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Moe Robinson, Editor

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 Jim Douglas Announcement of Candidacy for Governor of Vermont 

Vermont Statehouse 

May 23, 2002 

Text of Remarks: For the past three decades, I've been serving the people of our state as a member of the Legislature, top aide to Gov. Dick Snelling, Secretary of State and currently as State Treasurer. Time after time, the people of Vermont have seen fit to instill in me their trust and confidence. I am humbled by their judgement and grateful for their enduring support. I've come here today seeking their support once more today as a candidate for Governor of Vermont. I have a vision for Vermont's future - a vision of hope and opportunity. It is a vision rooted in optimism and in the belief that when Vermonters work together, there is no challenge we can' t meet. And challenges abound. There is a sinking feeling among the people of our state that something is not right. that the promise of a brighter tomorrow has been dimmed. and, that even on a sunny day like this, clouds of uncertainty linger on the horizon. Every week it seems another plant closes or a different company announces a major layoff. Last year, more than 5,100 Vermonters lost their jobs. In the past several months, hundreds more have joined the unemployment rolls. These numbers are not just statistics on a government chart. They are families - Vermont families - left wondering how they'll make the next mortgage payment, afford health care, or buy new school clothes for their children. Our young people are being forced to leave Vermont in search of a better future in a different state. No Vermonter should have his or her potential limited by the lack of a good job. And even as the national economy begins the slow road to recovery, the Vermont economy continues to slide. With each new announcement of job losses, officials in Montpelier act surprised and helpless. They say we do not control our own fate, and that our futures are beholden to the whims of a global economy. Well, the jobs we're losing aren't just heading south to Mexico; they're heading south to Massachusetts, east to New Hampshire, west to New York and to other states right here in America. It's time to stop making excuses and start making a difference. The top priority of government must be to foster an environment where its citizens can provide a comfortable, secure life for themselves and for their families. We need to attract and retain good jobs so that Vermonters can be free and independent not just in theory, but in fact. Today, job creation is stifled by high taxes and a crippling regulatory scheme. Vermonters are being squeezed by the third highest tax burden in the nation. And yet, while we should be working to reduce taxes, we are growing state government at a rate that cannot be sustained for the long term, or even the short term. For all the talk of fiscal responsibility, we are on a course to return to the large deficits of the past -- the legacy of the late 80's. In order to open the door of economic opportunity to all Vermonters, government must reduce taxes and maintain a balanced budget. We must learn to do more with less. Our natural beauty and environment are Vermont's greatest assets. Some people argue that the state needs to severely regulate business in order to maintain our way of life. Others say that the need for jobs requires that we take liberties with our environment. But this is not an "either/or" proposition. I believe there is a third way where we can have both a clean environment and good jobs. This is the Vermont Way. Employers, especially small employers, need a simple set of common rules: rules that are consistent and predictable so they can plan for the future, grow and add workers. By streamlining and consolidating the permitting process we can keep our commitment to environmental protection while reducing barriers to job creation. Owning a home is the dream of many Vermont families. But right now, a shortage of affordable housing has put that dream out of reach for low and middle income Vermonters. With better, common sense planning, we can bring down the cost of housing so that all Vermonters will enjoy the opportunity to buy their own home. Neglect of our transportation system is having a negative effect on Vermont's economy as well. We must honor our commitment to repair failing roads and bridges and to complete the Circ Highway, the Bennington Bypass, and other vital transportation projects. Economic opportunity begins with educational opportunity. For our children to be able to compete in tomorrow's job market, we need to make good on our promise to provide them with every tool they need to succeed. Vermonters are willing to make a big investment in education, but they also want results. On average, we spend more than $9,000 per pupil on public education and rank near the top in every common measure of education spending. That should be enough to provide a first-class education. But many parents and students are not seeing the results they deserve. We need to focus on student performance. We need to have a system of accountability so we can determine where students are falling behind and why. We will