With less than a month before Election Day, the major party candidates for Vermont governor were in Rutland Wednesday evening for a debate that focused on economic issues.
Democratic challenger Christine Hallquist and first-term incumbent Republican Phil Scott politely disagreed on most economic policy issues throughout the debate. But the first question of evening posed by moderator Mark Johnson was interrupted by an independent gubernatorial candidate in the audience.
Johnson: “Mr. Scott the state ethics committee…”
Laramie: “My name’s Charles Laramie I’m running for governor.”
Johnson: “Excuse me.”
Laramie: “…and the very rights that I swore to defend and defended I’m being denied those rights.”
Johnson: “I think you’ve made your point. At this point now you’re taking time away from the candidates.”
Navy and Air Force veteran Charles Laramie says he and other independent candidates have been barred from this and other debates. He wanted to give the major party candidates a chance to agree to an inclusive debate. “I’m a candidate. I did exactly what those two candidates on the stage did. I filled out the same paperwork. I got the same signatures. I had to talk to the same amount of Vermonters to get those. And now I’m not allowed in the debates. That’s just wrong. And Anne Galloway of Vermont Digger who sponsored this debate she said I have chosen, those were her words, I have chosen who I feel have run credible campaigns and have the most valid chance of winning the governorship to be in the debate. That’s scary.”
Laramie was escorted out of the facility and the debate proceeded. Asked about affordable housing, the candidates turned to education funding and the property tax. Gov. Scott: “I’ve been hearing about property tax ah property taxes ever since I started in office about screaming for relief because of the high cost of education. It’s not just building them it’s being able to afford to live there.”
Democrat Hallquist countered that the property tax is a flawed system for funding education. “We have to move to an income-based model. And an income-based model would allow older people and people on fixed incomes to stay in their homes. So I believe that part of this answer is restructuring um our tax system.”
Scott: “You’re not addressing the spending side.”
Scott has promised no new taxes or fees over his past two years in office but was quizzed over his apparent moderation over possible new fees. “What I’ve said to my administration, to my cabinet, it has been 2 years since we’ve done anything. So the cost of living has gone up and we should take a look. It’s going to be a high bar but maybe after taking a look I also asked them to take a look to see if we could eliminate some or lower some.
Hallquist: “You know no new taxes is is not a good plan for the state of Vermont. I get cost control. I I ran an electric utility. A good businessperson knows you’ve got to get more revenue and and that’s where I strongly differ from from from Phil Scott.”
Scott: “We brought more revenue in. Our revenues are growing.”
Another area of contention was Medicare-for-All. Scott says it must be a national initiative. “If we do it nationally some sort of system that puts everyone on the same plane it’s even keel then that’s fine. But for us us to do something alone, single payer we proved that didn’t work. We’ve seen that movie. I mean when you talk about Medicare-for-All in this state just this state doing it we went through five years of torture on that. And I believe I believe that that was detrimental to our economy. But we have other solutions. Ah we’re we’re going through we’re moving forward we have a pilot project with an all-payer model.”
Hallquist, meanwhile, passionately supports the state moving to a Medicare-for-All system. "So I hear more of the same let’s wait for someone else to take action.”
Scott: “We’re taking action I just told you.”
Hallquist: “No I’m talking about Medicare-for-All. If you don’t have a leader who’s working to to to get to Medicare-for-All you should fire them and get one that will because this system is failing.”
Scott: “If you want single payer in Vermont don’t vote for me.”
The debate was sponsored by Vermont Digger, which also provided audio.