment solution that Vermonters are demanding. As Governor, I will propose letting communities keep what they save from mergers, and other efficiencies, returning the savings to local taxpayers or local schools – whichever their voters choose – instead of sending it back to Montpelier. This will provide additional incentive for meaningful reforms to lower costs and improve quality.

2. Context: The Education Fund was created as part of Act 60 in 1997. Yet, despite the fact that school districts, not the state, negotiate and sign teachers’ contracts which then drive the cost of pension benefits, it is the general fund and not the education fund which covers teachers’ pension benefit costs. In 2012 the general fund contribution was $51.7 million, then rising at a 14.2 percent annually rate to $101 million 2017. As a point of comparison, the entire 2017 general fund contribution to higher education is $84 million, inclusive of a mere $700 thousand increase over fiscal 2016.

Question: In order to align the teachers’ retirement and benefit costs with those who actually negotiate and determine such benefits, could you support transferring the state’s current general fund pension and benefit contributions to the Education Fund and as well transfer to the Education Fund the responsibility for covering future costs in this area?

Answer: In a perfect world, the cost of teachers’ retirement would be connected directly to teachers’ contracts, which drive retirement cost. As it stands, teachers’ retirement is squeezing important general fund programs (Medicaid, health care, public safety) without a tool to curb its growth.

A practical approach would be to phase teachers’ retirement costs to the education fund in concert with a series of pension reforms to curb unfunded liabilities. That said, this cannot be accomplished overnight without significant reform to state employee and teacher pensions, and a Legislature committed to returning general fund money to taxpayers in the form of lower taxes. The nightmare scenario is that we simply push an unfunded pension monster onto the property tax and allow the Legislature to spend the unallocated funds -- that’s exactly the wrong approach and the type of policy that has created Vermont’s growing crisis of affordability.

3. Context: Many believed, including legislators voting favorably, that the Act 46 initiatives to consolidate school districts would allow choice districts to merge with their neighbors and still retain choice for their students. Subsequent to the passage of the law, the State Board of Education, relying on an untested legal opinion of their attorney that such mergers are not constitutional, has adopted the policy that choice districts cannot merge with operating districts when common grade levels are in play unless the choice option is abandoned. In the last session, the legislature refused to allow an amendment to Act 46 to clarify this matter though other lawyers have opined that the Board’s attorney’s opinion stands on weak legal ground.

Question: Should school choice districts be able to merge with operating districts and still retain choice? Will you support a change to the State Board of Education policy now inhibiting this?

Answer: Act 46 is imperfect and requires improvement, and is falling far short of the cost containment and property tax solution Vermonters are looking for, but it has created the opportunity to positive change and should be improved, not scrapped. As Governor, I will work with the Legislature to allow districts with school choice to preserve it in the event of a consolidation. I also believe we should find ways to let communities keep what they save from mergers, and other efficiencies, returning the savings to local taxpayers or local schools – whichever their voters choose – instead of sending it back to Montpelier. Finally, on the broader issue of school choice, I believe parents should not be forced to keep their children in a school that is not meeting their child’s needs.

School choice should be afforded to every parent and student in every school in every corner of Vermont. I will vigorously support legislation that would clarify Act 46 and, further, make school choice an option for all Vermont families.

Health Care

1. Context: The transitions in Vermont under Obama Care and Act 48 have been marked by massive cost overruns, failed technology projects, no-bid contracts and mismanaged eligibility determinations, to name a few of the pitfalls. Yet, Vermont has achieved near 97 percent insured coverage during this period, up from 93 percent pre-Obama Care and Act 48 and among the best in the nation. Some Vermonters say stay the course to 100% universal coverage as a top priority with the focus on the Green Mountain Care Board, the establishment of large Accountable Care Organizations and an All-payer funding system. Others say Vermont needs to first fix the operational flaws in the current system before venturing further into the uncharted waters of the further rollout of Act 48.

Question: What is your view of this duality and where can Vermonters expect your focus to be with regard to health care reform during your first year as Governor?

Answer: The first order of business should be to establish an exchange that works and at this juncture, that means transitioning away from Vermont Health Connect.

When I go around the state and talk to everyday Vermonters, they tell me that it’s important to them to have access to high-quality healthcare that is affordable and allows them flexibility to choose their doctors. Beyond that, they do not care what it is called. Therefore, my goals for health care will be to: a) lower the cost of care for those already insured; b) allow Vermonters to get high quality care from the doctor and hospital of their choice; and c) continue to provide the opportunity for more affordable insurance choices to the remaining Vermonters who are unable to purchase coverage under existing plans.

