The Blue-green Elephant in the Living Room

I was proud to receive an early endorsement from Vermont Conservation Voters and I supported the Shorelines bill. This summer we are really waking up to the problems we face in the lake. The Shorelines bill makes some reasonable requests of landowners on Vermont’s lakes, but they aren’t the only ones who can make a difference. I can’t tell you how sad it makes me that I couldn’t take my daughter Molly for a swim in the lake during the last few weeks of this summer due to algal blooms. It’s time we all did our part- in cities, in our transportation construction and design, with our homes and lawns and yes- on our farms.

Cleaning up the lake doesn’t have to be a multi-billion dollar effort- but it does need to be an all-in effort from homeowners, government agencies, businesses, and agriculture. It will cost money and take a sustained investment. We have to slow down the flow of water that picks up the nutrients to feed the algae in the lake. We need to decrease the nutrient pollution from all sources and keep it down for years to see an impact. Through a combination of regulation, public involvement and education we can accomplish the goal of a clean lake. We may still see algae blooms in the early years of our efforts. However, if we do what’s needed my daughter may be able to take her children to swim in a crystal clear St. Albans Bay. I look forward to the day when no one remembers when algae bloomed every August.

What’s the deal with the future of health care financing?

Two years ago I had the pleasure to sit across the table from Steve Trahan and debate policy when we were both candidates for the Vermont House. I have enormous respect for Mr. Trahan, although we disagree on many issues. That’s why I’m willing to answer his call to respond to the apparent mystery about the future of health care financing in Vermont.

I fully support efforts to rein in health care spending and make health services accessible and affordable for every resident of Vermont. The Shumlin administration and the Green Mountain Care board have provided greater transparency and oversight to our hospital budgets and insurance premiums than we have ever had before. In spite of the obvious technological failure of Vermont Health Connect- more Vermonters have coverage now than ever before and we have bent the curve on the total cost of health care spending in Vermont.

So, if single payer health care is next- which has been the centerpiece of the Shumlin platform- how will we pay for it? Republicans like Mr. Trahan and Democrats like me have called for more specifics. It’s frustrating that the Shumlin administration hasn’t been able to say that we’ll replace expensive, unfair premiums with a specific payroll tax or that co-pays for generic prescriptions will be $5 or $25 under new plans. Make no mistake; you and me and every other taxpayer in Vermont are paying too much for health care now and have been for years.

Those of us who are committed to health care reform are concerned more about getting the financing for health care right than making political hay during the election year. I support health care reform efforts that will end the burden of cost shifting on our private employers and move to public financing.

Yes, single payer or something like it will require lots of new tax revenue. However, Democrats like me will only support this new revenue if it replaces the premiums, deductibles and co-pays that are killing Vermont business owners and their employees today. The Shumlin administration has made it clear that they haven’t gotten the mix of revenue and payment right so that it accomplishes these goals- but they’re working on it. That’s more than I can say for the critics of health care reform.

Having a health care financing system that saves us money and preserves our quality of services will require a full public debate over the next few years and beyond. In November I would ask that you look to candidates who are committed to serving the interests of all Vermonters, so that we can all be healthier at a lower cost. That’s what health care reform is about.

Representative Mike McCarthy
Saint Albans

Partying for the Vermont Democratic Party with Bill Roberts and Sara Kittell (Franklin County’s next State Senators) at my parents’ house on the lake!

Partying for the Vermont Democratic Party with Bill Roberts and Sara Kittell (Franklin County’s next State Senators) at my parents’ house on the lake!

Great to have so much support at the campaign kickoff!

Vermont Conservation Voters Endorses!

I’m proud to announce that I have received the early endorsement of the Vermont Conservation Voters. Our natural resources, from the lake to the mountain tops are a top priority for me and for all of us!

Great coverage of the bill signing today in Saint Albans! Lot of hard work paying off for development in downtowns and other growth centers.

Looking back on the 2014 session

Looking back on the legislative session I’m proud of what we have accomplished, but there’s still so much work to do. On the biggest issues of our time-healthcare, education finance and economic development- we are in the middle of important conversations about which policies are best for our state’s future.

Some critics are happy to point out the problems and challenges we are facing. Some of us are working to actually solve these complex problems. If you are reading the papers and thinking about whom to vote for in November— take a good look at candidates who are offering solutions to the many challenges we face.

