March 27, 2011 -- Sen. John Campbell, D-Vt. President Pro Tem, joins Kristin Carlson and Anson Tebbetts to discuss the Legislature, bills, the budget, health care and taxes.
John Campbell from Vermont's most trust the news source, wcax brings you your news makers, your neighbors.
This is you can quote me.
>>> good morning everyone.
On this edition of you can quote me we will talk politics.
And about all the big bills that are moving at the statehouse in Montpelier.
Our news maker is John Campbell.
This is his first term leading the senate.
Joining in the questioning is Anson Tebbetts who has covered the statehouse for quite a few years.
>> well, good morning.
>> good morning.
>> so we had a lot of action in the house.
Now it appears it will be the senate's turn to take up some of those big bills and one of those is the health care reform bill.
Whatever we want to call it.
What's going to be the approach of the senate now, now that that bill has come to your body?
>> all the ‑‑ as the governor mentioned yesterday, the puck is now in our court and our side of the rink and we have been looking forward to it.
In the past since the sessions began or begun we have been doing background work in our health and welfare committees so they have been getting up to speed as to some of the basics or some of the elemental ‑‑ or the infrastructure aspects of the bill.
And we are going to be splitting it up between our health and welfare committee and also our finance committee.
The finance committee of course will be dealing with the exchange aspect of it, which is the part where the federal government is mandated that all states tore get ‑‑ put up insurance exchanges.
It is for those who don't know what it is like, what it is, it is sort of like orbits when you go on it to choose your flights.
And you will have a different insurance plans there on line and you will be able to pick and choose what your plan would be.
And that will be up by probably next year.
And when we do get that up, we will be able to draw down significant federal dollars.
So the ‑‑ that will be in finance.
And then the health and welfare committee will be dealing with the ‑‑ basically the guts of the program.
And deciding what type of board we are going to have that will set the terms and the rates and things of that nature.
So once they ‑‑ they have that, the green mountain board together, then we will be able to actually look to see what in the next couple of years to actually design the full program.
>> i poke my head into this senate welfare committee a few weeks ago and they were having a discussion with the administration and it seemed like there was some general concern about this board and the makeup of the board and you know, governor gets to appoint all these people.
There was concerns about that the salaries of the board members and you know, what their role would be.
Is the senate going to change, you thinking the approach that the house took on this?
>> i think that is one of the areas that i have reviewed that came out of the house and they did a great job.
I tell you, mark larson, who is the chair and mike fisher the vice chair and they are whole committee they should be congratulated for doing a fine job.
One of the issues that is probably hot button would i say, is it makeup of the board.
The ‑‑ i feel that what we will be looking at is number one, how we are going to get that board and how ‑‑ whether it will be the governor to ho makes all the adidn't appointments or some type of nominating committee as we do with the judiciary or public service board type of model.
I ‑‑ while i ‑‑ i am very supportive of governor shumlin our current administration, this is one of the things that we ‑‑ i believe very strongly that this is going to be very successful program.
That will continue on into ‑‑ you know maybe the next decade and i want to make sure that you know that ‑‑ that governor shumlin may not thereby in 14 years and so we want to make sure that i think that we have a ‑‑ a legislative input as to how we are going to ‑‑ or who is going to be on that board.
>> right now he gets all 5.
Could you do a 3‑2 split, the house gets one, senate gets one?
Because you know, historically the legislature hasn't said okay, beings all the power goes to the governor on this type of stuff.
We want your input.
>> we do.
And i think that we will in fact retain that.
I believe that we will take a look at the ‑‑ as i said the different models of what is the best way, do we have a ‑‑ a prenominating type of board, group that will look at potential personnel that would be on the board and then make recommendations to the governor.
I believe that regardless, the governor will have the appointment but it will also have to be nominated or also confirmed by the senate which is ‑‑ which is typical now.
Especially with the judiciary and any of the other commissioner appointments.
The governor appoints them and then we confirm them in the senate so it was a second ‑‑ it is a backstop there.
