This is the platform for Brittany Cavacas for Rutland County (VT) Senate. She is running an independent political campaign. This platform is built on the combination of the experiences of Brittany's life and the needs of the state of Vermont. The following platform items tackle the economy, health care, saving the arts/sports, women/youth initiatives, mobile sports betting, and affordability.
WHAT I STAND FOR
Economic Growth For Vermont’s Future Generations
We need to be business-friendly! Simple as that. I love Vermont’s rural lifestyle, but I feel there can be a balance between preserving the “Vermont Way,” while reducing the vice-grip that exists on our local businesses. Act 250 needs to be REVIEWED and REVISED again! The number of business opportunities in our county and state that have been lost and delayed due to Act 250 has been staggering. In Rutland County alone, the retail sector has taken the biggest toll in the past decade by growing online markets, transportation limitations for Rutland County that isn’t seen neighboring cities like West Lebanon, NH, and Glens Falls, NY, and lastly due to the lack of a growing workforce that doesn’t live in our community. The economy of 2020 needs to work for our county and state. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to be ahead of the curve to find ways to keep business here in Vermont and tackle the rising issues in this new economy. We need an economy that benefits locals first while promoting out of state residents to feel welcome with job opportunities and small business successes. Gimmicks like $10,000 to move to Vermont is not the way to solve our population crisis. We want out of state residents to be apart of the Vermont experience but do so through actual positive change in our community, not band-aid programs.
We also need to expand our technology for our residents! The lack of LTE/5G cell phone coverage in our state is unacceptable. We are letting local governments with little understanding of technology rule the success and failure of the 21st-century economy in Vermont. The lack of cellular service is not only a business deficit but a safety issue for residents who live in our rural communities. Past generations have been comfortable with the installation of telephone poles, radio towers, satellites, and solar panels, but are offended by a single cell phone tower that in 20 fold can help everyday life for Vermonters. We also have weaknesses with insufficient broadband internet in our rural towns in this county. This pandemic has shown the cracks in our technological infrastructure that is affecting business, education, and the health of our citizens by the day. I propose that we work with the telecommunication companies to streamline access to network growth so every Vermont resident has the same opportunities in 2020. By improving the economy in Rutland County, this will help lower costs for Vermonters because having new working Vermonters to our state will increase the tax base we need for future generations and will lessen the tax load that we see today.
Health Care Reform For Today That Benefits Tomorrow
I have been in the medical field for over 20 years. My mother and grandparents were a part of the nursing home industry in our state. The medical well being of our fellow Vermonters is my biggest priority. I support a multi-pronged approach to health care. I support health insurance that works with both public and private entities. I feel that Vermonters should have access to health care, but should make the decision on their own. With that, I feel that preventable care should be accessible to all Vermonters at a low to no cost to avoid the higher toll on the medical system that happens once health conditions go undetected. This includes wellness checks, vaccinations, breast cancer screenings, colonoscopy screenings, and other routine preventive measures. Along the lines of lower costs, there should be available options for Rutland County residents to have low-cost prescriptions so that entire paychecks/social security checks are not being drained by medication.
The other major aspect that I have experience in is with senior care in our state. The laws are antiquated and do not serve the patients or the nursing homes to most of their needs. Reimbursement rates for senior services needs to be reform! This is due to the lack of reimbursement rates for senior care services received in the last several years. It has caused the decay of the very industry that serves our aging population. By having smaller budgets, this has led to insufficient care, risk of neglect, and higher senior cost in the state. Funding for overall senior services is more expensive due to inflation in the medical industry along with the rising costs of nursing care. We rely on our hospitals to fill the gaps that our senior care is not able to provide. We need to look at creating better senior facilities that will over time lighten the load on other facets of the health care in our state while giving our Vermont seniors the proper treatment they deserve. My plan provides a real bridge between serving both the younger and older generations in our state. Having a healthy life is key to the success of our county and state.
