Scott, Zuckerman square off in WCAX gubernatorial debate
BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Republican incumbent Governor Phil Scott and Democratic Lieutenant Governor David Zuckerman went head-to-head Wednesday at the WCAX debate, sparring on COVID-19, the economy, police reform.
They each outlined their vision in maintaining the state’s handling of the pandemic and the long road ahead. Zuckerman says Vermonters and the governor have done their part in curbing the spread of COVID-19, but he says he would have instituted a mask mandate sooner and would have acted earlier on the weeks-long unemployment backlog.
Scott says his team has adapted to the crisis and dealt with the tools they had. “We could have been better prepared as a country. We could have had more testing supplies,” Scott said.
Though this year’s budget is balanced, Vermont will have an estimated $100 million hole in the state’s 2022 budget because of the pandemic. Zuckerman says he wants to turn to Vermont’s rainy day fund which is over $200 million and would tax the richest Vermonters making over $250,000.
Scott says the state will have to re-evaluate because there may be more help from Congress or Vermont’s financial picture could change. He also stresses there will be no new taxes. “In January, a budget will have to be presented and it will be balanced and we will have to live within our means," he said. "We can’t at this point in time put more burden on Vermonters.”
Vermont is also at a crossroads in a national discussion of police reform. Scott points to his administration’s pilot project embedding mental health councilors with state police.
Zuckerman says the state should tackle the root of diversity at its root. “Making sure we invest in opportunities that reduce the need for police intervention by having more mental health councilors and investing in more affordable housing and providing more economic opportunities for Vermonters," said Zuckerman.
The two also outlined their vision for the road ahead past the pandemic -- to address the root of Vermont’s demographic crisis. Zuckerman calls for investments in downtown development, regenerative agriculture, and broadband, to bring in and keep the next generation of Vermonters. “We also need to invest in the jobs available right now around weatherization and renewable energy," he said. "Under the governor’s term as governor, we have lost 500 renewable energy and solar installation jobs.”
But Scott says tacking the demographic crisis doesn’t happen overnight, and that under his leadership the state has made strides in bolstering the workforce. “If it weren’t for the efforts of my team over the last four years we wouldn’t have had a surplus at the end of this year in the middle of a pandemic that got us through next year as well.”
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