In the last six years, we have made good progress to cover uninsured Vermonters, but it’s come at the expense of working families and businesses who are seeing premiums rise and taxes increase to supplement the growing cost of government-sponsored programs. Middle income Vermonters are getting squeezed and, as Governor, I will work to make sure health care savings are reflected in lower insurance rates, and not simply gobbled up as part of an ever-expanding health care system.

Vermont Health Connect is a failed experiment. We should not be forcing Vermonters into a system that doesn’t work. Vermont must fix the health exchange quickly or find a new platform that works. We cannot keep throwing good money after bad.

Finally, we must continue to strengthen the relationship between doctor and patient to keep Vermonters healthy. Leveraging innovative approaches like CSAs for low-income families, the RiseVT program in St. Albans, transitional care nursing in Bennington, and others, will allow us to improve outcomes and lower the cost of care at the same time.

2. Context: Vermont is an aging population, second oldest in the nation. Many Vermonters and their employers have contributed tens of thousands in Medicare taxes to the Medicare system since the inception of the Medicare tax in 1966. Generally, those now eligible for Medicare are happy with it.

Question: Do you support redirecting the Medicare benefits of Vermont’s seniors into the proposed all-payer system and if so, how does this benefit Vermont’s seniors over the services they now enjoy?

Answer: As Governor, protecting Medicare will be an essential priority and I will collaborate with Governor’s from other states to make sure we do that. The federal government has signaled that they would like 90% of Medicare payments to be tied to value-based metrics by 2018. The All-Payer model intrigues me because it will meet this federal guideline and expand Medicare services, including access to telemedicine, which I think is crucial to bending the cost curve. That being said, I think there are a number of question marks around the All-Payer Model and merits careful study at this point.

3. Context: Under the State’s push for health care reform, Vermont’s health care system is becoming more concentrated with fewer but larger and more powerful players. Health care providers are being steered into a couple of “accountable care organizations” under the roofs of UVM Medical and Dartmouth Hitchcock. The Green Mountain Care Board has been established to regulate hospital budgets and approve rate increases. VtDigger reports in May 2016 that Vermont’s two exchange health insurers, BC/BS and MVP, have requested approval from the Green Mountain Care Board for 8.2 and 8.8 percent rate increases respectively. These requests are on top of approved increases for 2015 and 2016 of 7.7 and 5.9 percent for BC/BS and 10.9 and 2.4 percent for MVP.

Question: Should Vermonters worry that the State’s reform measures are creating concentrated relationships among a handful of large institutions that are becoming “too big to fail”, which will ultimately place the financial interests of these institutions over health care affordability and service choices for Vermonters?

Answer: I am proud of the care that our state’s doctors, nurses, and other health care providers give to Vermonters. From independent providers to our academic medical center, the quality of health care in Vermont is generally strong and getting stronger.

As Governor, I will always fight for the patient first. Vermonters will continue to receive high quality care when we, as a state, keep patients firmly in the center of the health care universe. We can never let our health care institutions become like the Wall Street firms when their greed ignorance threatened to bankrupt our nation.

To their credit, Vermont health care providers have been remained active and engaged even when the current administration’s reform initiatives were cratering. Many of the most promising health care innovations in Vermont have come from hospitals, doctors, and nurses – not from policy zealots inside of State bureaucracies. As Governor, I will help providers foster those health care innovations and support smart investments, while keeping them accountable for providing quality care at a price Vermonters can afford.

Ethics in State Government

Context: The ethics bill, S.184, as originally introduced by Senator Pollina and prompted by Campaign for Vermont had teeth. It created a code of ethics for legislators and executive branch officials and created a fully staffed ethics commission to investigate and adjudicate violations of this code. The bill had strong support and no opposition. However, S.184 as passed out of the Senate Government Operations Committee is what Senator Pollina himself described as “a shadow of its former self.” In the end, after two years of deliberations, S.184 went nowhere.

Yet, during this biennium period, issues of sexual misconduct, unseemly real estate agreements, campaign contributions from EB-5 developers, no-bid contracts by the executive branch, and revolving door employment between government and private entities, among others, occurred.

