Issues Abound In First Gubernatorial Debate

09/13/12 7:34AM By Ross Sneyd
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VPR
Governor Peter Shumlin (left) and Randy Brock prior to the start of their debate in the VPR Colchester studio

Vermont's 2012 gubernatorial campaign got under way in earnest on Wednesday when Peter Shumlin and Randy Brock debated for the first time. The two men clashed on many issues, but their biggest differences came on health care.

Democrat Shumlin has made health care the signature issue of his first two years in office. And he took the opportunity of the 90-minute debate at the VPR studios to vigorously defend his plan to move Vermont to a single-payer plan.

"I believe as governor that the most important things Vermont can do to grow jobs and economic opportunities is to get health care spending under control," said Shumlin. "I've got a bold and impressive plan to get that done."

But Republican Brock believes Shumlin's approach is misguided. He says no other state has attempted anything so dramatic, and he points out that even President Obama has taken a much more cautious approach. Brock says Vermonters have the same questions about single payer as he has.

Full audio and video of the debate is posted online.

Brock said, "Those questions are: What is it? How much is it going to cost? What's going to be covered? How are we going to pay for it? Who's going to pay for it? Can I keep my doctor? Can I keep my plan? And there are answers to none of these questions. And so, I fundamentally come to the question of, ‘Look, how can you say you're going to save money when you don't know what you're going to spend.'"

Brock conceded that Shumlin has proposed some policies that are potentially far-reaching. But Brock says that doesn't make the ideas good ones.

"Right now we have a governor who says he gets tough things done and he does bold things," said Brock. "And the question is are they bold or are they reckless?"

Brock says Shumlin hasn't gotten some of the things done that he promised. Vermont Yankee is still operating. Questions remain unanswered on health care. And Brock is critical of the administration's handling of the rebuilding of the Waterbury state office complex.

But Shumlin credits his leadership of the recovery from Tropical Storm Irene as one of his signature achievements.

He says he's committed to beginning reconstruction of the state hospital and the office complex as soon as possible, even before funding questions are resolved.

"I believe we're going to get the resources we need from FEMA," said Shumlin. "They're frustrating. They're a big government bureaucracy. But I believe we're going to get there. What we need is leadership, not wishy-washy political words."

With the opening debate of the campaign season, the terms of the next two months were neatly framed.

In addition to differences on health care, Vermont Yankee and Irene recovery, there were disagreements on the role of renewable energy, tax policy and the business climate.

But there was also at least one area of agreement. Both men support basing F-35 fighter jets at the Vermont National Guard base at Burlington International Airport, despite local opposition.

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