YCQM: February 16, 2014 - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

YCQM: February 16, 2014

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

FROM VERMONT'S MOST TRUSTED NEWS SOURCE, WCAX BRINGS YOU YOUR NEWSMAKERS, YOUR NEIGHBORS. THIS IS "YOU CAN QUOTE ME."

>>> GOOD MORNING, EVERYONE. WE'RE TALKING TRANSPORTATION THIS MORNING WITH SENATOR DICK MAZZA. SENATOR, THANKS FOR BEING HERE THIS MORNING.

>> MY PLEASURE.

>> AND OUR STATE HOUSE REPORTER KYLE MIDURA BEGINS THE CONVERSATION.

>> DARREN, THANK YOU. SENATOR, THIS YEAR THE TRANSPORTATION BUDGET IS LOOKING TO BE ABOUT $33 MILLION HIGHER THAN IT WAS LAST YEAR, UP TO $686 MILLION IF MEMORY SERVES. WHAT'S THAT GOING TO MEAN FOR THE STATE OF VERMONT ROADS AND OUR RECENT REPORT FOUND THAT 22% ARE IN VERY POOR CONDITION?

>> WE HOPE WE'RE GOING TO MAKE GREAT PROGRESS ON BRIDGES AND INFRASTRUCTURE, BUT HAVING THE WEATHER WE'RE HAVING NOW, WE'RE WORRIED ABOUT THE MAINTENANCE BUDGET BECAUSE THAT COMES FIRST. WE MUST DO OUR MAINTENANCE AND THEN -- SO WE'RE HOPING THAT THE INCREASE IS COMPLEPT NEWS, BUT WE ALSO HOPE WE DON'T HAVE TO POSTPONE OR DELAY PROJECTS BECAUSE OF SPENDING THE POINT WE'RE SPENDING NOW. AS YOU KNOW, THE ROADS ARE DETERIORATING QUITE RAPIDLY THIS WINTER AND IT'S NOT EVEN SPRING YET, SO HAVING SAID THAT, THE AGENCY IS CONCERNED ABOUT HOW MUCH MONEY WILL GO FOR MAJOR INFRASTRUCTURE VERSUS JUST OUR MAINTENANCE PROGRAM. THAT'S A BIG ISSUE.

>> HOW LIKELY SIT THAT SOME OF THE FUNDING WILL BE DIVERTED TO MAINTENANCE? WHAT ARE YOU HEARING RIGHT NOW?

>> I THINK IT'S HIGHLY LIKELY THAT WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO DO THAT. I THINK AS WE LOOK AROUND AND, FOR EXAMPLE, OUR EXPENSES FOR BRINGING MAINTENANCE ARE UP SUBSTANTIALLY OVER LAST YEAR. WE ALL KNOW THE SALT HAS BEEN A TREMENDOUS USE. WE KNOW OUR OVERTIME AND THE ICE STORMS HAVE BEEN GREATER THAN LAST YEAR. SO WE'VE GOT A LONG WAY TO GO YET. WHAT HAPPENS THE NEXT SIX WEEKS OF WINTER WILL DETERMINE HOW THE OUTCOME IS COME SPRING, BUT WE'RE HOPING THAT WE JUST PROBABLY GET SOME SNOW IN THE FUTURE, IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS, AND NOT THE ICE STORMS. THE ICE STORMS ARE THE COSTLY ONES, SO WE'D HIKE TO SAVE THAT MONEY GOING INTO SUMMER FOR OUR MAJOR PROJECTS.

>> YOU COVER AND SERVE THE GRAND ISLE AND CHITTENDEN AREAS, BUT CAN YOU POINT TO SOME REAL PROBLEM AREAS STATEWIDE THAT NEED ADDRESSING AT THIS POINT?

>> WE ALL HAVE THE ROUTE 7 CORRIDOR, THERE'S A LOT OF SECONDARY HIGHWAYS IN VERMONT THAT ARE STARTING TO CHEW UP QUITE RAPIDLY. EVEN OUR INTERSTATE HAS SOME MINOR PROBLEMS. SO, YOU KNOW, WE DO DEAL GOOD A LOT OF MILES OF -- WITH A LOT OF MILES OF ROAD. NOT AS MANY AS THE TOWN HIGHWAYS. THE TOWN HIGHWAYS, LET'S NOT FORGET, THERE'S GOING TO BE IN A BIND THIS YEAR TOO BECAUSE THEY'RE DEALING WITH THOUSANDS OF MILES OF ROADS AND THEY'RE STILL RECOVERING FROM THE FLOOD AND THE HURRICANE, SO HAVING SAID THAT, WE WERE -- WE'LL HAVE A BETTER JUDGED AS THE WEEKS GO -- IDEA AS THE WEEKS GO ON, BUT IT IS WILL BE A SUBSTANTIAL BUSINESS.

