Affordability

I was asked by the St. Albans Messenger a series of questions that will continue each week until the election on November 6th. This is the tenth question: Affordability has become a buzz word in Vermont politics, with a suggestion that either a high cost of living, high taxes or both make Vermont unaffordable, driving out young families and those on fixed incomes. Do you think this is an accurate view? Would you define affordability differently?

 

Affordability isn’t just a buzz word, it’s the crux of the crisis facing our state today. I’ve been to over 3000 doors and the overwhelming majority have told me that not only is Vermont unaffordable, but a lot of people are looking to leave whether it is next year, 5 years, or 10 years from now. This is very concerning to me and anyone who says affordability is just a buzz word is out of touch with the reality that Vermont is too expensive.

The legislature over the past eight years under a single party rule have continued to raise our property taxes, the gas tax, and have continued to grow government spending every year. It’s time for our representation in Montpelier to start listening to Vermonters. This state is facing an affordability crisis and we need leaders who listen and who will work to get it under control.   

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Child Care

I was asked by the St. Albans Messenger a series of questions that will continue each week until the election on November 6th. This is the ninth question: Last year, Vermont's Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care found that almost half of Vermont's infants and toddlers with working parents are not in a regulated child care program either in a center or at home. What, if anything, should the state do to address the gap between available child care slots and need?

 

As the father of two young children, child care is an issue that really hits home with me. Over the last few legislative sessions we’ve seen the legislature implement laws that have closed many home day care providers. This has forced families like mine struggle to find quality, affordable childcare. My wife and I drive to Highgate for day care every day,  because we’re unable  to find openings closer to home.

Policies like, a carbon tax would force families to reevaluate our current day care situation.

We need to look at regulations imposed by the state which closed child care providers and allow people to make a reasonable decision on where they want to send their children. We love our day care provider, but finding something closer and cheaper would be easier on our family.

It’s time to stop over regulating and taxing in Montpelier and make Vermont more affordable. 

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Act 46

I was asked by the St. Albans Messenger a series of questions that will continue each week until the election on November 6th. This is the eighth question:  The period for voluntary mergers under Act 46 is coming to a close, and some communities facing a mandated merger of their school district are deeply unhappy. Should the state continue on the course it set when Act 46 passed, particularly since districts across the state merged voluntarily under the rules established with Act 46, or should changes be made to accommodate those who are unhappy over potential district mergers?

 

Act 46 was an attempt by the legislature to address rising property taxes across Vermont by merging school districts.  First voluntarily with a tax incentive and then what we are now seeing playout through forced mergers.  What most people don't talk about is that Act 46 initially had a spending threshold which would have penalized high spending districts which were removed by the legislature less than a year after its original passage.  Meaning Act 46 as it stands today has zero cost containment mechanisms in it.  

Without cost containment, there is no real reason to continue to pursue the ends of Act 46.  What are they trying to address through forced mergers?  If the Vermont legislature wanted to get serious about any type of consolidation in our education system, we should discuss supervisory unions.  I do not believe there is a need for 65 superintendents in Vermont. 

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Gun Laws & S.55

I was asked by the St. Albans Messenger a series of questions that will continue each week until the election on November 6th. This is the sixth question: Do you believe the gun laws passed by the legislature this past session need to be reversed, will work just as they are, or that additional measures are required?

 

The recent gun legislation that was passed earlier this year, most notably S.55, did not accomplish the goals they originally set out to achieve. The bill was in response to a school threat in Fair Haven but did not protect our schools. I would have not supported or voted for S.55 because the law didn’t address school safety or mental health.

The bigger issue we have as a nation today is school safety. As the father of two young children I do get worried about my boys attending school in the next few years. School safety along with better and easier access to mental health should be our goal. I’ve seen schools around Franklin County get funds to improve their safety and I think that is a good start. Going forward I would support measures to improve safety in our schools.

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Letter to the Editor

In less than 30 days the people of St. Albans will be able to request an absentee ballot or walk into City Hall or Town Hall to cast their votes for their next State Representative.  This election is the first time in a generation that the people of this district have two open seats and a clean slate to choose the direction they want to see State Government go.  And, the difference could not be more clear.  

As I go door to door listening to the concerns of my friends and neighbors, I hear one common theme: Vermont has an affordability crisis. Property taxes are high and climbing higher.  If it isn’t the State Government raising taxes – it’s our local one. This past year we witnessed the legislature pick a fight with the Governor about the need to raise taxes in a year when we had revenue surpluses, and the legislature won – but you and I lost.  We watched a legislature drag its heels in the sand when there were many proposals on the table to make Vermont more affordable.  We need leaders who will fight for the people of St. Albans – not their party or their party’s leadership.  

