In the month of July, the Reporter will be featuring candidates for the contested primary races for seats in the Vermont House of Representatives. The candidates were asked to provide an introductory statement about themselves, and then they were asked the same five questions; all responses were collected before any were published.
All introductions and answers are authored by the candidates themselves and are only edited to comply with Associated Press style formatting along with minor spelling and grammar corrections. Candidates were asked to keep their responses within specific word limits.
Patrick Murray is one of three Democrats running for the two seats in the Chittenden-8-2 district.
I grew up in a low income household in Lyndon, Vermont that struggled with food security and domestic violence. I have worked since high school, even when attending UVM on an academic scholarship. I have lived in Essex Junction the last 11 years raising my amazing daughter and working civically. While in Essex, my community work began, first creatively as a writer and director of charitable shows and then on the Prudential Committee and EWSD school board.
I am a member of Essex Rotary and have experience on the CTE Regional Advisory Board, EWSD Transportation Policy Committee, Chittenden Solid Waste District Board and working as a Voice for Education member. I currently serve on the Town of Essex Selectboard, becoming the only person to hold positions on both the school board and selectboard at the same time.
While dual appointments come with significant work, they've also brought me tremendous opportunity to see how our tax dollars are spent and can best be utilized between all the groups that receive them in Essex. I work in telecommunications where I've repaired everything from email to fiber optics to telephone lines throughout Vermont and have done so for nearly 20 years.
What inspired you to run for the House or to seek re-election? What was your primary motivation to represent your district in Montpelier?
My initial inspiration in running was for the betterment of our children's education. Oversight at the local level is important, but there remain multiple outstanding issues with how the state handles technical education and their plans to 'weight' students in different districts which would cause a massive increase in the taxes that Essex residents need to pay. These are still important problems to address, but now we are in the midst of COVID-19 and it has impacted every member of our society.
I feel strongly that we need representatives in Montpelier that have experience with the difficult decisions of tax burdens and revenue priorities. I am motivated to help the most vulnerable portions of our community through this crisis because far too often they're the same population that has the least powerful voice.
What do you see as top priorities for the General Assembly in the next session?
The foremost priorities for the legislature are going to be mitigating the impact of COVID-19. This disease will still be with us in January, and by then we will also be seeing some of the expected, truly harsh fallout of those who have been out of work and the businesses that will not make it through the crisis. The tourism dollars that we are so used to seeing in Vermont during the fall and early parts of winter are going to be substantially lessened, and they must find other ways to create and raise revenue for the state since we cannot be certain of federal help.
One issue I am very excited about will happen in 2021 when the general assembly must pass Prop 5 to continue the path of enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution.
How do you believe the state should respond to revenue shortfalls in the General and Education Funds?
Vermonters have always made it a point of pride to try to do 'more with less,' and that philosophy is going to be tested like never before as we enter into the new year. Financial recovery from COVID will take years, and we have limited ways that we can raise funding without putting a strain on the most vulnerable members of our community.
To that end, though, the highest income earners that took advantage of Trump's tax breaks have seen their wealth skyrocket in comparison to the average Vermonter. We need to be able to tap into this source from a taxing standpoint to help close the revenue gap. The housing market in highly-desired areas of Vermont has become extremely competitive, even in the middle of COVID, and much of that is being driven by out of state purchasers of homes. I would favor a tax for those choosing to buy property in Vermont that are not intending to make it their primary residence.
Finally, I feel strongly that we need to push the formation of a taxed and regulated cannabis market in Vermont. We are losing substantial taxable dollars to Massachusetts right now, and the growth infrastructure is already in place to make this a reality and place that money into the Education Fund.
What do you see as being the most important issues facing Essex, and how would you use your seat to deal with those?
As a legislator, I would have a unique advantage in also being able to work as a selectperson to see that the state and municipal government efforts are going hand-in-hand. We need to move forward with racial equity and policing work, and I see that as something the state can provide assistance with to make sure we're bringing experts to help that have a third party neutrality.
I also want to see taxing inequity in Essex Junction fixed. As things stand now, the Village taxpayers are contributing towards services that it cannot or has never utilized. The finalization of a merger plan, which would need to be ultimately approved by the legislature, is one that I could bring an expert voice to given my substantial work on it to date.
What support, if any, do you plan to give to the Vermont State Colleges System?
The VSC system has been negligently underfunded over the years, and while the plan for closure of some campuses spurred action from the legislature, it did not fix the fundamental problems behind it. Add to that, in the communities where they are located, these colleges are truly anchor institutions. Losing them would be a tremendous blow to local economies, and the inequity when it comes to educational opportunities is the exact opposite direction that we should be going.
A starting point is the creation of a taxed cannabis market, the majority revenue of which should go towards drug prevention programs and education funding statewide. We need to make a commitment to these institutions long-term or they will hemorrhage students that are going to be reluctant to begin college at a place that they fear may fold partway through their degree program, and that loss of student population will only make the problem worse.
Learn more about Patrick Murray at patvt.com.