>> LAST YEAR, A HIKE IN THE GAS TAX WAS PASSED IN PART TO PAY FOR THIS BECAUSE WE'RE FINDING THE FUNDS SIMPLY WEREN'T MATCHING THE NEED. IS THAT HIKED GAS TAX STARTING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

>> WELL, IT IS AND IT ISN'T. IT CERTAINLY IS A GREAT HELP, BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, WE'RE DRIVING FEWER MILES AND WE KNOW WE'RE USING LESS GASOLINE, AND SO, YOU KNOW, WE'RE MAINTAINING BUT THE BIG ISSUE HERE IS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS NOT ADDRESSED OUR CONCERNS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRIES IT'S NOT JUST A VERMONT PROBLEM. AS YOU RECALL, WE HAVE NOT HAD A GASOLINE INCREASE ON THE FEDERAL LEVEL FOR 20 YEARS, '93 WAS THE LAST TIME IT WAS -- THERE WAS A GAS TAX INCREASE. THEY HAVE NOT DECIDED ON THE FEDERAL LEVEL HOW TO ADDRESS THE FUTURE OF TRANSPORTATION, WHERE TO GO TO GET OUR -- THE COLLECTIONS. THEY'RE STILL BATTLING THAT AND WE'VE BEEN ON -- WE DON'T HAVE ANY CERTAINTY. WE'VE TALKED TO THE CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION. WE NEED THAT, THAT CERTAINTY, WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE. WE CAN'T DO THIS ON OUR OWN. LIKE I SAID, IT'S NOT JUST A VERMONT PROBLEM. WE WERE HOPING BY OCTOBER, THERE'S A BILL IN CONGRESS THAT ADDRESSES OUR NEEDS OF HOW. THERE'S A RELUCTANCE TO RAISE THE GAS TAX FOR WHATEVER REASON, BUT HAVING SAID THAT, WHERE DO YOU GO FOR FUNDING INFRASTRUCTURE ACROSS THE COUNTRY?

>> BECAUSE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT 33 MILLION IN NEW FUNDS HERE, ABOUT 24, POSSIBLY, FROM THE FEDS.

>> RIGHT.

>> SO SOMEHOW DO WE THEN MAKE UP -- HOW DO WE THEN MAKE UP THE REST?

>> THAT'S THE PROBLEM WE'RE GOING TO HAVE. WE'RE DOING WELL IN VERMONT ON OUR, ON OUR FEES AND OUR GAS TAX, BUT LIKE I SAID, WE CAN'T -- UNLESS WE HAVE SOME CERTAINTY IN THE FUTURE OF HOW THE FEDS ARE GOING TO FUND TRANSPORTATION, IT'S GOING TO BE A MAJOR PROBLEM AND SO WE'RE HOPING, BECAUSE IF IT DOESN'T HAPPEN RELATIVELY SOON, WE'RE GOING TO HAVE TO HAVE TWO BUDGETS. ONE WITH SOME CERTAINTY AND ONE WITH THE UNCERTAINTY OF WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN ON A FEDERAL LEVEL BECAUSE AS YOU LOOK AT OUR FUNDING FEDERAL -- I THINK IT'S AROUND $300 MILLION OR MORE, 350 MILLION, I THINK O FEDERAL LEVEL, AND THE REST IS STATE FUNDS, SO WITHOUT THAT, WE CERTAINLY CAN'T CONTINUE OUR IMPROVEMENTS.

>> WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OPTIONS ON THE TABLE? IS A GAS TAX BEING CONSIDERED AGAIN?

>> THAT'S WHAT -- THAT'S VERY EASY. I THINK PENNY RAISES A BILLION DOLLARS ON THE NATIONAL LEVEL, BUT THERE'S TALKS OF A MILEAGE TAX. I DON'T SEE THAT HAPPENING. NUMBER ONE, THAT'S A NIGHTMARE TO ADMINISTER. THERE'S A LOT OF PRIVACY ISSUES ON MILEAGE TAX, SO IT'S BEEN TALKED ABOUT, BUT I DON'T THINK IT'S ANYWHERE NEAR PRIME TIME. I JUST THINK THAT -- THE OTHER ISSUE IS, AS WE ALL KNOW ABOUT THE DIESEL TAXES, IS FUNDED FROM TAXATION, BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, THE TREND IS GOING TO NATURAL GAS FOR TRUCKING. MY PREDICTION IS IN THE NEXT TEN YEARS, TRUCKS IN THIS COUNTRY WILL BE RUNNING NATURAL GAS. HAVING SAID THAT, YOU HAVE TO FIGURE OUT A RATIO OF HOW TO CHECK THE TAX ON NATURAL GAS. RIGHT NOW AS WE SPEAK, THERE'S ABOUT 1500 FILLING STATIONS FROM COAST TO COAST THAT WILL BE SELLING NATURAL GAS TO TRUCKERS, SO AS THAT TAKES PLACE, HOW ARE YOU GOING TO TAX THE NATURAL GAS PART TO PUT IN THE TRANSPORTATION FUND? THE OTHER ISSUE IS ELECTRIC VEHICLES. NOW, WE HAVE VERY FEW IN VERMONT, BUT HAVING SAID THAT, THERE ARE THOSE WHO SAY, OKAY, I'M USING ELECTRIC VEHICLE AND I'M HELPING THE ENVIRONMENT, BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, THEY'RE USING THE HIGHWAY BUT NOT PAYING A GAS TAX. SO THESE ISSUES IN THE HYBRID -- THESE ISSUES ALL HAVE TO BE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION BECAUSE THE WHOLE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM AND HOW WE FUND IT AND HOW WE TAX GAS MEAN AND DIESEL IS CHANGE -- GASOLINE AND DIESEL IS CHANGING, SO THIS IS NOT GOING TO BE THE SAME TAX TEN YEARS FROM NOW AS WE'RE SEEING TODAY. GASOLINE -- THE CARS ARE GETTING BETTER GAS MILEAGE AND THEY'RE SWITCHING TO HYBRIDS AND SO WHEN WE DO THAT, THAT'S THE GOOD NEWS. THE BAD NEWS IS HOW DO YOU GENERATE THE REVENUE. SO THAT'S AN INTERESTING DISCUSSION.