>> i notice some interesting things going on with the naming of the bill.
The campaign trail governor shumlin or when he was running to become governor said it is single payer.
Then he called it single payer and in the committee it was always sing the payer.
It hit the house floor and came into this universal access.
So is this single payer or is this not?
>> i think ‑‑ i think people are getting really hung up on the name here and i think of course there is more important aspects of the bill.
What we are looking for is a universal coverage for all vermonters.
To put them there.
Some people refer to it as single payer.
Some refer to it as universal coverage.
‑‑ the one thing that i don't want to see is i don't want to have the name put people off in some way because some people will automatically hear single payer and think oh my gosh, this is a terrible thing.
It has been ‑‑ and then they will bring up all this anecdotal information.
And which is not helpful to us trying to get the job done.
So, as far as naming it, i will ‑‑ all i'm concerned about is getting a good product out there and then when somebody wants to name it, whatever they want, to that's fine but just as long as we get ‑‑ we have a program that we know is going to be affordable, sustainable and is going to provide universal coverage and also in calling ‑‑ controlling costs.
>> but doesn't the state already provide universal coverage through catamount?
Wasn't that the goal was to offer coverage for everybody and can you call this single payer when you have larger companies who might not have to be part of it and when you have other companies who can offer secondary insurance?
>> again it goes back to what your definition of single payer is.
There is so many different definitions of, you know, pure single payer being just a government that is the financing the entire ‑‑ the entire program.
And this one here, we are ‑‑ i believe it is ‑‑ flies question we are going to have a public‑private enterprise here.
We are going to have a ‑‑ you know a public side of this with the insurance coverage on it.
So i don't think that we are going to ‑‑ i don't think it could be termed, you know, pure single payer health care.
I just think what it will be ‑‑ what it will end up being is a universal care.
And you are right.
The ‑‑ we did try to get with catamount.
We are trying to get as many folks ensured and covered as possible, but it did not turn out that ‑‑ that was the ‑‑ that was not what occurred.
And you know, i believe a lot of it has to do with the escalation of the costs and what ‑‑ and that is one of the major objection ‑‑ objects of doing this exchange and also setting up the ‑‑ this green mountain care, is to actually try to control cost.
>> are expectations too high on this bill?
I mean, it seems like the message is, everyone will have wonderful quality coverage, we are not going to be paying as much in health insurance and you will have the same ‑‑ i mean, are some folk out there overselling this as what is actually going to happen in the end?
>> well, and again, i think this is one of the problems that we are facing now, is that everyone is trying to ‑‑ trying to ‑‑ they think they understand what it is.
And it has not really been defined completely.
Our goals are ‑‑ is to number one, again, provide a ‑‑ the health care to all vermonters that is a quality health care and one that is sustainable.
Right now the path that we are on and if you look at health care costs now, it is not sustainable.
And which comes back to the issue of we are on in essence the very first initial phase of developing a health care program.
If people have said to us that we are moving too fast.
And i ‑‑ and i have to take that ‑‑ i take it back because i sit ‑‑ i say well wait a second, what we are doing is we are developing one phase of this now.
It is going to take two or three years four years to really get everything together.
We are going to do our due diligence.
Therefore numerous questions that have been ‑‑ have been posed to both us, the legislators, individual legislators and also to the media about how the program will affect one phase of the community or one part of the community, whether businesses or whatever.
How will people from ‑‑ if they already have ‑‑ if they live in vermont but seek health care out of state.
There are ‑‑ these are all legitimate questions and ones that will be answered over the next two or three years.
However, and again, we have to go back to what are we really trying to do.
And if we wait any longer, we are ‑‑ everything will implode.
We don't have time to wait.
So, what we are doing is we have ‑‑ we saw the issue, the problem, and now we are moving forward and we are going to move forward at a pace that i believe will put us together and develop a great program within the next few years.
>> how can you put a program together when you have no idea what it is going to cost or how you are going to pay for it?