I know the people of St. Albans because this community built me.  I grew up on Savage Street – went to City School and BFA before earning a degree from Castleton.  It’s where my wife and I have put down roots to raise our family.  We want them to be able to thrive and grow here in St. Albans as we did.  I am running for State Representative because I know this community and its potential and with the right leaders in the right places, we can achieve anything.  

 

Casey Toof

Candidate for Franklin 3-1 St. Albans

 

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Milk

I was asked by the St. Albans Messenger a series of questions that will continue each week until the election on November 6th. This is the fifth question: With both dairy farmers and their vendors struggling after four years of low milk prices, what action, if any, do you think the state should do to assist farmers and other agricultural businesses?

As the grandson to Ray and Gilberte Callan who owned and operated a farm in Fairfield for over 60 years, no one needs to tell me how important dairy is to our way of life. The agricultural industry is a $2.2 billion industry in the state of Vermont and I think it is essential to Franklin County and St. Albans. For the past four years we’ve seen milk prices plummet and our farms have suffered. With companies like the St. Albans Cooperative Creamery and Ben & Jerry’s our community depends on our farmers and their farms.

Currently there are national programs set up that are supposed to help protect farmers when milk prices are low. The consensus I’m hearing is that these programs aren’t working as well as they should be and many farms have or will close. We must protect these farms.

 


Minimum Wage

I was asked by the St. Albans Messenger a series of questions that will continue each week until the election on November 6th. This is the fourth question: This past session the legislature approved a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2024, which was then vetoed by Gov. Phil Scott. Do you support raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour?

How we move forward with minimum wage in the State of Vermont should be done in a thoughtful manner. I will support policies that incentivize people to reach their potential and in doing so increase their income.  When we consider the impact of $15 minimum wage we have to consider the whole story.  The Joint Fiscal Office testified that a $15 minimum wage could cost the state almost 3,000 jobs annually, leaving Vermont’s most vulnerable without work or without the hours they would need to make a living. 

Vermont is in the middle of an affordability crisis and placing a bigger burden on those businesses is not the way to grow our economy and in turn grow Vermonter's incomes. 90% of Vermont’s employers have less than 20 employees and a $15 minimum wage would hurt those businesses. 


Marijuana

I was asked by the St. Albans Messenger a series of questions that will continue each week until the election on November 6th. This is the third question: Possession of a small amount of marijuana in Vermont is now legal. In your view, should the state move forward with a regulated market for marijuana or leave things as they are now?

The legislature moved too quickly towards the full legalization of marijuana this past biennium.  The biggest issue I am hearing while I’m talking to my neighbors going door to door is that they are concerned about the safety issues we will face now that marijuana is legalized, especially safety issues on the road. We don’t have an effective roadside testing method because our law enforcement officers will have a more difficult time keeping our roads safe.  As the father of two young sons - public safety is a top priority for me. 

Now that legalization is here, I believe we need to monitor the impact it has and see if we can further develop our testing and enforcement methods before I would support moving to a full blown retail and tax market. 


Water Quality

I was asked by the St. Albans Messenger a series of questions that will continue each week until the election on November 6th. This is the second question: State officials have put the cost for cleaning up Lake Champlain at $1.2 billion over 20 years. There is still no agreed upon funding source for this work. How do you think the state should fund its clean water efforts?

Clean water is essential to our state, especially to our local economy. I think we need to act immediately to clean up our lakes but that doesn’t mean the first thing we do is look for a new tax or fee.  Vermonters are frustrated with the legislature currently because they don’t address our affordability crisis. We just watched our legislature raise property taxes in a year in which we have a significant surplus and they continue debate the carbon tax.

We need legislators who will take the time to prioritize how we spend your money.  Water quality should be one of those top priorities.  Addressing our affordability crisis, growing our economy, combating our opiate epidemic and cleaning our water are top priorities of mine and I will work hard to address those and in doing so do everything I can not to make Vermont less affordable for you and your family.


Why I'm Running

I was asked by the St. Albans Messenger a series of questions that will continue each week until the election on November 6th. This is the first question: Why are you running for the legislature and what qualifications do you have for the seat you are seeking?

I am running because as a lifelong St. Albans resident I see too many Vermonters struggle to live, work, and raise a family here in Vermont. Going door to door I hear far too many people tell me that their son or daughter has left the state to find a better job and a cheaper way of life. As a father of two young children, I am worried to think about what their future here brings.

This community has taught me a lot – including the need to give back.  I am offering my voice because I can fight for and prioritize St. Albans values - not Burlington wishes. I will fight the opiate epidemic, I will fight for a more affordable Vermont – by opposing tax and fee increases  and I will work to bring better jobs and better access for Vermonters to go to college.

 



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