The major party candidates for Vermont governor clash over a number of topics during latest debate
The incumbent Republican and the Democrat challenging him for the top elected position in Vermont have participated in a number of debates. The latest occurred Thursday night on NBC5.
Vermont Republican Phil Scott is seeking his fourth two-year term as governor. Democrat Brenda Siegel has not held elective office. She unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2018 and Lieutenant Governor in 2020.
One of Siegel’s priorities is housing and the first question posed by moderator Stuart Ledbetter during the myNBC5 debate asked her what she believes it will take to speed up the availability of affordable housing.
“We have to make a strategic plan," stted Siegel, "that addresses both short-term, transitional and permanent housing for everyone from people with low incomes and people experiencing homelessness all the way to upper middle income folks.”
Moderator Stuart Ledbetter turns to the incumbent, “Mr. Scott.”
“Well, the good news is we do have a strategic plan and we're implementing that," noted Scott. "Over the last two years, since 2020, we've actually invested almost a half a billion dollars in housing. You can't flip a switch and make it so. It takes time.”
“It can't just be about making investments," retorted Siegel. "There has to be an actual plan that meets the need.”
“Again," explained Scott, "That strategic plan is in place.”
Moderators noted that Vermont is one of the highest taxed states and asked the candidates if they would hold the line on taxes and if they believe property taxes should be income-based. Scott replied that he has held the line on taxes and fees during his six years as governor.
“Raising taxes is a last resort," Scott states. "I think there's enough existing revenue to satisfy our needs.”
“Should we move completely to an income sensitized property tax?” asked Ledbetter.
Scott's answer was brief: “No.”
“If we change the way we pay for education from a property tax to an income-based tax," according to Siegel, "then we will make sure that we are actually lightening the burden for most Vermonters.”
Gun violence and gun rights have received attention following several violent incidents this year, especially in Burlington. Siegel argued with Governor Scott over law enforcement strategy targeting drug traffickers to reduce violent crime.
“Nobody is saying that people should not go after kingpins when we're talking about trafficking of drugs," said Siegel. "But that's not who we ever get. We get the people who are being trafficked and people with substance use disorder.”
“I don't believe that these low-level folks are the ones we are arresting," countered Scott. "We are focusing on the kingpins.”
“We are getting low-level dealers," challenged Siegel. "Those folks are threatened and they are killed because they owe people money because they have substance use disorder and cannot get the treatment that they need in our state.”
"We're not arresting them," asserts Governor Scott. "We are going after the kingpins.”
Siegel retorts, “You are arresting them.”
Scott emphasizes, “That's just not true.”
“You are arresting them,” alleges Siegel.
Scott again states, “That is not that is true.
“That is true,” Brenda Siegel presses.
Again, Scott asserts, “That is not true.”
“You are absolutely arresting them,” Siegel contends.
“Not true,” the governor says.
“And you are causing harm," Siegel continues, "and our children are dying as a result.”
Scott shakes his head and utters, “That's not true.”
Last November Siegel spent nearly a month sleeping on the Statehouse steps in an attempt to convince state leaders to extend a hotel voucher program for homeless individuals. The duo clashed over whether Siegel’s actions influenced Governor Scott’s decision to end the program.
“It did not have any effect on my decision," said Scott. "It was all about the FEMA funding.”
“FEMA funding was there,” claims Siegel
“FEMA funding was not there,” corrects Scott.
Siegel maintains, “It was there.”
“They were ending the program,” Scott explains
“It was there,” insists Siegel.
“You’re wrong,” states Scott.
Independents Peter Duval, Kevin Hoyt, and Bernard Peters are also running for Vermont governor.