That's not typically the way bills are passed.
>> well, i think in this situation you have to look at number one, if we don't though exactly what the in tire program is going to look like, it would be hard to put a number on it.
In fact i actually would ‑‑ if somebody can come in and put a number on something that we can't ‑‑ that we really haven't identified and haven't developed on produced, it is ‑‑ it is ‑‑ i think it is common sense you would say you have a program, you have developed a product and then you will find out if you are going time complement that product, your looking ‑‑ that's when you put together all the numbers and you figure out how much it is going to cost.
And then when you know the total amount that you will have to ‑‑ as a government have to raise or the type of revenue that we will have to look to and that is another aspect of this, is you know, how if we did ‑‑ let's assume for a moment that we did have a number and you put a number out there, the next state or the next part would be actually to figure out exactly how we are going to raise that ‑‑ or come up with those funds to ‑‑ or the money to fund those projects.
>> con you ever see a situation where okay, you do run the numbers and you say hey look it is not going to working this is going to be too expensive and will pull back in two years and you spent ‑‑ i think first year is 1.2 million dollars just for the board creation and the consultants and salary of the people.
Are we headed down something like that?
You guys could say look we tried and ‑‑
And i want to be very clear on that.
‑‑ what we are trying to do is something that's not been done in this country.
We are going to be first here and some people say why do we always have to be first.
Well we have a state that because of its size, we are able to probably be a good bellwether of whether this will be able to expand to other states.
However, if we feel that based on dr. Shou's report that we will be able to make it affordable and that it will working but if it ‑‑ if we find that there are so many difficulties and that ‑‑ that there is no way that we could actually afford to develop the program and keep it sustainable, or that the people who are going to be part of the ‑‑ or that are going to pay into the system, that it would be higher than what they are looking at right now or ‑‑ and or what the rates will be in 2, 3 years, then i have no problem by saying you know what, we tried, and we found out that it is not possible to do.
However, i think on the other side of that, anson, is the fact that we can't just sit back and do nothing.
That is not an option.
We don't have that opportunity right now ‑‑ or the option right now to just do nothing.
And so you know, some people will say, well why don't you wait for the federal government.
I am not one that believes we should wait for federal government to do anything.
They ‑‑ if you look to see what is coming down the pike from a budgetary standpoint, it is almost like they have abandoned the states and what their obligations are to us.
So i think it is incumbent upon us as state legislators to take the ball and run with it.
And you know, it is a ‑‑ it is a very tough ‑‑ this is a tough decision that we had to make.
But i think it is one that we have accepted and we are going to do it.
And hopefully we are right and hopefully we will be able to produce a product that will be affordable, will be sustainable.
>> we will leave health care for now and will take a brief break and continue our conversation with senate president pro tem john campbell.
A lot more to talk about, budget, taxes, you name it.
We will continue our discussion in just a minute.
We are talking about all the bic issues that are being debated and tacked in montpelier with senate president pro tem john campbell.
The other big bill that's coming your way is the budget.
I want to talk a bit about taxes and the approach that the house and the governor has taken i want to sort of start by listening to something that governor shumlin said at a press conference recently.
Very concerned with the direction the house took and concerned with the cigarette tax.
So let's listen in to what he had to say and wasn't to get your reaction
>> just seems to me ‑‑ that we would ask the factory work here is making 9, 10, 11 bucks an hurt to pay 27 cents more for a pack of cigarettes and then tell the dentist, who refused to serve medicaid and medicare patients, that they are off the hook.
>> so illogical in the cigarette tax.
What's the senate view on that?
>> probably 30 cents.
As i told the governor this morning.
We will be taking a look at everything.
As you know the whole or the shortfall is 176 million dollars.
And that comes on the heels of a 250 million dollar shortfall last year.
So it is really so difficult to find areas to cut that are not going to be so deep that it will totally disrupt our community.
So ‑‑ we do have to look for revenue.
