Name: Tim Ashe
Running for: Lieutenant Governor
What examples of leadership in the public interest can you cite from your past?
My first job after graduating from UVM was in Bernie Sanders’ Burlington office. I spent three years with Bernie, and hundreds of hours a car seat away from him crisscrossing Vermont many times over. While I am my own person with my own beliefs, Bernie has inspired me since the first day I met him when I interview with him wearing a pair of green Dickie pants and a plain white t-shirt. What rubbed off on me the most was how upset he’d become when he felt like someone who didn’t have power or connections was getting pushed around and undervalued.
After two years working alongside mobile home park residents throughout the state, helping them address problems jeopardizing quality of life in their communities, I began working for Cathedral Square. Cathedral Square, for those of you who are not familiar, is Vermont’s largest nonprofit affordable housing provider for older Vermonters. Along with my mentor Amy Wright, over eight years we created or renovated nearly 400 apartments together, while also completing what may be Vermont’s largest ever residential weatherization project and constructing two solar projects. I am so much richer for the hundreds of older Vermonters who took me in, shared their lives with me, and confirmed my belief that we need to provide a dignified life for EVERY Vermonter.
After two terms in municipal government, where I established a citizen panel to shape the city’s plans on fighting climate change, I was elected to the Vermont Senate the same night that Barack Obama was elected President. For the last four years I have been blessed to serve as the Senate President. In this role, I am proud of the steady leadership I’ve provided. In my family, the biggest insult that could be hurled at someone was to be stuck on yourself. My leadership style has always been to direct credit and praise to members of my team. But it’s important for you to know what’s been accomplished in the Senate under my leadership.
We’ve made significant progress fighting climate change with more renewable electricity, doubled weatherization investments, and supported transportation policies that cut back on emissions
We passed workplace reforms to combat sexual harassment and support victims of on-the-job harassment
We reversed decades of neglect to begin to rebuild our mental health system
We made the largest state-supported boost to housing construction in Vermont history and supported more than a thousand first-time homeowners
We made major investments in child care
We passed first-in-the-nation legislation to allow for the re-importation of prescription drugs from Canada
We blocked the Governor’s proposed cuts for programs serving Vermonters with serious disabilities like quadripilegia.
We’ve passed significant forward-thinking criminal justice reform that will improve public safety and get us out of the business of housing inmates in for profit prisons
We prohibited law enforcement from providing information for President Trump’s proposed religious registry and from acting as roundup police to hunt down immigrants.
We blocked the Governor’s proposed deep cuts to public education. We passed the first meaningful gun safety legislation in Vermont’s history. We codified women’s reproductive rights and funded Planned Parenthood.
We passed long-term lake and river clean-up funding, and ensured kids are safe from lead in schools and at child care facilities.
We helped fund the acquisition of important legacy lands to conserve forests and open spaces for generations to come\
We established hazard pay grants for essential workers during COVID-19
I know having experience is a little old fashioned these days, but I am proud that my experience includes leading Vermont to achieve every one of these efforts, many of which were VPIRG priorities as well. Essentially, my entire adult life has been here in Vermont serving the public interest professionally and politically. In my personal life I’ve served on the Board of Spectrum Youth and Family Services and Housing Foundation, Inc., a non-profit housing organization, coached little league in Burlington’s Old North End, and volunteered in the neighborhood elementary school.
What are your top three priorities and how do they benefit the public?
As Lieutenant Governor, my mission will be to close the gap between what I call the Two Vermonts by focusing policy efforts to:
1. Help get Vermont back on its feet after the damage inflicted by COVID. These are the most challenging financial times since the Great Depression and I am ready day one to help get us restore the economy to where it was, while positioning us for progress moving forward.
2. Fight climate change in ways that save people money.
3. Make Vermont more affordable for all.
Describe your plans to address the following problems in Vermont:
The Climate Crisis
As LG I will pursue the following:
- Energy Storage – I will champion storage as Vermont’s next “big bet” in our renewable energy policy. We must invest in storage to get even more efficiency from solar and wind.
- Heating Efficiency Bond – I support a substantial residential and commercial building heating efficiency bond because of the savings households and businesses will enjoy and for the environmental benefits it would produce. Now’s the time with interest rates so low.
- Transportation and Climate Initiative – TCI will guarantee reduced transportation emissions while providing Vermont revenue to invest in transportation strategies that save people money. By working with many other, much larger states, Vermont will massively leverage the environmental benefits of our own in-state efforts.
- Divestment – I’ve encouraged the Treasurer to divest the state’s pension funds from fossil fuel companies, and I’ll use the LG’s office to pursue this until we get it done.
Unemployment & The Economy
We must use state funds in ways that spur economic activity. Pre-COVID I supported a substantial residential and commercial building heating efficiency. In light of COVID, I feel even more strongly because the work is labor intensive at a time we need to make sure people have jobs. This is also a time to invest in housing at all income levels, another labor intensive activity that will position Vermont’s economy well for the other side of the pandemic. And longer term, we need to reorient our state’s economic development strategy around the triple bottom line ethic of the socially responsible business movement. I want our existing and new businesses to buy into a strategic policy of doing well by doing good – offering good pay and benefits, mitigating environmental impacts, emphasizing local supply chain opportunities, all while making a buck. Now is the time to be the socially responsible economy that is the marvel of the nation.
