Wages, weed and wind divide lieutenant governor hopefuls

ST. ALBANS — The two major candidates for lieutenant governor split Wednesday on raising the minimum wage, how to care for the mentally ill and whether to legalize marijuana.

Republican Randy Brock dismissed as “utter nonsense” Progressive/Democrat David Zuckerman’s idea to legalize and tax recreational marijuana to fund opiate addiction programs and higher education. Zuckerman argued the untapped, underground marijuana market amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars and that legalization would remove criminal dealers.

Randy Brock
Republican Randy Brock at a debate Wednesday evening in St. Albans. Photo by Andrew Kutches/VTDigger
At a forum in Brock’s political backyard, the candidates supported reopening a welcome center in Highgate Springs just south of the Canadian border and spoke of their support for local dairy farmers. Brock lives in Swanton, while Zuckerman represents Chittenden County in the state Senate.

They were also far apart in their view of the role of government, with Brock, a former state senator and state auditor, arguing that government needs to provide a safety net but should “not be a cash register to take care of every need.”

Zuckerman, who has served in the Senate and House a combined 18 years, argued that “we’re all in this together” several times and said the government response after Tropical Storm Irene and its support for families that can’t afford child care showed the value of collective action.

The two also showed a clear difference in philosophy on the minimum wage, which Zuckerman said should be raised gradually to $15 an hour. Brock said raising the wage would lead to inflation and higher prices for goods and services; Zuckerman argued workers receiving the current minimum wage often qualify for government subsidy programs.

Both candidates were wary of a health care proposal recently advanced by the Shumlin administration, a so-called all-payer model, that would combine payments from the federal government. Brock was more adamant and said it was an untested model.

Vermonters “are tired of being guinea pigs in some grand social experiment,” Brock said.

David Zuckerman
Progressive/Democrat David Zuckerman at Wednesday’s debate in St. Albans. Photo by Andrew Kutches/VTDigger
Zuckerman said there were too many unknowns to judge whether the all-payer idea made sense but that it was “worth exploring.” The fee-for-service payment method currently used, he said, was unsustainable.

Both voiced disapproval of a proposed wind turbine project in Swanton. On the larger issue, though, Zuckerman was more supportive of wind energy than Brock, who said the industrial-sized projects were too big, that the developers sold the renewable energy credits out of state and that many of the jobs were not going to Vermonters.

Zuckerman said he didn’t support carving out mountaintops but said the damage was less than was caused by Irene. He noted that he’d supported a controversial proposal to install a turbine on the Burlington waterfront in the 1990s. (After opposition, the turbine was located a short distance from the waterfront, next to the Burlington Electric Department.)

On the issue of mental health, Brock said the state should have built another central facility for the acutely mentally ill after Tropical Storm Irene — which flooded out the one in Waterbury — to “cluster” the doctors and services in one location. Zuckerman said it would be too costly to start over and abandon the idea of more, yet smaller facilities, which he argued may have better outcomes for patients.

On property taxes, Zuckerman argued the system should be more income-based so the wealthy pay more, while Brock said expanding income sensitivity would cost the state more money in refunds. Brock also supported a call by Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott to limit the legislative session to 90 days.

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  • robert bristow-johnson

    Vermonters “are tired of being guinea pigs in some grand social experiment,” Brock said.

    so it be like this (not just VT but the whole US):

    Patient (the electorate) is sick with cancer, we know some of the organs that are failing or malfunctioning, treatment has been put off for decades making the malady worse.

    Dems finally say, “We need to operate. We need to deal with this cancer and cut it out.” GOP say “No, no that’s too expensive. Hard work and prayer is the solution.”

    Patient (in an election) says, “Let’s operate.” Dems start procedure but GOP sabotage it by obstructing. Anesthesia and antibiotics are restricted or withheld. Patient has terrible experience and the cancer *might* be removed but replaced with infection.