And most of the revenue and in fact actually the senate or the house budget that i believe it will be coming over, that will be coming over to us, this ‑‑ when we are back on tuesday, it will ‑‑ i believe it will be 24 million dollars in revenue that they raised and they did some through the hospital provider tax.
And then also the cigarette tax.
The tax on the dentist, that was removed from ‑‑ from where it was in the ‑‑ and of course the governor pointed it out and i has a very good argument, a very good discussion, a point where the fact is that some of the dentists in ‑‑ or a lot of dentists in vermont do not want to take medicaid patients.
And then when you talk to the dentist you, can understand sometimes why in the fact that there is a lot of the folks will make appointments and then not show up, which totally disrupts everything and they don't get paid for that.
However, you know, we ‑‑ the way i see it is that dental care is a very important aspect of your overall health.
And we have consciously reached out to try to help dentists, the dental profession in the past years since i have been in the legislature.
Where we have done loan forgiveness programs for new dentists coming in.
We have done ‑‑ put up local clinics to help the ‑‑ those dentists who would like to help the medicaid or medicaid group of folks that are coming in to seek dental care.
So i think that ‑‑ i wish there was a ‑‑ a little bit more of a response from the dentist that was more proactive as to understanding the problem that we are facing.
And that being ‑‑ you know poor dental care for low income folks.
So, i think there are a come ways to look at it.
I ‑‑ it is one of those areas where i am speaking with our joint fiscal committee to talk ‑‑ or the also to our committees on finance and appropriations to see if there is other ways in which we can induce or hopefully get the dentist to the point where they understand that they have an obligation here to the community as well and while at the same time, you know, raising some of the revenue.
The tax, the cigarette tax issues are one where cigarette taxes especially myself, i am in winds o'county so i'm on the connecticut river and that's not popular and never is popular.
But quite frankly, i think that especially now that new hampshire has lowered their cigarette tax again, i don't think whateverks that we may put on a seg rit is going to chase anymore people over there that aren't going over there now to get their cigarettes so it is one of those issues where you know some people say it is affecting the lowest income group.
And i guess what i have to look at that and i say that we all know that smoking is not good for your health.
We all know the type of ‑‑ the increase that it puts on our health care system itself in respiratory illnesses, card knack illnesses and so we are trying to do everything we can to discourage people from smoking on one hand.
And then also it is ‑‑ that's a revenue source that is good for rev he into thaw you need immediately.
And so i think we are going tike real hard look at it.
I would right now if hi to tell you an answer, would i say that we probably will stick with the cigarette tax as part of the package.
>> when i chase people back into vermont, i'm sure you hear from store owners, like why not you know buy a bag of popcorn and go along with the cigarettes or some other food shopping or whatever or gas or anything.
Why not ‑‑ why not try to get those people back from new hampshire instead of your point of raising it doesn't matter?
>> first of all, i dope think we would be able to lower it enough to a level that actually would do that.
I think ‑‑ i don't know the exact number but i know that they are significantly lower than what we are.
We are not talking about 10, 15 cents.
We are talking dollars less than what we ‑‑ that we have and yeah you could look at a loss later saying let's bringing someone coming in and attract them to try to buy their cigarettes or whatever here and then buy gas at the same time.
I don't see that as a positive role for any legislator to suggest.
Especially because of the fact that the physical damage that occurs from smoking.
So, i know that i have a lot of folks back in my neck of the woods and which is businesss that are not happy with my decision on this and my feelings on it.
But, i have to lack at the entire state and also quite frankly, i look at our kids.
And i do not want to have a ‑‑ you know, us basically promoting a product that i know is going to cause them significant illness when they ‑‑ as as they grow.
>> looks like there is some differences that are pretty clear now between the last 8 years and what is happening now with the legislature.
It looks like taxes are now on the table and they haven't been on the table for 8 years because the governor has always said you can't go there and you folks haven't gone there.
Why the change and what is different this year outside of governor douglas not being there saying no no no no no?