work hard to improve troubled schools, but we must not sacrifice our children's future while we try to figure out where we went wrong. We must not leave any child behind. Let me be clear: it is immoral to trap students in a school that fails to teach and refuses to change. Choice should not be a privilege reserved for only the wealthy. It should be the right of all Vermonters. Improving education and our children's future should be something that all Vermonters can rally behind; not something that pits one community against another. Interest in improving education should be something that unites us, not divides us. We need to improve schools that aren't working, but we can't do it at the expense of ones that are. Since its inception, almost everyone has agreed that Act 60 is flawed, and yet today we read that another year may go by without action. We need to end the gridlock and reform Act 60 to make it more fair and less divisive. Access to affordable health care and low-cost prescription drugs is one of the most serious crises facing Vermonters today, especially those among us who have lost their jobs and seniors for whom health is a constant worry. Vermont's laws have driven insurers from the state, making healthcare too expensive for individuals and forcing employers to drop coverage for their workers. We need more flexible laws that encourage competition, reduce costs, allow insurance companies to reward healthy choices with lower premiums, and give Vermonters a broader choice among a variety of plans that fit their needs and their finances. When we speak of economic opportunity we must not leave out those industries upon which Vermont was built and which, in a changing economy, we have too often neglected. We must renew our commitment to our family farms and the men and women who have made it their life's work to feed and sustain us. I have spoken about the importance of expanding opportunities for Vermonters. The focus of this campaign will be on ways to provide more opportunity to succeed, especially for our youth. But there is nothing that destroys opportunity more quickly than drugs, especially the scourge of heroin that is sweeping our state. I had the opportunity to get an early screening of a documentary debuting tonight in St. Johnsbury entitled, "Here Today," directed by Bess O'Brien. The film depicts the bitter heartache and biting adversity brought on by heroin use in our rural communities. If anyone doubts the seriousness of the drug problem in Vermont or the insidious power of heroin to rip families apart, destroy hope, and ruin lives, I encourage you to see this film - you will be convinced. I have recently introduced a program that will greatly increase resources available to communities to prevent and treat drug abuse. We must identify drug education and treatment programs that work and provide the resources to fund them. When a program works, we cannot afford not to fund it. My plan also empowers parents and law enforcement agencies to combat more effectively drug dealers in our neighborhoods. If out-of-state drug dealers are intent on poisoning our children, we must be even more vigilant in fighting them. I've been described as a moderate. I've also been called a conservative and even a liberal. Like many Vermonters, I've been difficult to label because I understand that to solve tough problems there is a need for common sense solutions. But in our search for a middle ground, we must never sacrifice the high ground. On my commitment to a first-class education for our children, access to affordable health care, a clean environment and a good job for every Vermonter there can be no compromise. I believe that it will require strong leadership and experience to meet these challenges. I know that my many years serving Vermonters has prepared me well for the task at hand. I have a positive vision for the future and real solutions to our problems. My message is built on common sense and common values. For 30 years I have done my best to do right by Vermont and Vermonters. I have been diligent, dedicated and direct. I have been plain spoken and have always sought to give the people the facts, straight up, unvarnished and ready for consumption. I will recruit for my administration individuals who share my belief in a government that serves its citizens and works as an ally not an adversary, who view public service not as just a job, but as a duty and a mission. Throughout my career, I have always tried to appeal to the best hopes of Vermonters, never their worst fears. The Republican Party - the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, of Aiken, Davis, Stafford and Snelling- is a party founded on hope, optimism and opportunity. I intend to embrace fully the ideals of our founding and make them once again our destiny. And so I ask you, the people of Vermont, to instill in me once again the high honor and responsibility of leading Vermont into the future. Vermont is ready for change and together I know we can make a difference. With courage and confidence, we will meet the challenges ahead and renew the promise of Vermont for ourselves and for the future. I know that behind the clouded horizon lies a brighter tomorrow for the people of this great State of Vermont. Thank you.