4 Issues: Candidate Matt Dunne On Guns, Taxes, Marijuana And Health Care

Jun 23, 2016

Matt Dunne is one of three Democratic candidates for governor heading into the primary, and he joined Vermont Edition for a one-on-one discussion.

This interview is part of VPR's "Meet the Candidates" series, where we address a range of topics, but also want each participating candidate’s thoughts on four specific issues: gun control, taxes, marijuana legalization and health care.

Questions on these four topics were posed to Dunne by host Bob Kinzel during the Vermont Edition interview on June 23. Below are the audio clips from the sections of Dunne's interview that addressed these particular topics, as well as an excerpt quote from Dunne's response. (You can find the full interview with Matt Dunne  here.)

Gun control

"I've said that I would sign a bill that banned military assault weapons if it was workable, but I believe that the real priority has to be on universal background checks ... in our research in reaching out to advocates on all sides, I am convinced that what we need to do is to implement universal background checks to make sure that people who are criminals and mentally ill are not able to buy firearms in the state of Vermont. And it's past time. We need to make sure that happens, and I will look at any other proposal that looks like it will actually have an impact."

Taxes

"I think we need to look at the overall tax system in the state of Vermont in the context of where we’re going as an economy, and that’s really important. And when we do that, I’m going to be looking at one thing, which is ‘are we basing the way that we pay for our services on ability to pay?’ ... The other area that I think is important is that we look at taxes on social security benefits. I've been talking about this for a couple of months now, and we came out with a specific proposal because I don’t believe that middle-class seniors, who are living mostly on a fixed income, should have their social security taxed. And so we’re proposing to eliminate income tax on social security benefits for middle class Vermonters. And then the rest of the tax code should be looked at in a broader context and I think we have an opportunity to do that with a new governor, new lieutenant governor, new leadership in the House and Senate."

Marijuana legalization

"I actually believe that we need to move forward with the legalization of marijuana, because I don't know anyone who thinks that prohibition has actually worked. In fact if you talk to any teenager, they would tell you that it's easier to get marijuana than it is to get alcohol. And we need to move forward in a way that is a Vermont way – and in fact, I think we need to move relatively quickly, so that we're not having to react to other states that, as I understand it, are planning on putting this issue on a referendum.

"If we do it right, we will have a very careful and controlled mechanism for actual distribution. We will invest first dollar in prevention and enforcement. And as the parent of three children under the age of 12, my objective would be at the end of the day to have a significant reduction in the number of minors who are using marijuana because the research does show that there is a real impact on brain development. And so that's what I would be using first dollar on – to make sure we get rid of the black market and make sure that we are moving forward with real prevention programs for minors."

Health care

"I believe we need to get to universal health care, and I believe that because of the math. We have a situation where the cost of health care is going up in the state of Vermont at a rate of $650,000 a day. Each and every day. And it's affecting all of our budgets, whether it’s at the kitchen table, it's at the school budget and property taxes going up as a result, or the holes in the state budget. And I also believe that health care is a human right and we know that in Vermont because we're not the kind of state that's going to kick people out of an emergency room when they show up ....

"Unfortunately with the failed [health care exchange] website, people lost trust in government in a wide variety of ways, but particularly in this area of health care ... I will bring together a team to actually fix the website, make sure we're regaining trust, move as quickly to reimbursing based on public health – and not fee for service or how many MRI machines you can keep going or how many hospital beds you can fill. And then go to universal primary care to make sure that every Vermonter has a doctor. And then from there, once we have proven to Vermonters that we can make this work and it makes a difference in their lives both dollar for dollar and in their health, then we can move on to universal health care."

Click each audio file to hear the candidate's full comments on these four topics. Listen to the entire interview on these and many other topics here.