>> well, even though governor douglas said no no no no, there were still times when we ‑‑ there were some other revenue, but they came in the sense of ‑‑ or by way of feels and other ‑‑ other revenue generators.
But the biggest issue, quite frankly, is the lack ‑‑ a loss of funds.
The federal funds nor longer there.
Those were extremely significant.
In fact, the ‑‑ right now i believe that some of the house republicans had said that the governor's budget plus the one that they are debating today, increases by 4, 5% and in reality, what it is, is that if you looked, that is really represents the loss of the federal funds that we had.
So, you know we are not going to be able to know that we could fall back on the federal aid, if you will, so we are going to have to go forward.
And we have.
And i will tell you, think governor shumlin has done an incredible job.
He probably surprise aid lot of people with the cuts that had he suggested and that he has in his budget.
I believe that there were a lost folks that went out and said oh, you know democrats have the house.
Democrats have the senate.
And new we got a democrat in the governor's seat and they expected everything to be ‑‑ you know raising taxes all over and not doing any cuts.
And what you have seen is a really courageous man in this administration who says you know i'm going to have to make some really tough decisions and we as a legislature, we also have to make really tough, tough decisions.
When you look to see when we start cutting social service programs, that is not easy thing to do.
But it is ‑‑ if we are going to ‑‑ if the state is going to ‑‑ as far as budget and balance the budget every year, there are things we have to do.
>> one issue if we could get off the budget briefly, we have 3 minutes left this, day care bill that's making its way through the legislature with day care folks wanting to be able to create a union, least people are saying that your one that is going to stop this from becoming a reality and the governor is behind it.
Looks like there is strong support in the house.
Is that something that you are really nervous about?
>> i'm not nervous by the at all actually.
I am not supporting the issue.
It is one where i ‑‑ i ‑‑ we are so fortunate to have these folks out there and you know taking care of our children, it is extremely important.
But here we are in a time when we are cutting social services and it is hard for me to look at somebody and tell them as some people i think have told these folks that if they organize, they are automatically going to get another 2, 3 dollars an hour from the state.
We can't afford it now.
We are cutting some of these programs now.
How are we going to look at these folks and tell them you get organized and we will pay you more?
It doesn't ‑‑ i doesn't in my mind face ‑‑ pass the straight face test.
And one of the things that i ‑‑ i have said when i got this position is i'm not going to promise somebody something that i can't deliver on.
I think it is unfair to these folks.
And i also told them that they will have a voice at the table and a seat at the table.
If i'm there, they will have a seat at the table.
We will take care of and listen to what their needs are.
But it would be false expectations, in my mind, and i just think it is counter productive to promise people things that you north going to be able to deliver.
>> because the talk is that so there is so much support in the house and of the governor wants it that public pressure will push you to take this issue up and pass it.
It is something that the senate is just not going to take this up year, they will have to wait?
>> as far as actually taking it up, i have been ‑‑ the way i have spoken to my committee chairs, is i don't block things that i ‑‑ just because i personally do not want to ‑‑ or want it blocked.
If i feel that there is something that i do not think will be productive from a day to day operation of the senate, then i'll probably do something like that.
If there are significant number of senators that want to discuss it, that's fine.
I believe that i will be able to show the fallacy in what some of the expectations are.
And so therefore, i ‑‑ would i not be surprise if we don't deal with it this year.
>> just very quickly just a few seconds left.
Senator campbell, your first time in the leadership role as senate president pro tem.
What surprised you about it?
You have real strong characters in the senate.
>> we certainly do.
We certainly do.
No, actually i'm very fortunate and actually the state is fortunate because we have tremendous, some very intelligent, very capable people and what i'm so impressed with, we have two women in charge of our money chairs, jane in appropriations and ann cummings is with finance.
They have ‑‑ they just do an incredible job working very hard.
The surprise, is probably the number of hours and its is no longer 5 days or 6 days.
It is actually i'm there 7 days a week now.
>> well, senator campbell thank you so much for your time.
And thank you for watching.
Have a great sunday.captioning provided by
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