Lt. Gov. Phil Scott is running as a Republication candidate for governor, and he joined Vermont Edition on Wednesday for a one-on-one conversation in advance of August's primary.
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 Scott by host Jane Lindholm during the Vermont Edition interview on June 22. Below are the audio clips from the sections of Scott's interview that addressed these particular topics, as well as an excerpt quote from Scott's response. (You can find the full interview with Phil Scott here.)
"I don’t believe that we need more gun restrictions in Vermont at this time. I think we should enforce the ones we have. I think we should focus more on safety and gun education, but also addressing the violence problem that is systemic across the country – and I don't have the answers for that, but that's what's driving this frustration, this outrage. And it's alarming, the horrific acts are alarming. But from my standpoint, I don't believe we need to change our gun laws in Vermont ... [A background check requirement on private gun sales] is not something I would support."
"There's a number of [taxes and fees] that I don’t like, but I can think of two off the top of my head that eventually that I think we should be eliminating. I think the tax on social security is something that – again, I talked about the folks on fixed incomes – it's like taxing a tax, and I think that's fundamentally wrong for those who are struggling. Also on military benefits, that we tax them and those who have served our country and protected us ...
"But there are a whole host of other ones that I think should be cleared up because of the subjectivity. You think back on the agricultural machinery tax. That's one that’s clearly been subjective and something that needs to be cleaned up. I think that the soda tax is going to be one. That has been controversial. It's not as clear as some might think. It's not about the sugar – it's about some ingredient and you have to be a chemist to understand what you need to tax, and I guarantee there’s going to be an audit on some convenience store in the future and they’re going to have not taxed a certain product and it won't be clear."
"I've been consistent in my response ... when I was in the Senate, I voted in favor of medical marijuana. I was supportive of decriminalization. But I’ve said, 'Not right now.' I don't think we have enough information at this point. We have four other states that have legalized right now, and until we have some answers to questions, like impairment on our highways and the edibles and the tax structure and so forth and so on, I think we – the governor of Colorado even said ... 'My advice to any states that are looking to legalize is, why don’t you wait a couple years?' And they'll work some things out. We'll learn from them. We can’t afford to make any mistakes here. So I’m not saying never. I'm saying it's the timing's not right. It’s not now."
"[Vermont Health Connect] isn’t working. There's fewer people than ever thought to be a part of it and to this day, there's still problems with that. We spent over $200 million on this failed experiment, so we need to fix that ... I first of all think that we should be working with other states ...
"Obviously the rates in Vermont are much higher than the rest of the nation, probably because of our community rating, probably because of our demographics ... All that enters into having a higher cost in Vermont of doing business for health care. But let's just say if we could partner up with another couple of states, spread the risks out a little bit, utilize some of their plans maybe, more competition – I think we could actually have lower rates than we’ve had previously. So I think there’s a lot of opportunity, but we have to be cognizant of the fact that we don’t have to do this alone. That we can work with other states in order to accomplish the same thing, because we're all facing the same issues."
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.