During deliberations on S.184, the following aspects were considered:

 Should governors and legislators be required to publicly disclose sources of income and other financial interests?

 Should legislators and executive branch employees be prohibited for a transitioning time period from accepting private sector employment with businesses they regulated?

 Should Vermont establish an ethics commission, independent of both the executive and legislative branches, to investigate allegations of ethical misconduct?

Question: As Governor, what would your position be on these aspects of S.184 profiled above?

Answer: As Vermonters, we can be proud that our government has strong transparency and accountability standards for its business practices and has been free of the corruption common in other states. However, our strong record does not excuse us from continued vigilance against unethical conduct.

There is never an excuse for criminal or unethical actions. However, all the laws in the world will not stop some people bent on bad behavior. Could the entire federal system – with its strict laws, extensive regulations, and expansive bureaucracies – stop Wall Street’s mortgage meltdown?

In Vermont, we need to find the right balance between stopping bad behavior and creating a brand new bureaucracy that has marginal value. Full-time, elected state officials and legislative leaders should be subject to a full public financial disclosure. Part-time legislators should have a public disclosure commensurate with their ability to influence laws and regulation. All State employees – elected or hired – should be required to sign Code of Conduct that requires conflict of interest disclosures. State employees should not be allowed to directly lobby or influence the agency or department where they worked for one year. In all cases, we need to stiffen the penalties for violating these regulations.

Energy Policy:

1. Context: The most recent federal Energy Information Administration profile of Vermont’s energy consumption (June 16, 2016) shows that Vermont has the lowest consumption of petroleum fuels among the 50 states at 15.9 million barrels, equaling 2/10ths of one percent of the nation’s total. Of this total, 21.5 percent is consumed by the residential sector for heating and 58.3 percent for transportation purposes. Of total national carbon dioxide emissions, Vermont is the source of only 1/10th of one percent. In 2013, Vermont’s per capita emission of carbon dioxide was third lowest in the nation and trending even lower.

Question: Does our state government’s emphasis on the construction of large wind and solar projects make practical sense, especially when the Renewable Energy Credits for such projects are mostly sold? In your administration, what will be the three key energy policy goals and what changes, if any, would you recommend to the Comprehensive Energy Plan (CEP) to address those goals?

Answer: The energy industry is one of the most dynamic sectors in the world today. We are rapidly moving from a “hub and spoke” model of centralized energy generation dependent on fossil fuels to a network approach of local renewable generation with local consumption. It can be like the difference between early landline and mainframe computing and our modern wireless and smartphone-enabled world. These developments can have tremendous economic benefits if they are consumer and market-driven.

Vermont is a national leader with its efforts to lead the transition away from dependence on foreign oil and other fossil fuels, but we still generate less of our own energy than any other state. Given the instability in the world today, energy self-sufficiency is an important goal. As Governor, I will continue to support Vermont’s vigorous renewable goals, but will ensure that we do so in ways that prioritize affordability and that safety and reliability are not compromised. I believe solar projects supported by the local community and sited near existing infrastructure must play a part. I do not support further industrialization our ridgelines with wind turbines. And I believe battery technology, hydrogen energy and other innovations will evolve rapidly in the years ahead and Vermont must be positioned to benefit from these new technologies.

Energy efficiency – across electric, thermal, and transportation – is a critical part of meeting our energy goals. We must promote policies to look at buildings as a complete package: how can we lower the overall energy consumption in a building, add renewable generation, and look at our transportation footprint, in such a way that we are driving toward zero net energy development? As a contractor myself, I know we can do a better job of reducing our energy footprint in buildings both new and old.

Finally, I want to ensure that we are exploring all of our options in Vermont. In addition to solar, hydro, biomass, and small-scale wind, we should find new opportunities to produce renewable bio-gas from wastewater and food waste, as well as use energy storage and promote electric vehicles to leverage low-cost, off-peak power.

2. Question: Do you agree neighbors of industrial wind projects in Vermont have legitimate grievances regarding turbine noise, aesthetic and environmental impacts, and loss of peaceful use and enjoyment of their properties? If so, what would you do to ensure their property rights are protected?

Answer: I’m proud to support Vermont long tradition of protecting property rights. But every new project, whether public or private, comes new impacts, and we must always seek the balance between responsible progress and protecting both Vermont’s scenic beauty and health of our families. Generally speaking, Vermont’s regulatory and judicial bodies find that balance, but I do believe local communities should be given more deference in the siting of energy projects. Vermont’s system is far from perfect, but it is leaps and bounds ahead of other states where haphazard development runs amuck.

