We must level the field and make Vermont a place people can afford to live through improving access to safe affordable housing, a livable fair minimum wage, comprehensive publicly funded paid family and medical leave, free public education from preschool to college, progressive tax reform and accessible, comprehensive life span healthcare through a single-payer system.
In addition, it is important as we have seen through history to support workers in their rights to unionize and demand fair pay and labor practices, in the current climate that favors corporations and the top 1% this is even more imperative than ever.
I will support an even stronger minimum wage than was passed in the 2020 legislative session which increased the minimum wage to $12.55/hour by 2022. The current minimum wage of $10.78/hour is nowhere near enough for working Vermonters to meet their basic needs. We need to do better, sooner. Increasing wages for working people is a critical part of solving some of our chronic challenges such as affordable housing, safe and affordable child care, reliable transportation and relieving the stress on many low and working-class families.
Solving our housing crisis takes more than building more housing. It requires a multi-pronged solution that includes increasing housing supply, supporting affordable housing development into perpetuity by using models like Champlain Housing Trust and lifting wages for working people to be able to buy houses if they so choose to create their own financial security.
Education is expensive during the pre-K and college years. We must do better to support working families find safe, affordable child care. Our economy cannot work without working parents having reliable and affordable child care. Our early educators also deserve to be paid professional wages. As a young professional, I personally experience the crushing economic burden of college debt. Vermont continues to rank near the bottom of all states in what it invests in higher education for Vermont students. Plus, we must think creatively for ways to relieve the debt for all college graduates including exploring loan forgiveness options within the power of the state (ex: loan forgiveness programs for those who go into education or public service).
We need a progressive tax system to pay for education. The current system relies too much upon property taxes and does not require taxpayers to pay their fair share. Public Assets Institute’s work through the Vermont Education Equity Project points to a fair and transparent way to fund education. I would support such an approach in the name of simplifying our system and asking all Vermonters to contribute their fair share towards one of our best assets – our public schools.
In my work as a social worker, I see the daily negative outcomes of our broken health care system. The United States is woefully behind every other industrialized country when it comes to providing healthcare to its citizens. A single-payer system creates a fair and just method for providing health coverage to everyone regardless of their ability to pay, age, or quality of health. Health care is a human right.
The choices an individual makes about their body should not be the business of federal, state, or local government. I support full reproductive autonomy and will vote in favor of Proposition 5 to amend the VT state constitution to guarantee the right to reproductive freedom.
There is no way to fully understand reproductive justice without seeing how it intersects with racism, domestic violence, disability, queer and trans rights, and poverty. Our country has a long history of eugenics with forced sterilization as one of its core tenets. Thirty-one states states still allow for legal guardians of people with disabilities to make their reproductive choices, including sterilization, for them. What we are seeing with the overturning of Roe v Wade is just the tip of the iceberg of what has been happening for hundreds of years to anyone deemed “undesirable”.
The movement for full body autonomy has to be one that centers meeting the needs of those with the least access so that we all thrive. To quote Oriaku Njoku, the executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, “In my vision, we live in a world where your zip code, age, documentation status, income, disability, race, indigeneity, gender, sexuality do not create barriers to accessing abortions. A world where folks can get all the fully funded abortions they want plus more, without having to leave their community. A world where cis-heteropatriarchy and white supremacy can no longer create laws and systems that tell us how to live because we know that those systems that were never intended for us to thrive are insufficient.”
We need to stand up against all forms of institutionalized oppression and build structures and systems to examine biases and repair the harm that has been done;
- Workplace and Community Equity: We begin working towards this by eliminating the gender wage gap, providing paid family leave, affordable childcare options and stronger protections for victims of sexual harassment and assault. We need to work towards universal accessibility across our community including in workplaces, businesses and all public institutions to allow persons with disabilities full membership in our society.
- Criminal Justice Reform: Supporting ending cash bail and fair sentencing laws, ending the practice of utilizing private and out of state prisons, implementing safeguards to rectify the disproportionately high incarceration of marginalized communities and building community supports to keep those charged with non-violent crimes out of prison and expunging all cannabis violation in light of the legal status of recreational cannabis use.
- Revitalize our democracy: Restoring trust in our Democratic institutions beginning with a ban on corporate campaign contributions, implementing ranked-choice voting statewide, public financing of elections, and fighting to increase voter turnout and participation.
We need to protect our environment for our own safety and to further social justice in order to achieve this we need to work towards 100% renewable energy and energy independence, supporting our local organic farmers, and building infrastructure and public transport to decrease the toll on our communities and our natural resources.
We must ensure that our transition to renewable clean energy is responsive to the climate crisis we are facing and that it is grounded in justice and is not built on the backs of those who are struggling to get by. I support a Green Mountain New Deal that would focus on an expedient and just transition in collaboration with trade unions and working Vermonters and reparation to those harmed by environmental racism.
Working families are stressed enough and cannot afford to be the ones to foot the bill for these changes, We must stop offering tax money to new fossil fuel infrastructure and we should tax all new fossil fuel infrastructure and reinvest this money into our communities being hit hardest by the climate crisis and injustice. We must create alternatives to fossil fuels that are affordable for all and leave more money in the pockets of those who need it most. We also should use these needed changes to invest in our workforce and build high paying new jobs right here in Vermont that would incentivize young people to stay and work in Vermont.