Health Care Costs
In just the last few years, I’ve been proud to play a leadership role by authoring legislation that expands care and seeks to reel in costs, including:
• The largest increase in adult Medicaid dental benefits in more than 25 years
• Increases in primary care reimbursements
• Three years of increases in mental health care funding to help rebuild a fragile system after decades of neglect
• First-in-the-nation legislation to allow for the safe importation of prescription drugs from Canada. Preliminary estimates anticipate savings of at least $16-21 million a year
• Provided funding for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England when the feds cut their funding in the ongoing right-wing attack on women’s reproductive services
• Worked with Speaker Johnson to pass the nation’s most comprehensive protections of a women’s right to choose
As LG I will continue the march to universal coverage, with an emphasis on primary care so we can shift away from expensive hospitalizations.
The central theme of my candidacy is closing the gap between what I call the Two Vermonts. Income inequality is at the core of this. I led the effort to enact the first significant increase in the minimum wage in years, which will boost incomes for more than 40,000 Vermonters. For those working full-time for $10.96/hour, the current minimum wage, the law will provide $5000 of extra income over the next two years, meaning more time at home with kids instead of at a second or third job, some money tucked away for tough times, or just enough to be able to afford a modest vacation, or needed repairs to a car, or to pay off a credit card balance. We can’t stop there. We need continue to raise the minimum wage, finish the job on paid leave (I built a veto-proof majority in the Senate but the House came just one vote short), and build a universal early care system. And we need to build a Youth Service Corps modeled after the CCC to help 1000s of young Vermonters fulfill their potential.
Several years ago I co-wrote legislation allowing communities to come together to create telecom unions to deliver broadband to unserved Vermonters who’d been left behind by the big name cable and internet companies. Dozens of communities have since formally banded together to explore how to do just that in a sustainable way. It is my strong hope that some of these home-grown, community-led enterprises will be able to access the $20 million I worked with the Speaker and the House and the Senate to set aside for the purpose of building out broadband. We all know how critical this is for telehealth, distance learning, and remote work. Governors Douglas and Shumlin promised to get to universal coverage and learned that universal access is easier said than done. If we do not see sufficient progress, and soon, the state must add sufficient funds to our Connectivity grant fund to incentivize existing providers to get to the last mile.
I was the lead sponsor of the new law establishing the strongest school-based lead standards in the U.S. It requires every school and child care facility in Vermont to test for lead in its drinking water and do something about it when needed. When all districts have complied we’ll have a healthy baseline at every school and child care facility in Vermont so all parents can be confident their kids are in a healthy environment. Under my leadership, we also passed some of the strongest legislation in the U.S. to test and remediate drinking water supplies for PFAS chemicals. PFAS chemicals are industrial inputs that damage the human body if ingested. And working with the Speaker, we achieved what had eluded previous Legislatures and Governors – Vermont established a substantial ongoing source of money to address the degradation of our lakes and rivers, while significantly improving the investment strategy to make sure every dollar spent has more positive impact.
I’ve helped write many laws aimed at rooting out injustice in our law enforcement and criminal justice systems only to see the officials who are supposed to carry them out delay action or water them down. As I told the Senate, “Enough is enough, we need to act now.” And we did, passing the following:
• A requirement that all State Troopers wear body cameras on duty
• A prohibition of the police use of chokeholds
• A hold back provision to block state funding to law enforcement agencies that do not submit racial policing data to the state
• Establishment of a Use of Deadly Force policy for all Vermont law enforcement
As LG, I will continue to be a champion for additional reform by:
- Investigating racial disparities in sentencing
- Transforming the women’s prison to reflect their relative low-risk profile to support more successful community re-entry
- Increasing investment in community and restorative justice programs
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. I have never and will never.
In the 2020 election, will you accept contributions from corporations?
No. I have never and will never. And I led passage through the Senate of a ban on corporate contributions to all candidates. I have never been the candidate of the donor and political establishment class and I don’t intend to start now!
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?
Yes. As Senate President I led passage of the nation’s strongest single use plastic ban, and just before we broke for the summer we also passed an expansion of the law to include additional products.
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)?
Yes. I led Senate passage of the Global Warming Solutions Act, and built a veto-proof, bipartisan bloc in support.
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.
First a personal thing to share, then an expansion of some of my comments from the questions above.
