COVID-19 exposed the cracks in Vermont’s social safety net. What else, if anything, should the legislature be doing to address the impact of the pandemic on low-income Vermonters?
Dunbar thinks that the focus should be on helping businesses get back to what they were doing before the pandemic started.
“I think it's wonderful that there has been a lot of federal and state help for businesses that have sunk throughout this pandemic,” she said. “But things are beginning to slow down, and we need to open up businesses and make it possible for people to pay their bills again, and to profit and restore their lives.”
Dunbar said she would work with other legislators to continue opening up the economy “slowly and carefully” while working within the state’s mandates.
What should the state do to address the need for affordable, quality childcare?
“We need to encourage those who do take care of our children in ways that will financially enable them to continue doing this,” Dunbar stated.
She said she’s heard complaints about childcare employees who are pressed to pay their bills, especially those who are parents and might have to pay to have their own children looked after while they’re at work.
Dunbar would encourage financial help, mentioning subsidies, to support those working in the childcare field and that by doing so, it would result in a greater amount of quality childcare available throughout the state.
A substantial deficit is projected for the fiscal year 2022 budget. How should the legislature address anticipated shortfalls?
Dunbar said the state first needs to work towards decreasing the costs that legislative bills which have been passed incur and impact Vermonters’ wallets. “And our freedoms, I might add, one being the [Global Warming Solutions Act]” which she believes will do “nothing to protect the climate.”
Dunbar said she would look at programs the state supports to see where cuts could be made, giving “some serious thought into what is essential.” One program she pointed to adjusting to cut costs was providing subsidized housing for homeless citizens during the warmer months.
“We will all have to tighten our belts for many years because of this incredible deficit,” said Dunbar.
What about the Education Fund, which is also expected to take a big hit from COVID-19?
Dunbar said she thinks that Act 46, which relates to making amendments to education funding, education spending, and education governance, “promised better schools for less money but has achieved the exact opposite.”
Dunbar thinks cutting costs is necessary and says she would look at what’s “unnecessary” and could be eliminated from public schooling, one example she gave being social programs. She also mentioned possibly moving around existing funds to “make something positive.”
“The current system is unsustainable,” Dunbar said.
The legislature this session took some steps to address concerns about use of excessive force by police and the inequities in how often people of color are subjected to motor vehicle stops and criminal charges. Do you think those actions were sufficient or is there more to be done?
“I think that a lot of the reporting has, in many ways, been unfair and biased against the police,” Dunbar said to begin her answer. She believes the reporting on policing has been inaccurate and that measures being taken regarding the use of force is keeping law enforcement from being able to properly do its job.
“This chokehold, that they absolutely need in order to subdue people that may not be able to be subdued otherwise, is necessary,” said Dunbar, “and this chokehold is not what the media has made it to be.”
She added that she doesn’t believe in defunding the police and thinks there need to be more officers hired “because the lawlessness is becoming unmanageable.”
Scientists largely agree action is needed to delay the worst impacts of climate change. Vermont is also starting to see the impacts of a changing climate firsthand, with shorter winters, harsher storms and so-called “climigration.” What actions, if any, do you feel the legislature should be taking to reduce Vermont’s share of carbon emissions and ready the state for the effects of a changing climate?
Dunbar believes Vermont is “going over the top” when it comes to how it’s trying to address climate change. She said, “The votes in the legislature, especially this month, are going to hurt Vermonters’ freedoms and wallets.”
She labelled the Global Warming Solutions Act as an “un-democratic” bill and thinks that it won’t help Vermont’s climate.
“I do believe in implementing anything that's commonsensical and sound minded for the climate, absolutely,” Dunbar said. “But this bill that was just passed is impossible to really live by, and costly.”