Now that H.926, an act relating to changes to Act 250, has been vetoed by the governor, what should the Senate do next? What reform of Vermont’s land use laws and regulations, if any, is still needed?
“We need sweeping changes to our land use laws here in Vermont. State and local laws make it cost prohibitive to build in Vermont, and it is artificially driving up the cost of living, making Vermonters artificially poor. We want to make sure the environment is protected and our state beautiful, but it should not be at the expense of people’s ability to feed their families.
“Reasonable legislation, without requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney fees and environmental studies, ought to be the norm. If they don’t intend to pollute or create major disruptions, we should be encouraging investment in our state, not turning it away.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that access to the internet is now a near necessity for school and work. What can the Senate do to provide increased broadband access to rural and low-income Vermonters?
“The best thing the state can do is create a regulatory environment where companies, like Burlington Telecom and Comcast, can invest in the infrastructure to bring high speed to rural areas. As of now, it is cost prohibitive; businesses are not able to make a return on the investment. We cannot ask businesses to take a loss for us, nor can already-strapped Vermonters pay more in taxes.
“I would encourage businesses to move here to Vermont, especially to rural areas, using tax incentives. As part of the agreement, we would have those businesses invest in building new infrastructure, thereby having someone else pay to bring broadband to the rest of the state. This would provide jobs and an increase in income tax revenue which would further help pay for additional services.”
How can the state government make housing in Chittenden County, and across the state, more affordable?
“Same answer as the first question. One of our biggest problems here is lack of housing stock. Builders can’t make money here, so they don’t build. You can count on around $100,000 in Act 250 permits and fees to build a 10-unit apartment building – even more if you are in places like Burlington. You cannot make a return on your investment under conditions like this. We must make it easier to build here, not harder.”
S.54, an act that proposes a system for the regulation and sale of cannabis in Vermont, currently sits on the governor's desk awaiting approval. Did you vote, or would you have voted for the bill? Please explain.
“I am still very mixed on this issue. While I understand the reasons for, I also understand the reasons against. However, there are a number of problems with this particular legislation.
“For starters, the tax is too high. Let’s be honest: If I am buying cannabis products from a guy down the street, why would I then start purchasing it legally for 30 percent more? This marketplace will basically just be for the tourists. This will not change the habits of Vermonters. I also think it’s the wrong time and the wrong thing to be spending Vermonters’ money on. Our Legislature is counting on a bailout from the federal government to make up for years of bad decision making. They’ve taken our money, allocated for future expenditures, and used it to fill the budget holes for this coming fiscal year. They’ve left Vermonters with a huge deficit and budget gap that will become apparent next year. This is nothing short of dereliction of duty.”
Other than the four issues asked about here, what else do you think is a priority for the legislature to address and why?
“I could go on for days about what I think is important. The best way to learn more is to visit my website, erickaforsenate.com, and learn more about my policy positions and economic plan. You can also find videos of me talking about many of these issues at facebook.com/GenerallyIrritable.”