1. I am a rather private person but I want to share something personal with you. The following is an excerpt from my campaign kickoff speech back in May: “Those of you who have followed my Legislative work over the years are familiar with the disclaimer that appears anytime I am mentioned in a story in Seven Days newspaper. It reads: Tim Ashe is the domestic partner of Seven Days publisher and co-editor Paula Routly. Well, let me tell you how accurate that disclaimer is. Too often, women are reduced to being described as the partners of men in prominent roles. But make no mistake about it, Paula is the talent and the brains in our 18 year relationship. She is the not the best woman business owner I’ve ever met, she’s the best business owner I’ve ever met. It’s so appropriate that I’m described as her partner, not the other way around. While our relationship has required us to build a firewall between her role in journalism and mine in government, there is just no way I could have achieved anything without her support. She’s my best friend, and the love of my life. I’m so grateful to her.”
2. I am running for Lieutenant Governor of Vermont to close the gap between the “Two Vermonts.” Let me explain what I mean by each of them.
The first Vermont is the one that wins superlatives like Best Place to Raise a Family, Healthiest State, Safest State. The Vermonters experiencing this Vermont are highly educated, have skills that pay well, and have the financial resources to enjoy our wonderful cultural and culinary and recreational opportunities. In this Vermont, families can save a little money, they may worry about the cost of college but don’t doubt for a second that their kids will indeed attend one, they can post photos of their vacations on social media to make their friends a little jealous. From an economic point of view, the inhabitants of this first Vermont are relatively secure. Knocked down temporarily by COVID, they’ll have a quicker path back to their feet.
But living in the second Vermont is a much different experience and thanks to COVID-19, there are and will be more Vermonters experiencing this than ever before.
In this second Vermont, thousands of adult full-time minimum wage workers are condescendingly told that that’s what the market dictates for their efforts, while our society lavishes obscene spoils on others. To put it in perspective a person who makes $1M a year makes about $50 more in just one hour than a minimum wage worker makes in a full week.
In this second Vermont the good paying manufacturing jobs that used to be all but guaranteed to people with a high school diploma are gone, not because the Vermonters who had these jobs weren’t loyal and hardworking. They were both those things. They’re gone because federal trade policies stiffed them.
In this second Vermont, kids are growing up in households racked with drug and alcohol addiction, mental health challenges.
To put it simply, the people who live in the second Vermont can only dream of a life without economic anxiety, and I’m especially worried about the children of in this second Vermont, who because of the parent lottery are often condemned to lives of poor health, poverty, and struggle.
And so, I challenge myself to never let go of this one question: What can we do, what can I do, to improve life for all Vermonters and close this gap between the Two Vermonts?
Answering this question animates everything I do. And so therein lies the reason I am running for Lieutenant Governor. Because I believe the position of Lieutenant Governor, filling the space between the Administrative responsibilities of the Governor, and the often parochial and granular work of the Legislature, is uniquely situated to formulate fundamental shifts in policy to close the gap between the “Two Vermonts.”
There are three themes I’ll focus on to close the gap.
As your Lieutenant Governor I will focus on the broad issue of making Vermont more affordable. There are two sides to the affordability coin. On the one side, I will work with the Governor and the Legislature to lower the cost of living for the basics. More support for first time home ownership, increased supply of rental housing and ownership housing at all income levels. Taking every step possible to lower the cost of exorbitantly priced prescription drugs. Keeping health insurance premiums in check. Developing strategies to reduce the cost of attending public higher education institutions.
On the other side of the affordability coin, we need support socially responsible economic development and increase wages. I will work to build on our growing investments in revitalizing rural and struggling non-rural communities, effectively a 14 county economic development strategy to make sure we’re building on each region’s assets. Broadband will obviously be a key element to this. This will support more jobs in communities that need them, and provide opportunity for younger workers in communities who’ve struggled to keep or retain them. We also need wages to go up. Passage this year of the first substantial minimum wage increase in many years is a good start, but we need to do more to provide supportive paid leave and reward companies who provide higher pay to their employees.
Both sides of the affordability coin can be furthered by taking the socially responsible business ethic, and Vermont has some of the pioneers in this movement, and make the triple bottom line of people, planet and profits the central tenet of Vermont state government’s economic development policies.
As Lieutenant Governor, I will build on my record of protecting Vermonters who need public sector support to fulfill their potential. I will continue to champion resources to meet our state’s mental health needs, to help Vermonters with disabilities and their families, to provide aid to our older Vermonters whether they live in downtown Bennington or down a long dirt road in Stannard. This includes strong advocacy the women, children, and sometimes men, who are impacted by domestic or sexual violence.
Protecting Vermonters also means giving a helping hand to the thousands of young people, especially young men, who often fall through the cracks and never attach to the workforce or further their education. We need to meet them where they are, supporting them to have a successful life, because the first best thing we can do to address our demographic challenge is to get the most out of people who already live in Vermont. It also means recognizing and growing the skills of our New American neighbors who may arrive with certain barriers but also offer tremendous potential as individuals and more collectively as part of our future workforce.
As your Lieutenant Governor, I will develop the next generation of policies that address the imperative to reduce carbon emissions for the future of our planet, while ensuring they aren’t designed for just those who can have the most money. I believe that our climate change fighting strategies must be designed to have broad participation, and to provide broad financial benefit. There is no better way to make a state full of environmentalists than to fight climate change in ways that save people money.