    Then the GOP points to the outcome and claim “See? Didn’t we tell you socialized medicine wouldn’t work? Aren’t you tired of being a guinea pig in some grand social experiment?”

    Patient begins to wonder. Fails to see the self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • Patricia Goodrich

      Brilliant example to explain the differences between the two political parties. Thanks!

    • John Zuppa

      “Zuckerman said he didn’t support carving out mountaintops but said the damage was less than was caused by Irene.”

      Damage is less than what was caused by Irene??…

      So glad to hear that…Is he kidding us here?…Does Zuckerman think this is consoling those who know the destructiveness of Industrial Wind Factories?

      AND the DPS and PSB have both admitted that these Factories will have no effect on global warming…Does he know this?

      SO…Where is his connect…or disconnect on this issue??

    • I would actually put it this way: The Democrats claim that the patient that has cancer, administer chemotherapy and radiation, and insist that they must operate. The Republicans refuse, insisting that the patient only has a Vitamin D deficiency and just needs sunlight.

      The patient has diabetes.

    • Clyde Cook

      I can see your example as being the case on the national stage, but if I recall correctly programs such as Obamacare were passed without a single vote from a member of the GOP. Back in Vermont, I think the Democrats/Progressives had been ruling the roost for what, the last 6 years? Please explain to me how the GOP in Vermont has been wrecking things the last few years.

  • Stephen Trahan

    We are indeed tired of being guinea pigs in grand social experiments. As for being “” iin it together ” it is high time for those who want to be “in it” to start taking responsibility for their own welfare. Brock has my vote.

  • Dave Van Deusen

    Dave Zuckerman is a farmer. Brock is a Wall Street guy. Dave stands united with Union workers. Brock stands with the wealthy. In this race David Zuckerman is the candidate of the people and Brock is the stand in for the elete few.

    • Roger Haverford

      Let’s get the story right: Dave Zuckerman is a gentleman farmer, at best, but is really a politician. He grew up in Newton, MA. His father was a high paid surgeon who died too young.

      Zuckerman is a bi-product of the wealthy elite who pretends to be fighting for “the people” when, in fact, he’s simply fighting for his own political interest… and of course, helping those that claim vaccines can lead to autism.

      • John Jacobs

        Funny, his ‘gentleman farm’ has been feeding my household every summer for the past 5 years. I don’t agree with all of David’s political views, but he is most certainly derives the majority of his income from his farm.

      • robert bristow-johnson

        funny, i’ll have to mention the “gentleman farmer” thing to him next time i see him with his rubber boots on.

  • Mark Donka

    Randy Brock is a man who came from humble beginnings. After serving in the military Randy started his own business and through hard work made is a successful company. He knows that hard work will pay off in the long run. That is what Randy will do for Vermonter’s. He will work to make VT the affordable place it once was. Randy has my vote and should have yours to. Randy Brock for LT. Governor

  • Ruth gaillard

    The grand social experiment has already been done and successfully implemented in all other advanced countries. Only the US lags behind without a national health care system for all its people.

  • Scott Pavek

    It frustrates and saddens me to hear a candidate for office dismiss the idea of regulating and taxing marijuana for the purpose of addressing real issues in the state as “utter nonsense.” I’m disheartened that we’ll watch our neighbors reap the benefits of legalization – I’m worried that we’ll lose out on tourist dollars.

    If Maine and Massachusetts legalize marijuana, we could end up dealing with spillover effects in terms of traffic safety – all without the upgraded capacity to police DUIs, which would’ve been required (and perhaps in place, now) had Vermont chose to implement legalization.

    Putting aside our opiate crisis (I can’t believe I’m typing that!), our candidates for Governor both face the challenge of assuaging voters’ concerns about taxes and government spending. I wish both candidates would consider framing legalization as the fiscally responsible thing to do.

    • Jamie Carter

      I am saddened that a candidate would use an issue such as marijuana legalization to fill the government coffers so they can fund the next social project. Alas, that’s what good politicians do, take an issue many of the public care about, make them think they care about it too, and then laugh all the way to the bank.