>> THE OTHER ELEMENT OF KEEPING OUR ROADS SAFE THIS WINTER IS SALT, GIVEN THE IMMEDIATE THREAT OF FROZEN RAIN AND SNOW. WE'VE SEEN A LOT OF IT THIS YEAR. THERE'S BEEN A SALT SHORTAGE THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. HOW ARE WE DOING?

>> WE'RE DOING WELL. WE HAVE ABOUT 70,000 TONS ON HAND RIGHT NOW. WE GO THROUGH ABOUT 130 TONS, 130,000 TONS A YEAR. OUR SHEDS ARE IN GOOD SHAPE. WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO KEEP THEM PRETTY MUCH -- I'M WORRIED ABOUT THE TOWNS. THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR HAD A MEETING THIS WEEK TO TRY TO HELP TOWNS ON WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN BECAUSE SOME TOWNS HAVE USED MORE THAN THEIR ALLOCATION. THEY BUY ON AN ALLOCATION BASIS, SO WE'RE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WITH THE SALT IN SHORT SUPPLY, HOW DO WE HELP SOME OF THESE MUNICIPALITIES GET THROUGH THE WINTER. FOR EXAMPLE, NEW YORK, THE STATE OF YORK JUST ASKED FOR 131,000 TONS JUST TO GET THROUGH THE WINTER, SO -- AND YOU GOT ALL ACROSS THE COUNTRY TAKING SALT, SO THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR HAS BEEN VERY INSTRUMENTAL IN TRYING TO GET THOSE FOLKS TOGETHER AND SAY WHAT IS OUR FUTURE FOR SALT USAGE BECAUSE IF WE HAVE MORE ICE STORMS, WE'RE GOING TO BE IN TROUBLE. SNOW IS ANOTHER ISSUE. WE CAN SURVIVE THE SNOW STORMS, BUT ICE IS AN ISSUE. BUT WE'RE IN GOOD SHAPE. THE STATE AS OF YESTERDAY, THEIR SHEDS ARE VERY, VERY WELL STOCKED.

>> WE'RE JUST ABOUT HALFWAY IS MY UNDERSTANDING.

>> YEAH, WE'RE ABOUT HALFWAY. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT SIX WEEKS, BUT I THINK IF WE GO -- EVERY DAY THAT GOES BY, WE'RE CLOSER TO, YOU KNOW, BALANCING OUT OUR SALT, BUT I THINK EVEN IF WE DIDN'T GET ANY MORE SALT SUPPLY, I THINK WE COULD MAKE IT THROUGH THE WINTER.

>> WHAT ABOUT HELPING SOME OF THESE OTHER TOWNS THAT ARE RUNNING LOW? WHAT ARE SOME OF THE IDEAS BEING FLOATED?

>> WELL, THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR THIS WEEK, LIKE I SAID, THERE WERE A FEW OF US THAT GOT TOGETHER AND HE TALKED TO THE LEAGUE OF CITIES AND TOWNS AND SAID WHICH TOWNS ARE HURTING BADLY? IS THERE ANY TOWN THAT HAS EXCESS SUPPLY THAT CAN HELP THAT NEIGHBORING TOWN? SO THE LEAGUE IS GOING TO DO A LITTLE SURVEY THIS WEEK WITH THE NEIGHBORING TOWNS AND SEE IF ONE TOWN HAS USED LESS, THE ALLOCATIONINGS -- AL HO INDICATION IS NOT THERE, CAN THEY SHARE IT WITH ANOTHER TOWN AND IF SOMETHING REALLY GETS BAD, WE PROBABLY HAVE TO HELP OUT.

>> NEIGHBORS HELPING NEIGHBORS.

>> THAT'S VERMONT, THAT'S RIGHT.

>> SENATOR, LET'S TALK ABOUT RAIL, ANOTHER ISSUE AND PART OF THE TRANSPORTATION BUDGET. THERE'S TALK ABOUT EXPANDING FROM BURLINGTON TO NEW YORK. TELL US ABOUT WHAT'S ON THE TABLE HERE.

