Name: Rebecca Holcombe
Running for: Governor
What examples of leadership in the public interest can you cite from your past?
I have served as a public school teacher, principal, and district leader, an educator of school and district leaders, and Vermont’s Secretary of Education. As Secretary, I engaged over 2500 members of the Vermont public, across sectors and in every county, in the development of a participatory school quality review process that would meet the requirements of the federal government, but in a way that supported Vermont’s communities and reflected Vermont values about what we expect from education. I also required equity reviews for all education proposals we received, including from the legislature, so that we could support inclusive design from the start, whenever possible, instead of trying to fix inequity after the fact. Under my leadership, the AOE also broke down our data by historically marginalized groups in our reports to the legislature. I engaged proactively as a member of the Council of Chief State School Officers to advocate nationally for equity in education across all state systems. As a private citizen, I challenged Gov. Scott’s “vision” for a statewide public and private voucher district that would have increased cost and deepened the segregation we already see in our school system.
What are your top three priorities and how do they benefit the public?
Strengthening the public institutions that keep us safe, from health to education.
Protecting the environment and ensuring our resilience in the face of climate change.
Developing a more just, green, and sustainable economy.
Describe your plans to address the following problems in Vermont:
The Climate Crisis
Below is the outline of my climate plan. Please see https://www.rebeccaholcombe.com/climate/ to learn more.
– Boost new, in-state, green, and renewable generation.
– Manage the transition to a green energy future in a way that is fair and equitable.
– Encourage investment by Vermont residents in Vermont renewables.
– Strengthen our workforce.
– Work towards electrification of home heating and transportation
– Invest in weatherization of our housing stock.
– Modify regulatory oversight of our utilities to incentivize our emerging green energy economy, storage solutions, and smart grid solutions.
– Partner with neighboring states on transportation solutions.
– Develop streamlined permitting and support for housing investments that expedite the development of climate-friendly, green-energy powered affordable homes in walkable downtowns.
– Plan with inclusion in mind, so that rural and historically marginalized communities that may face the greatest barriers in our transition also benefit from the transition.
Unemployment & The Economy
As we recover from this economic downturn, our goal is to move forward. Cutting budgets will not lead us to prosperity; Gov. Scott is merely managing our decline. More than ever, we must invest in people and create new opportunities, especially in economic sectors aligned with our green and clean brand, including green energy. We must invest in strong safety nets and in programs that prevent people from needing safety nets in the first place. For unemployment, we need to be focused on workforce development and supporting entrepreneurs in priority sectors that build on our green brand, offer good job opportunities and create local wealth, including in green energy, green construction, advanced manufacturing, local food systems, and health. Prioritizing these sectors helps us balance our economy and will make employment here more attractive to young families. The goal: put people to work and keep money in our local economy and improve our long-term resilience. rebeccaholcombe.com/economy
Health Care Costs
We need to be transitioning to a single-payer system, ideally a national system. Vermont’s leadership needs to finish implementing the payment reform the Legislature put into law in 2015. Responsible implementation will create financial stability for providers, greater profitability, and more universal preventative care. We need to plan systematically to ensure our rural hospitals remain vibrant and essential services remain in our communities. We must minimize duplication of services and equipment, expand loan forgiveness for primary care physicians, strengthen career pathways from high school through the state college system to help Vermonters get credentials with little cost, expand nursing programs, and use our state colleges to train people who have lost work in the pandemic. We must form regional partnerships with neighboring states to lead where the federal government has failed, including regional purchasing consortia, to drive down the price of pharmaceuticals. rebeccaholcombe.com/healthcare/
The failure of federal tax policy has led to toxic levels of wealth inequality. I would ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share, but would also ensure we don’t undo progressivity through regressive spending, as we often do right now. I will prioritize investments in public institutions that are open and serve all, and that defend opportunity and provide safety nets to the Vermonters who need them most. As Secretary of Education, I learned that programs need to be designed with inclusion and equity from the outset. I will strengthen our safety nets, in community-based mental health, paid leave, and raising the minimum wage. Support education funding reform, so schools with large numbers of low-income families give their students a chance to succeed. Invest in workforce development and the state college system. Support investments in Vermont entrepreneurs, instead of big corporations, to build community wealth. rebeccaholcombe.com/opportunity/ rebeccaholcombe.com/economy/
Our current lack of access in too many homes and businesses and too many regions of the state is harming our economy, preventing equitable education, raising challenges of access in health care. Moving forward, I will leverage the capacity of Communications Union Districts, which can bring down the cost by enabling communities to bond at municipal rates, to expand access. I will also work with the legislature to promote partnerships between electric utilities and internet providers to exploit the fact that our electrical services already have fiber running to many front doors. This could be used to support public/private partnerships that bring connectivity to homes and businesses in underserved areas. I will aggressively pursue using available federal funds, including COVID-19 relief dollars as available to expand access, and consider strategic bonding for fiber infrastructure, which will pay for itself in the form of increased future revenue.