While I strongly support renewable power, I’m mindful of the lasting impact of wind power on Vermont’s ridgelines. I do not support the continued widespread industrialization of our mountain tops. It is not a sustainable approach to Vermont’s renewable energy future. We need to focus our attention on enhancing efficiency efforts and building smaller scale renewables, particularly solar, coupled with energy storage as the more scalable and sustainable initiatives.

3. Question: How will you insure that the benefits of Vermont’s energy transformation policy flow to ordinary Vermonters and their communities and are not disproportionately captured by developers and utilities? What measures would you recommend that give the distribution of these benefits transparency in the eyes of Vermonters? Should taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies, for example, that subsidize energy projects become a component of the state’s Tax Expenditure Report similar to those profiled for the Vermont Economic Growth Incentive (VEGI) program?

Answer: Energy experts tell me that within the next 10-20 years, the technology will exist for each home and building to be its own mini-utility. This will be a revolution in how we generate and consume energy with the benefits naturally flowing to individual consumers and communities. Many call this “Utility 2.0,” its implications will reshape Vermont’s energy landscape and it has the potential to put much more of the economic value of energy into the hands of individual consumers.

Energy transformation is not without a cost, however, and the capital offered by utilities and developers is a critical component of this transition. In some states, utilities and private developers are throwing up roadblocks to any project that threatens the traditional energy model. However, in Vermont, by leveraging State programs, utilities and developers are making it easier for customers to take control of their energy destiny. As Governor, I will continue to push regulators, utilities, and developers to maximize benefits -- with an emphasis on lower costs and more choices -- directly to the customers.

To make this work, the State must continue to tweak programs to keep them in balance with market conditions and cultivate an energy economy that priortizes cost and reliability while recognizing the importance of more competition to inspiring innovation. As noted above, it’s unlikely that we’d be enjoying the benefits of our wireless, smart-phone enabled technology if we had to rely on the landline monopolies alone to get us there.

The State’s energy regulation must continue to evolve with the changing technology. Traditional approaches to setting rates will be challenged as customers choose to disconnect from the grid. To stay ahead of this dynamic industry, my Administration will focus attention on growing an energy economy that will favor innovative approaches to energy innovation, as well as attracting the sector’s good paying jobs.

Context: The CEP establishes a goal of weatherizing 80,000 of the state’s homes by 2020. This particular goal looks increasingly out of reach. In fact, the primary focus of Efficiency Vermont is electric consumption rather than reductions in fossil fuel consumption. Vermont’s weatherization programs are not strong and broadly available, but buried in the Agency of Human Service and require an income test. Further, we lack statewide on-bill financing for energy efficiency and we are not using existing smart meter systems to their fullest extent to aggressively advance efficiency and conservation.

Question: What will you do to prioritize reduced fossil fuel consumption and change current delivery mechanisms, financing systems, and policies to allow us to reach a variety of efficiency goals including, but not limited to, weatherization of more than 80,000 homes within the next five years?

Answer: Over the past 20 years, Vermont has had good success in our efforts around lowering electricity usage through energy efficiency. However, going forward, the state must adopt an “all-energy” approach to efficiency that spans electric, thermal, and transportation sectors. Rather than mandating legislated or regulated approaches to delivery and financial systems or building new state bureaucracies, State law should provide flexibility to utilities and private providers to partner with existing organizations to those extend services, e.g., using banks and credit unions to develop on-bill financing programs. We must also explore letting consumers keep the money they pay to support the state’s energy efficiency in exchange for energy efficiency and weatherization investments.

Strategic Planning

Context: The executive and legislative branches of government have not benefited from any formal, data-driven strategic planning since the Snelling Administration. As a result, initiatives from both branches are frequently reactive to past events or failures rather than to predictable changes and trends. "We govern over the stern," as is often stated.

1. Question: Would you support a cost-efficient State Strategic Planning resource comprised of volunteer non-partisan professionals: economists, demographers, technologists, environmental scientists and other experts to provide context and data to support improved decision-making in both branches of government?

Answer: While I support better long-term planning within state government, I am reluctant to empower a new bureaucracy – even if staffed with volunteers. Rather, I would both hire new employees and train current employees with the skills to support data-driven decision-making. This is a core competency for any modern organization and we need to make it part of state government’s DNA.