>> THIS IS EXCITING, THIS IS SOMETHING THAT IF WE GO BACK TO THE HOWARD DEAN DAYS AND AS YOU RECALL, MANY YEARS AGO, WE HAD THE CROSSINGS INSTALLED FROM BURLINGTON WITH THE COMMUTER RAIL AND THERE WAS A LOT OF DISLIKES ABOUT THAT PROGRAM. BUT WE WERE ABLE TO MAKE A NUMBER OF CROSSING AND UPGRADE THEM. NOW TODAY WE'RE LOOKING AT THE TRAIN, NATURALLY, TO GO TO NEW YORK CITY FROM BURLINGTON AND WE HAVE THE STATION IN BURLINGTON, ALL THE INFRASTRUCTURE READY TO GO, AND LET ME TELL YOU, IF THERE'S GOING TO BE A SUCCESSFUL PASSENGER RAIL SERVICE, IT WILL BE FROM BURLINGTON TO NEW YORK CITY. WE KNOW THAT'S GOING TO WORK AND WE'LL NOT HAVE TO SUBSIDIZE IT ANYWHERE NEAR WHAT WE THINK WAS GOING TO BE SUBSIDIZED. THE THINK THE RIDERSHIP IS GOING TO BE HIGH.

>> DIRECTLY OR ALBANY.

>> ALBANY, AND THEN ALBANY TO NEW YORK CITY.

>> SURE.

>> THAT'S A -- WE JUST GOT A $9 MILLION TIGER GRANT FOR THIS CORRIDOR, ABOUT TWO, THREE MONTHS -- A COUPLE MONTHS AGO, AND SO NOW WE'RE ONLY ABOUT, I'D SAY ONLY PROBABLY 10, $15 MILLION SHORT OF MAKING IT POSSIBLE FOR AMTRAK TO RIDE THIS RAIL ON THIS SIDE OF THE STATE.

>> WHY ARE YOU SO CONFIDENT THAT THIS WILL WORK?

>> BECAUSE THERE'S A GREATS FOR HAITION FROM BURLG -- POPULATION FROM BURLINGTON TO NEW YORK CITY. THEY WOULD LOVE TO TAKE THE TRAIN VERSUS FLYING. I KNOW IT'S GOING TO BE A LITTLE LONGER, BUT THERE AGAIN, IF YOUR PASSENGER RAIL CAN DO THE MAXIMUM -- AMTRAK WANTS 60, 65 MILES AN HOUR, YOU CAN GET SERVICE TO NEW YORK CITY IN PROBABLY SIX, SIX AND A HALF HOURS OR SO. I THINK IT WILL BE SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE CAN GET ON, THEY CAN RELAX, DO THEIR BUSINESS, AND WE'VE DONE SOME SURVEYS AND THERE'S A GREAT NEED FOR RIDERSHIP FROM BURLINGTON TO NEW YORK, SO I THINK THAT BECAUSE OF THE INFRASTRUCTURE BEING THERE AND ON THE WAY DOWN, YOU HAVE MIDDLEBURY, YOU SHOP AT RUTLAND AND WHETHER YOU GO THROUGH BENNINGTON OR DIRECTLY IS ANOTHER ISSUE WE CAN DISCUSS, BUT THE INFRASTRUCTURE OF THE TRACK ARE LEAST EXPENSIVE FROM BURLINGTON TO RUTLAND THAN THEY ARE FROM RUTLAND DOWN THROUGH BENNINGTON, TO WE HAVE TO LOOK AT THE FIRST STEP AND WHERE WE CAN AFFORD TO GO, BUT THE $9 MILLION HELPS CONSIDERABLY FOR RAIL. I TOOK THAT TRAIN, WE HAD A LITTLE EXCURSION HERE A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO FROM HERE TO RUTLAND AND, BOY, IT'S SMOOTH. THE TRACKS HAVE BEEN REPLACED WITH NEW RAIL AND THERE'S NO CLICKETY-CLICK AND IT'S JUST NICE. WE STILL HAVE AREAS IN MIDDLEBURY WHERE, AS YOU KNOW, AK AMTRAK, UNLESS THEY CAN GET 60, 65 MILES AN HOUR, THEY WON'T RUN.

>> AS YOU KNOW, THERE WAS A TRAIN TO USED TO GO UP TO MONTREAL. THAT IS NO MORE. I'M CURIOUS WHAT MAKES YOU THINK THAT SERVING ANOTHER CITY LIKE THIS WOULD WORK.

>> I'M NOT SAYING THAT IF WE GOT A TRAIN BACK TO MONTREAL, IT WOULD BE HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL. IT'S VERY FRUSTRATING, WE'VE BEEN WORKING ON THIS FOR MANY YEARS AND SOMEHOW WE CAN'T GET A TRAIN FROM ST. ALBANS TO MONTREAL.

>> IS IT A BORDER ISSUE?

>> IT'S A BORDER ISSUE. WE KEEP HEARING OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN THAT IT'S A BORDER ISSUE. IT'S HARD FOR ME TO GLEEF THAT WITH ALL THE RELATIONSHIP, THE GOOD RELATIONSHIP WE HAVE WITH CANADA, WHY WE WANT PUT A TRAIN ACROSS THE BORDER. ONCE YOU FILL THE TRAIN IN ST. ALBANS, TO ME IT'S -- I UNDERSTAND THERE'S A LABOR ISSUE, THERE'S UNION CONTRACTS OF HOW MANY HOURS THE TRAIN GOES, BUT WE DID IT AT ONE TIME. BUT THAT WAS A SUCCESSFUL TRAIN WHEN IT WENT TO MONTREAL. BUT GOING TO ST. ALBANS, THEY DON'T HAVE THE RIDERSHIP. THEY GO TO ST. ALBANS PRIMARILY BECAUSE THAT'S WHERE THEY SERVICE THE TRAIN AND THAT'S THE MAIN DEPOT FOR ALL THE TRAIN TRAFFIC. NOW, BURLINGTON CENTRAL OWNS THAT RAIL AND THEY CERTAINLY WOULD LOVE TO GO TO MONTREAL BECAUSE THE RIDERSHIP WOULD INCREASE DRAMATICALLY.