Pollution is a cost. The burden of pollution is on all of us. People exposed to toxins need monitoring and healthcare. Poisoned soil, wells, and groundwater need to be cleaned up. Scott vetoed medical monitoring to protect polluters from paying those increased costs. By protecting polluters, he is shifting the cost to those harmed, and indirectly to taxpayers and other businesses that don’t pollute. This rewards bad behavior. Industries, not the public, should pay for their pollution and any healthcare needed in response to it. Industries should incorporate the cost of cleaning up pollution in their production costs, which disincentives polluting practices. We need to prevent PFAs and other harmful toxins from entering our water and soil in the first place, so we must prevent their use in household products. For farms, COVID relief could have been an opportunity to help farmers trapped by years of prior policy transition to more environmentally and economically healthy practices.
As Governor, I will work with Vermont’s executive director of racial equity to review existing data on equity and identify gaps and priorities. I will support a more robust collection and reporting of data on outcomes by different demographic groups. This way, legislators can evaluate differences in outcomes associated with current policy, and ensure every legislative report created by a state agency, where possible and reasonable, reports on racial equity. I will support anti-bias training in all Agencies, as I did at the Agency of Education. I will set up systems to ensure that members of marginalized communities are consulted in the development of policy proposals that affect them. My agencies will review every policy or bill through the lens of sustainability and equity. Given our legacy of discrimination, even policies that seem race-neutral can be discriminatory in effect. rebeccaholcombe.com/2020/05/29/vermont-must-do-the-work-on-racial-equity/
In the 2020 election, will you accept contributions from fossil fuel companies, fossil fuel company executives, fossil fuel industry lobbyists or fossil fuel political action committees?
No. We review donor lists periodically and will return them if we identify problematic donations. Please note also: I have proposed ethics and transparency reforms that I believe will address the outsized role of some interests in policymaking. https://www.rebeccaholcombe.com/2020/07/09/restoring-public-trust-in-government/
In the 2020 election, will you accept contributions from corporations?
No. See my additional recommendations: https://www.rebeccaholcombe.com/2020/07/09/restoring-public-trust-in-government/
Do you support expansion of Vermont’s efforts to address plastic pollution by eliminating additional single-use items and requiring producers to take more responsibility over the products and packaging they create?
Do you support enactment of legislation that holds the state accountable to achieving its climate commitments, and requires strategic planning for Vermont’s recovery that focuses on how to transition to a more equitable, clean, local, and resilient economy (The Global Warming Solutions Act)?
Sliding Scale Questions
Companies that pollute Vermont’s environment should be required to pay for clean up costs and medical monitoring of those exposed to dangerous chemicals.
Corporations should not be allowed to contribute to political candidates in Vermont.
Currently Vermont imports all of its fossil fuels and most of its renewable electricity from out of state. To create jobs and address the climate crisis, Vermont should develop significantly more in-state renewable energy, including wind and solar.
Vermont should significantly increase funding for efficiency and electrification to help Vermonters and Vermont businesses reduce their energy use and climate impact from heating and transportation.
New fossil fuel infrastructure, such as pipelines, should be banned in Vermont.
Manufacturers should provide consumers and independent repair shops with fair access to service information and affordable replacement parts so that individuals can fix their own products and equipment (Right to Repair).
Please share any additional information or comments you would like VPIRG members to know.
I’m not running because it’s my turn. I’m fighting for everything. I appreciate VPIRG’s concern about the potentially disruptive influence of corporate dollars on democratic decision making. When corporations can’t donate directly to candidates, they will donate to PACS, which are less transparent. And, I suspect this access post-election and lobbying probably has a greater impact than donations on decision making. That is why I have proposed these ethics and transparency reforms: https://www.rebeccaholcombe.com/2020/07/09/restoring-public-trust-in-government/