One of those challenges is providing affordable healthcare to every Vermonter. The system is too expensive- both in public and private dollars. The Affordable Care Act had a messy roll out across the country- but low and behold the reforms are bending the cost curve and thousands of people have health care today that didn’t just a few months ago. The ACA and the exchanges aren’t enough, and that’s why I continue to look forward to the chance, not the certainty, but the chance that Green Mountain Care will be able to provide quality, affordable health care to everyone in Vermont at a lower cost than our fractured system does today.

How do we continue to provide high quality education in Vermont schools at a price we can afford? While Vermont’s education finance mechanism is the most fair in the country in terms of per pupil spending, it has over 270 districts with their own isolated budgets. Our kids can’t afford the “I’ve got mine” mentality when all of them deserve a good education. We need governance reform asking some small communities to make hard choices about their small schools and some large schools to be more efficient and effective. We also need some liberation from teach-to-the-test standards that don’t help our children prepare to be critical thinkers. I supported H.883 to begin the process of reforming the governance part of the education puzzle, but I’m also looking forward to discussion of Rep. Condon’s approach to education finance- which is based more on ability to pay than on property value. There are plenty of critics of the current system, but few of them were willing to offer any solutions this session.

I hear a lot of hysteria about how it’s not affordable to live in Vermont, and for many of us it is hard to make it here. I went without health insurance for years when I started a business. However, I want to take a step back and look at the accomplishments we’ve made for jobs and development in Vermont. I worked hard on H.740 and other reforms to Act 250 to make it easier for businesses to develop land in the right places with less red tape. We supported VEGI incentives to businesses like Keurig Green Mountain that are committed to Vermont and our workers. The TIF districts in St. Albans and five other communities have kept us on a roll in growth areas like our downtown.

Our small state may never be able to impact national trends in industry and technology that have had some companies leave Vermont or reduce their workforce. We can, however, spur entrepreneurs with Working Lands Grants and attract new industrial employers by supporting our RDCs like the Franklin County Industrial Development Corporation. We have the 2nd lowest unemployment rate in the nation- 3.3%. I look forward to doing more to keep Vermont moving in the right direction now that we’ve passed the worst the recession had to offer.

Difficult challenges require vision-the ability to look beyond the complaints about the status quo to the solutions that will make our communities in our great state better places for our children to go to school, get jobs, and thrive. I look forward to the 2014 campaign and I would be honored to have another chance to serve Saint Albans in the Vermont House.

My Day Job rocks! Showing off the solar array at Crossett Brook Middle School.

My Day Job rocks! Showing off the solar array at Crossett Brook Middle School.

Late Night Floor Speech on JRS 27

I am sure I am not alone in my disappointment with our Congress and our Supreme Court in recent years. I will be voting yes this evening.

I too, fear the bad result that may come out of a convention, but I fear even more the growing lack of faith that many of my constituents and that people across the country have in our democracy.

Here in Vermont we have it good. A few hundred dollars from a PAC stands out on a campaign finance report. Most of us only raise a few thousand dollars, and some of us only a few hundred. That barely pays for lawn signs and printing up some postcards. All that said a growing number of us have been the target of supposedly non-partisan groups and their third party expenditures.

We all know how different things are outside of our state, and how much the corruption of money has changed the character of our country and accelerated an explosion of wealth for those at the top and an increasing struggle for everyone else.

No one knows whether we can limit the scope of the proposed convention, but we can limit our belief that our democracy will prevail by voting no tonight. I do know that we will increasingly lose our voice to money without overturning Citizens United.

I think my constituents want us to take whatever action we can to change the impact of money on our democracy. I hope you’ll join me in voting yes.

H.883 Ed Governance Bill Passes House 75-62

Last night the debate in the Vermont House raged on for hours over H.883. This bill seeks to take more than 270 Vermont school districts and merge their governance structures (administration and school boards) to create 45-55 new Education Districts. This would be done through a multi-year process with a lot of public input from local communities.

Some legislators asked why we didn’t tackle “the real problem” of Education finance. Education financing is fraught with problems, but we can’t get to an improved financing mechanism statewide if every school district continues to go it alone. Each school has its own board, and some Supervisory Unions have less than 300 students. The new Education Districts would have between 1000 and 4000 members.

For those communities who have a degree of school choice because they don’t operate their own schools— like Georgia— H.883 would allow them to incorporate and preserve choice.

The most important reason to support this bill is that it provides an opportunity to expand course offerings and resources for students between different schools in the new Education Districts. With a combined school board and administration two elementary schools could share a teacher without having to negotiate and administer two contracts and two sets of benefits. Efficiency is realized while students get more opportunities to learn.

I voted yes on H.883 to close the learning opportunity gap for Vermont schools and put us on the path to meaningful reform for our Education Financing system.