>> LET'S TRANSITION TO SOME OTHER ISSUES, AND THAT WOULD BE THE VERMONT HEALTH CONNECT. STILL NOT FULLY FUNCTIONAL. AS YOU WATCH THIS, AND NOW GRANTED YOU'RE IN TRANSPORTATION, NOT INTIMATELY FAMILIAR WITH THE HEALTH CONNECT ISSUES, I'D IMAGINE, BUT FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, IS THIS GOING WELL? DOES THIS NEED TO GO BETTER? WHAT CAN BE DONE?

>> WELL, IT'S BEEN A REAL SURPRISE THAT IT'S NOT GOING WELL. IT'S -- I GUESS IT IS A SURPRISE IF YOU LOOK IT AND SAY, OKAY, IT'S GOING TO TAKE TIME, BUT THE BEST THING THEY CAN DO NOW IS DELAY THIS THING. I MEAN, IT'S JUST NOT -- PEOPLE ARE SO FRUSTRATED, I HAVE PEOPLE CONTINUE TO ASK ME WHAT THEY CAN DO, THEY'VE DONE EVERYTHING THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO DO AND IT'S STILL BACK TO A LOT OF PHONE CALLS, SO IF YOU'RE NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME, LET'S DELAY THE IMPLEMENTATION. I KNOW IT'S DELAYED UNTIL MARCH, BUT IF IT HAS TO BE DELAYED AGAIN, DELAY IT. WHY TRY TO DO SOMETHING THAT'S NOT WORKING? FOR WHATEVER REASON, YOU HEAR ALL KINDS OF REASONS, IT'S THIS, IT'S THE CONTRACTOR THAT TOOK THE JOB, BUT FOR WHATEVER REASON THE CONSUMER OUT THERE CAN'T GET THROUGH, CAN'T SEEM TO MAKE THE DEAL, IT'S COSTING A LOT OF MONEY. SO DELAY, TO ME, WOULD NOT SCRAP THE PROJECT.

>> ARE WE TALKING ABOUT A ONE-YEAR DELAY?

>> SURE, I THINK A YEAR DELAY WOULD BE FINE. WHY NOT GET IT PREPARED AND DO IT -- PEOPLE GET VERY FRUSTRATED. A GENTLEMAN CAME IN TO SEE ME YESTERDAY AT MY STORE AND VERY FRUSTRATED BECAUSE HE'S DONE EVERYTHING HE'S SUPPOSED TO DO, YET HE HAS NO CONFIRMATION THAT HE HAS THE INSURANCE. THAT'S VERY FRUSTRATING TO HIM. HE DOESN'T KNOW IF HE'S COVERED, NOT COVERED. IF THERE'S PROBLEMS LIKE THIS -- AND I KNOW THEY'VE DONE A LOT SUCCESSFULLY, DONE 25,000, I GUESS IT'S UP TO, BUT HAVING SAID THAT, IF YOU STILL CONTINUE TO HAVE PROBLEMS, THERE'S NOT ANYTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF TO POSTPONE IT FOR A YEAR, GET THE KINKS WORKED OUT OF IT AND MOVE ON.

>> SENATOR, YOU'RE MARKING 30 YEARS IN THE SENATE. HAVE YOU EXPRESSED SOME OF THESE CONCERNS TO THE GOVERNOR, AND IS HE HEARING YOU?

>> I THINK EVERYONE IS HEARING. I THINK THEY DON'T KNOW EXACTLY WHEN TO DO -- I THINK THEY'RE DOING ON IT A MONTHLY BASIS, IT'S GOING TO GET BETTER. HAVING SAID THAT, IS IT BETTER THIS MONTH THAN LAST MONTH? I BELIEVE IT IS, BUT IS IT GOOD ENOUGH TO -- I DON'T THINK SO. I THINK IT'S TIME TO DELAY IT.

>> DOES THIS PUT SINGLE PAYOR IN JEOPARDY?

>> THAT'S ANOTHER ISSUE. AS YOU LOOK AT THE FIGURES OUT THERE, WE'RE TALKING ABOUT ONE BILLION, TWO BILLION, WHATEVER IT IS, THERE'S NO WAY -- I DON'T SEE ANY WAY $2 BILLION IS GOING TO BE RAISED WITH A PAYROLL TAX. LET'S LOOK AT THAT. HAVING SAID THAT, WHAT OPTIONS ARE OUT THERE? THERE HAVE TO BE SOME DIFFERENT PROPOSALS BECAUSE INDUSTRY -- IF YOU WANT TO CREATE JOBS IN VERMONT, YOU CAN'T BUILD A PAYROLL TAX AND GO THERE FOR $2 BILLION. IT MAY HAVE SOME SAVINGS ON THE OTHER HAPPENED, I UNDERSTAND IS THAT CORRECT BUT WHO'S GOING TO AFFECT? UNTIL THOSE QUESTIONS ARE ANSWERED, I THINK THAT'S A VERY DIFFERENT

>>> WELCOME BACK, EVERYONE. WE'RE TALKING WITH SENATOR DICK MAZZA THIS MORNING ABOUT TRANSPORTATION ISSUES IN THE STATE OF VERMONT.

