By Rep. Mike Yantachka
As I watched the funeral services of our 41st president, George H.W. Bush, this past week, I was moved by the remembrance of how this president served our country. He was a man who believed that the purpose of government is to serve the people, to help people. His presidency, as his life, was characterized by a concern for others and a desire to help anyone who needed help. We as a nation thank him for his service and his example.
Each of us serving in elected office does so based on the values we hold. As I begin my fifth term serving my community of Charlotte and the southwest corner of Hinesburg, I am grateful for the opportunity and hope that the work I have done and will continue to do will reflect values that make Vermont a better place.
Vermont families should be able to earn a livable wage, should have access to affordable basic health care and should live in a healthy environment. We should be able to provide a good education for our kids that will prepare them to become productive members of society, whether they go on to higher education or become skilled workers.
We should be willing to help those who need extra help in coping with their disabilities or who have taken a wrong turn in life and need help in recovering. We also have to look beyond the present and take steps that will help prevent dangerous climatic changes that threaten to change life, not only for our children and grandchildren but for all life on earth.
Several bills were passed by the Legislature this past year that would raise the minimum wage, allow employees to take time off for family crises and protect employees and communities from toxic exposures to industrial chemicals. Unfortunately, they did not become law. These bills are being prioritized for passage in the coming session.
Several years ago we passed legislation to clean up our lakes and rivers. A source of sustainable funding for this effort was not included, however. The poor water quality issues we have been experiencing with algae blooms have had an impact on Vermont’s economy, on the health of people and animals, and on Vermont’s reputation as a great place to visit for recreation. The phosphorous load in Lake Champlain and other lakes and ponds has built up over decades, and it will take decades to remediate. Existing funds are running out, and it is up to the incoming Legislature to find a sustainable source of funding to continue the cleanup effort over a long period of time.
Climate change is one of the most important policy areas that I will be working on in 2019. The Department of Environmental Conservation issued its report on Vermont’s greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) this summer that showed our emissions to be 16 percent higher than 1990 levels, primarily due to transportation and heating. Our goal had been to reduce emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2021 and 50 percent below by 2028. Clearly, we are going in the wrong direction.
The Legislature commissioned the Joint Fiscal Office to fund a study on how best to reduce GHGs, including the costs, benefits and impacts on Vermonters. This report will be submitted to the Legislature in January, and we will develop legislation to start reducing our dependence on fossil fuels for transportation and heating based on those recommendations.
As the legislative session progresses I will again keep you informed through the articles I write. I welcome your emails, phone calls to (802) 233-5238 or in-person contacts. This article and others can be found at my website.