Both of Vermont's major party gubernatorial candidates say they support a long-term plan to clean up Lake Champlain and other waterways in Vermont, but neither candidate is offering a plan to pay for it.
According to a report released last year by State Treasurer Beth Pearce, Vermont needs to find at least $25 million a year for the next 20 years to help finance the state's share of a comprehensive cleanup plan for waterways throughout the state, including Lake Champlain.
During the 2018 session, lawmakers wrestled with finding a targeted long-term tax source to pay for this cleanup plan but they were unable to agree on a specific approach. No action was taken and more studies were ordered.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist, who's just been endorsed by the Vermont chapter of the Sierra Club, says she's committed to a long-term cleanup plan but she thinks it's a mistake to identify a funding source at this time.
"I'm not going to sit here and define where that's going to come from because that's the type of leadership that doesn't work — that's called 'command and control,'" said Hallquist. “We all have to get together and agree where that money is going to come from and there are lots of good ideas where it can come from, but ultimately it's going to be a collaborative decision."
But Hallquist didn’t want to identify what some of those "good ideas" might be.
"I'm not going to say what ideas I find acceptable. We're going to make this decision together,” said Hallquist. “We will make those investments."
Gov. Phil Scott says he also supports a long-term cleanup plan, but he wants it done without creating a new tax source.
"We're spending more money in the last two years — a 70 percent increase over previous years — so we're, I'm committed to water quality and water quality funding,” said Scott. “I'm just not interested in providing another tax."
Scott says there's time to consider different funding possibilities.
These include fees that would be generated by a proposed electric power line that would be buried under Lake Champlain and would bring power from Hydro-Québec to southern New England — it's a project known as TDI New England.
The future of the project may hinge on whether the state of Massachusetts will choose that option to bring Hydro-Québec power to the Bay State. So far it has declined to do that.
"TDI is still an opportunity for us to receive more funding if Massachusetts decides to go with us, which I think they will eventually,” said Scott.
Scott says he is working on a water quality funding proposal, but he doesn't plan to release the details until January.