>> SENATOR MAZZA, RECENTLY YOU TOLD US THAT YOU'RE ACTUALLY WILLING TO CONSIDER A BAN ON HAND HELD ELECTRONIC DEVICES WHILE DRIVING IN THE STATE. IT'S SOMETHING THAT IN PREVIOUS YEARS, YOU WERE ADAMANTLY OPPOSED TO. WHAT'S CHANGED THIS YEAR?

>> WELL, YES, I HAVE BEEN OVER THE YEARS, BUT I THINK THERE'S A REAL ISSUE OUT THERE. WE BAN TEXTING WHILE DRIVING AS YOU KNOW AND AS I TALK TO LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS AROUND THE STATE AND I TALKED TO QUITE A FEW THEM, IT'S VERY DIFFICULT TO ENFORCE THAT BAN ON TEXT IS BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW IF THEY'RE HOLDING THE PHONE, WHETHER THEY'RE TEXTING OR MAKING A PHONE CALL. IT IS LELT TO MAKE A PHONE CALL AS YOU'RE DRIVING, SO WHAT I SAD WAS I THINK IT'S TIME THAT WE HAVE THE DISCUSSION. I WANT TO GET SOME NEW FACTS AND FIGURES. I'VE ASKED THE COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION THAT WE START BRINGING FOLKS NEXT WEEK -- AS YOU KNOW, THE HOUSE IS PASSING A BILL THIS WEEK, AND SO TO ADDRESS THIS CONCERN. IT WENT TO THE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE AND PASSED, WENT TO TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE AND PASSED OUT FAVORABLY, SO I THINK IT'S TIME TO LOOK AT THE FACTS AND FIGURES. WE'RE NOT DOING BETTER, WE'RE GETTING -- IT'S GETTING WORSE, AND AS I SEE, I DRIVE THE HIGHWAYS AND I THINK EVERY ONE OF US HAS EXPERIENCED, MORE AND MORE PEOPLE ARE ON THEIR PHONES AND WE CAN'T SOLVE ALL THE PROBLEMS IN AN AUTOMOBILE WHILE YOU'RE DRIVING, WHETHER IT'S EATING A SANDWICH OR DRINKING COFFEE, I UNDERSTAND THAT, BUT IF YOU'RE GOING TO BAN TEXTING, I THINK YOU HAVE TO DO BOTH. YOU HAVE TO BAN THE HAND HELDS. WITH ALL THE TECHNOLOGY TODAY IN AUTOMOBILES WITH THE BLUETOOTH AND HANDS-FREE TECHNOLOGY, THERE'S NO REASON NOT TO LOOK AT THAT SUBJECT AGAIN AND I'M OPEN TO THAT. AS I LOOK AROUND AT OTHER STATES, THERE'S 12 STATES THAT BAN THEM. MANY, MANY STATES BAN TEXTING AND THERE ARE MANY STATES THAT JUST DO, FOR EXAMPLE, BUS DRIVERS CAN'T DRIVE WITH A PHONE AND OTHERS ARE CAB DRIVERS OR WHATEVER IT IS, EMERGENCY VEHICLES, BUT I THINK THAT -- I THINK THEY GO TOGETHER AND I FEEL THAT THEY SHOULD BOTH BE BANNED.

>> RIGHT NOW THE BILL DOES NOT INCLUDE TRUCK DRIVERS USING CBs. IS THAT --

>> TRUCK DRIVERS ARE IN A DIFFERENT CLASS. THEY'RE UNDER THE CDL AND SO THEY'RE -- THAT'S RIGHT. THEY CAN DO THE -- BUT THEY CANNOT USE A CELL PHONE. THAT'S A DIFFERENT CLASS ALTOGETHER. THEY'RE VERY STRICT ABOUT THAT. I WAS TALKING TO THE INSPECTORS THIS WEEK AND THEY WATCH THAT VERY CLOSELY. BUT AS FAR AS ENFORCING THE TEXTING, AS YOU SAW RECENTLY, 60% OF THE FOLKS ARE STILL TEXTING. I DON'T THINK YOU CAN DISTINGUISH BETWEEN THE TWO, AND I THINK FOR AN OFFICER, WHAT THEY'RE DOING NOW IS HOLDING THE PHONE DOWN HERE BECAUSE, WHETHER IT'S TEXTING -- HOW DO YOU PROVE THEY'RE NOT TEXTING AND DIALING THE PHONE? WELL, THEY'RE BOTH DISTRACTING AND YOU MIGHT SAY IT'S DISTRACTING TO TALK ALSO, AND I UNDERSTAND THAT.

>> WHICH IS AN ARGUMENT THAT GETS MADE.