More to the point, we need to modernize, and where necessary, restructure government by streamlining services for Vermonters to improve their experience. As the state’s disastrous and expensive experience with Vermont Health Connect has taught, we need to have far better project management protocols in place. Today, you must go to three different departments to register

a business; you cannot track state expenditures or reliably conduct most business with the state online; and no one can view all of the services for which they are eligible on a single website. Have you ever wondered why? It’s because our state government functions on outdated systems that no longer meet the everyday needs and expectations of twenty-first century citizens. These same systems make it very difficult for managers to identify waste, fraud or abuse and opportunities to eliminate redundancies and achieve lower costs. Worse, each year, the cost of administering these old systems including costly updates grows faster than the state economy.

Here is my plan for modernizing state government:

On the first day I am Governor, I will sign an executive order creating the Government Modernization & Efficiency Team (GMET). GMET will be lead by the state’s Chief Information Officer and include Vermont’s leading IT, telecommunications, accounting, and management and system-change professionals. The responsibility of the team will be to implement agency efficiency audits, strengthen strategic IT planning, implement a digital government strategy focused on our citizens, and identify opportunities to:

 Increase operational efficiency;

 Consolidate, streamline and/or automate services;

 Account for the true cost of IT projects;

 Eliminate waste;

 Prevent fraud and abuse; and

 Establish clearly defined metrics that measure results and can be used in outcomes-based-budgeting process.

The team will establish its own work plan; have the access and authority of external auditors; and produce its recommendations on a rolling basis, with all final recommendations made on or before, July 1, 2017. The Secretary of Administration will ensure the team has adequate staffing (without the creation of new paid positions), and it will report directly to me.

In reality, state government has not managed IT projects well. The state-run healthcare exchange and court records system are only two examples. The state is projected to spend over $125 – $175 million annually for IT projects going forward. My administration will ensure enterprise wide visibility into IT projects as well as governance over IT investments. We can not continue without coordination and prioritization of IT Projects and that’s why I will not allow any project to proceed without CIO approval, evaluation of risk and mitigation strategies, a trained project manager with project stopping authority, and a cost benefit analysis. We cannot afford anymore IT project failures. More importantly, we will employ experienced IT professionals, and wherever possible, contractors will be required to have performance-based contracts.

In addition to the limits we would impose on budget growth, our goal will be to reduce the current operational cost of every agency and department by one cent for every dollar currently spent, in my first year in office. This could generate as much as $55 million in savings..

2. Question: Where do you stand on a four-year leadership term for both branches and an extended budget planning cycle with an eye towards supporting a more strategic and less reactive approach to governing and the making of law?

Answer: The fact that the Legislature and the Administration have failed to have a longer view on budget planning has been a major oversight during the last six years. I have proposed a two-year budgeting cycle and limiting budget increases to the growth of the economy or inflation-adjusted wages from the previous year. It’s time for a Governor who is honest about what things cost, what Vermonters can afford and the need to reform outdated, inefficient and expensive systems within state government.

A Phil Scott administration will:

 Stay laser-focused on the economic and fiscal fundamentals;

 Set clear standards and limits that help Vermonters get ahead, instead of causing them to fall further behind; and

 Not support, or carry out, experiments at taxpayers’ expense.

I believe in a truly citizen Legislature with Vermonters from all walks of life participating and offering their perspectives. Unfortunately, the long and unpredictable length of the sessions discourages everyday folks from running. A 90-day session would set clear parameters that would encourage more working Vermonters to run and to serve. As Governor, I’ll work closely with the Legislature to establish clear priorities so we can get that the most critical and impactful legislative work done in 90-days. You can view my full proposal HERE.

I will also shift the state from its current 12-month budget to a 24-month budget cycle, and propose the Legislature join me in making it law. Requiring the state to build and manage to a 2-year budget would impose more fiscal discipline on spending, strengthen long-term planning and give us the foundation we need to modernize government in ways that lower operational costs. Biennial budgeting can also reduce the time and costs of the budgeting process itself. You can view my full proposal HERE http://www.philscott.org/press-release/phil-scott-announces-new-legislat....

While there are some benefits to a two-year term for Governor, a four-year term is more conducive to tackling very challenging issues that require careful analysis, planning, and execution; I do not support extending legislative terms beyond two years.