      Now, if Zuckerman wanted to let people grow their own or buy a regulated product for those that do not wish to grow their own with only enough tax to cover the cost of admistering it you may have something. But no, he want’s hundreds of millions extra…

      • Jamie, please read S. 95. The bill I introduced. It included home grow. Just as one can produce ones own beer. But for those that do not produce it, it is a licensed regulated system. I support exactly what you want. The only difference being that I also see the potential for helping pay for 1) prevention, education and treatment of drugs, 2) economic development (broadband/cell service in rural areas) and some support for higher education (higher education trust fund for long term affordability) as a possibility as well. Thus creating more opportunities for our youth which will also lead to less abuse.

  • Dan Carver

    My beef with the “raise the minimum wage to $15/hour” mantra.
    Get out of Chittenden and Washington counties and come visit the counties on the eastern border of Vermont. You won’t find too many “big businesses” but the majority of the ones you’ll find are small independent businesses.

    The owners of many these businesses don’t make $15/hour for themselves after compensating their employees for wages and benefits mandated by the State, paying the multiple Vermont taxes and fees, any waste/scrap/losses that come with business and trying to service a shrinking local demand base . What’s their alternative? Close shop and become another Vermonter on public assistance? Yes, let’s work hard to kill individual ambition via legislative mandate.

    Recommendation: Stop passing state wide laws, when the real focus of the laws is how to pull money out of the Chittenden county to benefit the other 13 “colonies.”

    • Homer Sulham

      If the minimum wage goes up so won’t the cost of living, It is all relative.

      • Peter Everett

        As well as revenue the state collects. Any wonder why the sly politicians favor an increase?

    • Matt Kelly

      And yet the cost of living in these areas are no less than in Chittenden County – in fact, often more expensive because you don’t have chain grocery stores where you can shop for less, and the rural nature means you usually have to travel quite far comparatively for basic city services.

  • Chris Laden

    If company XYZ moved into the area and created thousands of high paying jobs, would we need to have a discussion about minimum wage or finding more tax revenue? Probably not. Instead of using Government as a tool to force change, why not have Government get the heck out of the way and let the change happen?

  • Moshe Braner

    “Brock said expanding income sensitivity would cost the state more money in refunds.”

    – that’s “utter nonsense”. The “refunds” don’t “cost” anything. The same total amount is raised to fund education. But the burden is shifted somewhat between taxpayers: those whose income is a little higher pay a little more. Meanwhile, those whose income is a lot higher pay a lower rate (percentage of their income) since they pay based on the value of their property. That should be changed. All state residents should pay based on income. (We also need to stop increasing the spending, otherwise it will still remain unsustainable.)

  • Chet Greenwood

    David is correct that Irene did more damage than turbines–but with an exception- Irene was a natural disaster and mountain top turbines are a man made disaster!

  • Clyde Cook

    This should be filed under the unintended consequences, but Mr. Zuckerman should be aware of a new report out the other day that showed how the massive use of energy by the professional marijuana growing operations out west are contributing to the greenhouse emissions. Mr. Zuckerman, along with proposing legalization should take his thinking a little further down the line and create state incentives to those growing operations that are powered by alternative energy sources. Sarcasm off now

    • Please see S.95. I had language in the bill to incentive lower energy footprints in the grow facilities. Glad you feel the same way.

      • Clyde Cook

        Will do, thanks

  • rosemarie jackowski

    Weed in New England…. Is the war on weed logical?


  • “Republican Randy Brock dismissed as “utter nonsense” Progressive/Democrat David Zuckerman’s idea to legalize and tax recreational marijuana to fund opiate addiction programs and higher education. ”

    Randy Brock is unrealistic on this issue, not to mention a hypocritical position versus alcohol. It shows a prohibition mentality that hasn’t worked for decades. It time for politicians to distinguish between marijuana and truly dangerous drugs such heroin, including opiate prescription drugs.