>> THAT'S CORRECT, AND I UNDERSTAND THAT, BUT IT DOESN'T MEAN WE CAN'T TAKE A SMALL STEP AND MAKE THAT MOVE. THE OTHER THING I WANT TO POINT OUT IS THAT PEOPLE SAY, WELL, I THINK YOU CAN'T LEGISLATE COMMON SENSE. ALL I KNOW OCCASIONALLY I TAKE THE ROAD TO PLATS BURG AND THE MINUTE YOU GET THERE, THE SIGN AUTOMATICALLY, YOU SEE A SIGN THAT SAYS ILLEGAL CELL PHONES, BANNED IN NEW YORK STATE. IT'S THE LAW, AND YOU THINK ABOUT THAT. IT IS THE LAW. NOW, WHETHER YOU WANT TO BREAK THE LAW, THAT'S YOUR DECISION. IF YOU WANT TO DO THAT, WE WOULD SAY, WELL, WHY HAVE SPEED LIMITS. I MEAN, IF YOU DON'T WANT TO FOLLOW THE LAW. BUT ONCE IT IS A LAW, IT'S LIKE SEATBELT USAGE, IT'S A LAW AND IF YOU WANT TO BREAK THE LAW, THAT'S FINE, YOU CAN DO THAT. BUT I THINK IT PUTS A NEW THOUGHT, WE'RE THINKING ABOUT, I CAN'T USE MY CELL PHONE AT ALL.

>> WOULD IT CHANGE YOUR BEHAVIOR?

>> YOU KNOW, I THINK -- YES, IT DEFINITELY WOULD. I THINK IT'S A LITTLE BIT, LIKE I SAID, WITH THE TECHNOLOGY TODAY IN MOST AUTOMOBILES, YOU CAN GET -- I'M RELUCTANT TO TAKE A PHONE CALL. I HATE THAT AND I HAVE DIALED WHEN YOU'RE DRIVING AND THAT IS -- THAT'S SCARY BECAUSE I'M NOT THAT GOOD WITH IT. THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO CAN DIAL IN THE DARK, YOU KNOW. I HAVE TO LOOK AT THE THING, AND I THINK THAT THE MINUTE IT'S A LAW, EVERYBODY -- I WOULD NOT, I WOULD NOT -- I WOULD ALSO HAVE POLICE DEPARTMENTS ALSO BE PROHIBITED FROM USING THEM.

>> THE VERMONT STATE POLICE ALREADY HAVE AN INTERNAL POLICY AGAINST THAT, THOUGH OTHERS MIGHT NOT.

>> I THINK SOME OF THE OTHER POLICE DEPARTMENTS WOULD WANT TO STILL MAINTAIN OR HAVE THE HANDHELD PHONES. I HAVEN'T HEARD THE TESTIMONY. WE'RE PLANNING ON DOING THAT THIS COMING WEEK, BUT I THINK IF YOU'RE GOING TO DO IT, LET'S DO IT RIGHT AND WITH THE TECHNOLOGY -- BACK TO TECHNOLOGY PART. THEY CAN DO IT WITH HANDS-FREE. THE LEAST BIT OF DISTRACTION YOU HAVE IN AN AUTOMOBILE TODAY, BECAUSE GOD KNOWS WE HAVE ALL KINDS OF THINGS AND IT'S A CONTINUING THING, WHETHER IT'S EATING OR DRINKING COFFEE OR TALKING OR WHATEVER. I THINK THAT PART CAN BE -- HELP THE BAN ON TEXTING.

>> THE GOVERNOR HAS SAID HE DOESN'T SUPPORT THIS MEASURE. DO YOU THINK IF IT PASSES THROUGH, HE'LL VETO IT?

>> I THINK THE GOVERNOR WHO AK THE MAJORITY OF THE VOTES, HOW THEY'RE GOING TO PASS THE HOUSE WHEN HE TAKES IT UP FOR CONSIDERATION. I THINK THE GOVERNOR CERTAINLY WILL LOOK, YOU KNOW, AND EVALUATE IT AT THAT TIME. I CAN'T SPEAK -- I KNOW GOVERNOR, LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR BOTH ARE LEERY ABOUT THE BILL AND MAYBE THERE'S A FORM OF THE BILL THAT WILL PASS THAT THEY CAN BOTH LIVE WITH. I DON'T KNOW. I MEAN, IT ALL DEPENDS -- I CANNOT PROMISE ANYTHING AT THIS TIME BECAUSE WE HAVEN'T HAD THE HEARINGS. WE PLAN TO DO THAT THIS WEEK AND WE'LL GET SOME UPDATES ON WHERE THE PROBLEMS ARE AND MAYBE THERE'S A BILL THAT CAN PASS THAT THE GOVERNOR CAN LIVE WITH.

>> LET'S GET AN UPDATE ON IRENE RECOVERY. WHERE ARE WE AT ON THAT PROCESS? AS YOU KNOW, HUNDREDS OF MILES OF ROADS, DOZENS OF BRIDGES DAMAGED. WHERE ARE WE AT WITH THE RECOVERY?

