I put this issue at the top of this page because racial bias and inequity are manifested in every issue facing our community. As a white person, it is my job to amplify the voices of those who are directly affected by this systemic racism that exists everywhere: from our criminal justice system, to education, to healthcare and in every other aspect of our lives.  Implicit bias training is needed at every level of government and our communities so we can begin acknowledging the problem and address it. Vermont often prides itself in being the first state to outlaw slavery, but that claim is hollow if you look at our history. From our treatment of the Abenaki Tribe to the exploitation of migrant workers to “driving while black” pullovers - racism is all around us. I will call it what it is and seek out the guidance of communities of color in my administration. As Elie Wiesel said, “the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.”

As an attorney, I’m well-aware of the inequities in the criminal justice system. We incarcerate far too many Vermonters, including a disproportionate number of people of color and poor people.  We need to lower our prison population through restorative justice practices  and focus on outcomes. Only then can we end our obscene contract with private prison groups, who warehouse inmates with little regard to rehabilitation. It’s time to invest in our community justice centers and expand programs like Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) to lower recidivism rates.  

Just as the Green New Deal should pass into federal law, Vermont needs our own such law to address the biggest threat to humanity - climate change. Fossil fuels are responsible for 90% of all carbon dioxide emissions. Renewable alternatives are cheap and plentiful, yet still over 80% of the world’s energy comes from these fossil fuels. I support taxing carbon with some of the rebate options proposed by the Legislature so that low income families aren’t hit disproportionately. Vermont can lead the nation on climate change, but only by making substantial investments in weatherization, electric vehicles and public transportation.  

No one should have to choose between a paycheck and a sick child. Yet, Vermont has been unable to pass a comprehensive family leave bill. As governor, I will work with the Legislature to pass a strong family leave bill that will give working families the support they deserve. I’ll also be a champion for increasing the minimum wage to at least $15 an hour. Anybody working a full-time job should be able to afford paying rent and putting food on the table. We need a “new” New Deal. 

Vermont has some of the best schools and teachers in the country, but federal mandates coupled with Act 46 consolidations make it difficult for teachers to teach and students to learn. We need to push “pause” on these reforms and acknowledge that students are falling through the cracks, especially during this pandemic. I have a plan for “community schools,” which offer robust mental health programs and other services children need, but aren’t getting at home. My plan will offer free school lunches and breakfasts to every student, period. In addition, why don’t we start paying teachers and other school employees like the professionals they are? A minimum statewide teacher salary will help with recruitment and retention in even the least affluent districts.

Healthcare is a human right. Insurance companies and prescription drug companies prey on human suffering and need to be regulated. I strongly support “Medicare for All” at the national level and would work with other progressive governors and our congressional delegation to advocate for this. However, we cannot wait for the federal government to act and must take immediate steps to put us on the road to universal healthcare. Let’s expand Dr. Dynasaur, a program that has served our state well, and cap the out of pocket costs on the top 10-15 prescription drugs. We also need to expand and properly fund community mental health care so that Vermonters with mental illness are receiving the least restrictive care possible and pressure can be relieved from emergency rooms. Finally, we must expand support for home health aids and visiting nurse and hospice programs, aiding Vermonters who wish to age at home with independent living and end of life care. 

Unions built this country and it’s no coincidence that as union density has decreased, working people have suffered. It’s time to rebuild the labor movement in Vermont. That starts with passing card check legislation, which allows a workforce to organize when a simple majority sign cards. Too often we see bosses kill organizing drives through threats and bribes. I’ll also make certain my Department of Labor is tasked with helping workers, which includes filling long-vacant enforcement positions to crack down on misclassification and other employer violations. 

Phil Scott has been a reactionary governor for our state during this crisis. Our families are hurting, and much of this pain could have been avoided had we had an administration that prioritized progressive protections like paid family leave and didn’t seek to slash critical government expenditure at every step of the way. Calling our essential workers heroes isn’t enough; these hardworking Vermonters have deserved a living wage all along, and this pandemic has highlighted that more than ever. Finally, Governor Scott’s decision to pass the buck to individual communities on mask legislation reflects weak leadership and an ignorance of both how to effectively prevent the spread of the coronavirus and what the vast majority of Vermonters want to see. Vermont deserves a governor who won’t pass the buck on critical leadership during this unprecedented time.

Vermont needs a governor who represents the entire state; not just the wealthy and not just Chittenden County. Until every Vermonter has access to reliable broadband internet, those living in rural areas will be at a fundamental disadvantage with regards to professional and educational opportunities. Ending this disadvantage will be one of my top priorities as governor. Rural communities are the foundation of our state and my leadership will reflect that by ensuring that the people of each town have a strong educational model that fits their community’s unique needs and receive support from a state government that recognizes the value of each and every Vermont town. 

This pandemic has made it clear that Vermont is failing in our support for higher education. From the threat of shutting down large parts of the Vermont State College System to UVM’s decision to impose mass lay-offs and pay some faculty below a living wage, the actions that we are currently seeing in our state are unacceptable. I recognize the unique and irreplaceable opportunities that our state colleges bring to the youth and the economies of our rural communities and I am committed to moving Vermont out of the bottom three nationwide in per capita support for higher education.

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pat@winburn2020.com

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