Debates 2018: Turner And Zuckerman, Candidates For Lt. Governor

Oct 9, 2018

We're kicking off the first of our general election debates, and partnering with Vermont PBS to air live on both radio and television. Joining us are the two major-party candidates for lieutenant governor: incumbent Progressive/Democrat David Zuckerman and his Republican challenger, House Minority Leader Don Turner Jr.

Watch the full debate:

Zuckerman and Turner are both calling for substantial tax reform. But in Wednesday's debate, the candidates revealed sharp contrasts in their approaches to tax policy.

The two major party candidates for lieutenant governor say Vermont’s property tax system is in need of a serious overhaul, however they have very different plans for how to go about reforming the system.

Zuckerman says the existing property tax formula prevents Vermont’s highest earners from paying their fair share toward the funding of Vermont’s schools.

"Wealthy Vermonters are paying a lower percentage of their income toward schools," said Zuckerman. "And I would move toward shifting that, so that everybody pays an equal fair share on a percentage basis."

That’s because higher income Vermonters’ education taxes are based solely on the value of the property they own, not on the amount of income they earn. Zuckerman says he’d pursue legislation that ensured the highest income residents pay at least a certain percent of their earnings toward schools.

Turner says he too favors a property tax overhaul. But he says the goal should be to bring down costs for everyone, rather than increase the amount paid by wealthier residents.

"There are numbers of ways that we need to work with the education system to bring down the cost," Turner said, "but I totally disagree with the lieutenant governor on shifting.”

The two disagreed over other tax policies as well.

Zuckerman says he supports the creation of a so-called carbon tax in Vermont, so long as low- and middle-income residents receive a dividend that makes up for higher prices at the gas pump. Turner says he will flatly oppose any increase in taxes on carbon-emitting fuels such as gasoline, diesel or heating oil.

For more from each candidate, listen to or watch the full debate above.

Broadcast on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m. View the schedule for all the VPR - Vermont PBS Debates here.