>> WE'RE DOING FANTASTIC. THE TOWNS HAVE A LOT OF PROJECTS. THE STATE HAS CAUGHT UP REALLY WELL. THE TOWNS ARE STILL HURTING, A LOT OF SMALL TOWNS. WE HAVE OFFERED ASSISTANCE THROUGH THE AGENCY OF TRANSPORTATION. WE HAVE ABOUT SEVEN, EIGHT FOLKS THAT ARE ASSISTING THE TOWNS AND TRYING TO GET THEIR PAPERWORK DONE AND THEIR FUNDING. WE'VE BEEN HELPING FOR THE LAST COUPLE YEARS AND CONTINUE TO DO SO, BUT THEY'RE MAKING PROGRESS BECAUSE IT IS A -- THE STATE HAD IMMEDIATELY SET UP A BIG GROUP OF FOLKS TO TAKE CARE OF THIS, AND SO OUR RECOVERY HAS BEEN REALLY AHEAD, BUT THE TOWNS ARE STILL HURTING. MANY TOWNS HAVE CULVERT ISSUES, BRIDGE ISSUES, AND WITH THE HELP THAT WE'RE GOING TO GIVE THEM, THE TOUGHEST PART IS GETTING THROUGH THE PAPERWORK AND YOU REALLY HAVE TO BE KNOWLEDGEABLE TO DO THAT BECAUSE IT TAKES TIME AND A LOT OF MONEY TO GET THROUGH, BUT -- SO I THINK, ALTHOUGH THERE'S A LOT OF PROGRESS, I THINK THERE'S STILL A WAYS TO GO, BUT I'M AMAZED -- I LOOK AT THE DESTRUCTION THROUGHOUT THE STATE AND I SEE WHAT'S HAPPENING TODAY. I SEE WHERE WE ARE TODAY AND THIS IS REMARKABLE WHAT WE'VE RECOVERED THE LAST YEAR AND A HALF.

>> WHERE ARE THE BIGGEST PROBLEM AREAS STILL?

>> ON A STATEWIDE BASIS, THERE'S INFRASTRUCTURE THAT CAN BE IMPROVED, BUT I STILL LOOK AT THOSE 40, 50 TOWNS OUT THERE THAT STILL NEED HELP.

>> ARE WE IN A BETTER POSITION NOW TO HANDLE, YOU KNOW, GOD FORBID, ANOTHER STORM LIKE THAT? DO YOU THINK THE STATE WOULD --

>> OH, YEAH, WE'VE LEARNED A LOT AND WE HIT THE GROUND RUNNING, I'LL TELL YOU, BECAUSE AS YOU KNOW, JUST RECENTLY THEY CALLED OUT THE -- WE SENT FOLKS OUT TO HELP THEM IN COLORADO AND WE HAD A GREAT TEAM AND RIGHT NOW, WITH A TEAM IN PLACE NOW, WE DON'T WANT ANYTHING TO HAPPEN AGAIN, BUT IF SOMETHING DID HAPPEN, WE HIT THE GROUND RUNNING WITHIN A FEW DAYS AND I THINK WE'RE THERE. IT'S READY AND THAT'S, THAT'S THE GOOD PART BECAUSE NOT THAT WE WANT IT TO HAPPEN, BUT WE HAVE A PLAN IN PLACE THAT CERTAINLY CAN DO THE JOB AND THERE'S A LOT OF PEOPLE HELPING PEOPLE. THERE'S A LOT OF CONTRACTORS HELPING THAT DIDN'T KNOW WHEN THEY WERE GOING TO GET PAID. AS YOU KNOW, THIS WAS ALL KINDS OF TOWNS HELPING TOWNS AND COMMUNITIES AND IT'S JUST A -- SO THAT, IF THAT HAPPENED TODAY, THEY HAVE A SYSTEM IN PLACE THAT'S READY TO GO.

>> TUESDAY, MICHAEL SERACHIN REPLACED HIS LATE WIFE IN THE SENATE. TALK TO US ABOUT WHAT IT MEANS TO FILL THAT SEAT AND WHAT IMPRESSION SENATOR FOX LEFT ON THE LEGISLATURE.

>> IT'S INTERESTING BECAUSE THERE'S BEEN TWO OR THREE BILLS IN THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS THAT COME UP WITH HER NAME ON THEM AND AS YOU KNOW, SHE WAS VERY INVOLVED IN A LOT OF LEGISLATION. SHE SERVED ON TWO VERY POWERFUL COMMITTEES, APPROPRIATION AND HEALTH AND WELFARE, AND SO -- BUT HER NAME COMES UP FROM WEEK TO WEEK AND HER HUSBAND WAS SWORN IN TUESDAY AND, IN FACT, HE'S SERVING -- WE'RE SERVING TOGETHER ON INSTITUTIONS IN THE AFTERNOON. AND IT'S JUST A -- IT'S VERY EYE-OPENING BECAUSE ALL THE YEARS SHE'S BEEN THERE AND NOW A DIFFERENT ROLE FOR HIM, AND I SAY DON'T TRY TO READ EVERYTHING BECAUSE THERE'S SO MUCH PAPERWORK, BUT IT'S -- THE FIRST WEEK, I THINK, WAS VERY TOUGH FOR HIM BECAUSE OF THE EXPERIENCE AND NEXT WEEK IT WILL GET EASIER FOR HIM.

>> SENATOR MAZZA, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

>> THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME. IT'S BEEN FUN.

>> THANKS FOR WATCHING, EVERYBODY. WE'LL SEE YOU SOON.

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