Bring Affordability back to Vermonters
One of the biggest things I hear in my community is how expensive it is to live in Vermont. This is an issue that I totally understand and see for myself in my everyday life. This made me decide to dig into the numbers. According to an annual study done by World Population Review, Vermont is the 12th most expensive state to live in the United States in 2020. While we are not in the top 10, it is still relatively higher. Then you take a look at a different study done by the World Population Review about median annual income and it shows we are 20th in the United States ($60,076). Why the median annual income is important is because most of the other states that are on the list for being expensive to have an annual median income that is $15,000 to $20,000 higher than in Vermont. This combined effect makes our dollar “feel” less than compared to other areas of the country. This isn’t something we want as Vermonters. We love our great state and want to have roots in our community. We can definitely improve wages by bringing good-paying jobs to the area and other economic opportunities (see my economic platform). The other way to improve affordability is by cutting taxes that directly impact everyday Vermonters, but the potential worry is what cuts are going to help us as a state and what cuts will hurt potential citizens too with social services. I believe that we should tackle affordability by finding holes in our tax structure that are missed opportunities(corporate and looking at straightforward practices). Along with taxes, I also feel that we should seek additional revenues from goods and services that people should be able to enjoy. The first item is to review business taxes in Vermont. One item for example is other states require businesses to file income earned in the state that they worked in (like a Vermont business would pay taxes to New York if they did work in New York). Based on my findings, I have seen that this practice isn’t as strongly enforced as compared to other states. I feel that looking into this situation is useful to see if Vermont has proper taxes by companies that do business in our state from other states. The next tax item is to review our non-resident income practices to make sure it is properly defined. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a rise in remote working/work from home practices in Vermont from out of state residents. They have their main residence in another state but have a second home here in Vermont. What is currently happening is that they are being taxed as if they are working in their home state while they are not living in that state. It is one thing if someone is here for a temporary amount of time, but what length of time is “temporary” in this case. The key to the economy of the future is to identify how to properly handle remote work taxes for it reflects the reality of their main residence (workers and businesses). The final tax piece is about dropping the piggyback tax. What the piggyback tax means is when the federal tax rates fluctuate up and down nationally, Vermont’s state tax rates move with the percentages of the federal government. I personally feel that we need to look at a set state tax rate that isn’t correlated to the trends of the federal government. By doing this, we can ensure that calculations are properly assessed for Vermonters for their taxes. This proposed practice is on par with other states in New England. This also prevents us from making irrational decisions when the federal tax rate makes sudden movements that couldn’t negatively impact Vermonters in the process.
While tax regulation is important to improve government deficits, and in turn create fewer burdens on Vermonters to cover the gaps, we can also look at ways to increase revenues for our state that will provide many good-paying jobs, new businesses, and overall quality of life. The first item that I feel needs to happen is finally to create a marketplace for the selling and taxation of marijuana. While I personally do not consume marijuana, I do feel that the opportunities to open the industry will have a positive impact on the state's economy. There are countless examples of revenue from this in other states, and while we have legalization in our state, I feel that we are being held back. We have seen the positive impact on CBD products for local farmers in our state, and this would just open this area more I feel. The next item I would look into is the opportunity of having two casino resorts coming to our state. There have been proposed bills that would allow casinos in Stowe and Killington and would be involved in the fabric of the ski resorts in these communities. I feel this would bring impactful jobs to the area, bring new revenues that we have never seen in our state, and create additional reasons to bring tourists here. I also feel that if any bill is designed to incorporate a casino in the state, that it is part of the local Vermont architecture and not an “eyesore” that some casinos may appear to be. This proposal also has ties to my mobile sports betting platform. The last proposal I have to offer is finding ways to help to fund when it comes to transportation. This could be done through having toll plazas on our state highways. What I specifically propose is a model similar to New Hampshire (vs the New York State Thruway), in which you have a few spots that are near the border of our state on I-89 and I-91 and you would pay between $1-$2 for the toll. This additional revenue would largely assist highway budgets, first responder's budgets, and create additional jobs. The key to all of these proposals is to find ways to be more efficient at revenue without having to always hike taxes on Vermonters (for example the oil heat tax hike of recent). If we can find opportunities that are being underserved by laws on the books or lack of change, then I feel it is smart to investigate these options. I desire to make Vermont an attractive place to live and if we can make it more affordable for everyone then I feel that is a platform I can stand by.
Creating Women-Led and Youth-Led Initiatives For Our County & State
Our county needs to be lead by our future citizens. This means our youth and our women. One of the major steps in creating this change is by improving women’s educational and economic successes in our county and state. My vision for this initiative is to collaborate with local colleges and/or technical schools for creating women based training/career development opportunities with local employers. If we can create this collaboration amongst economic and educational institutions, then we can promote a better local workforce along with improving the quality of life for citizens in our county.
I also want to look at incentives for either renovation or creation of teen centers that create programs that invest in the future of our children. This can be for items such as training programs, athletics, arts, education, and more. These opportunities will increase the likelihood that individuals and families want to stay in our county and our state. I have experience in seeing the dreams and desires that our future youth/women want in their lives. As the founder of the non-profit, We Are Girls With Dreams, I have been able to work with girls (4th grade and up) that have either been through difficult circumstances or have desires to become leaders in their communities. By creating this platform for my campaign, I have put an emphasis our giving our future Vermonters a voice and a place at the table of making this county a place to be proud of. This topic is important in my personal life, but also is the truly effective incentives that will change Rutland County and this state.
Saving Arts & Sports From Our Communities
I’ve had a personal relationship when it comes to sports and the arts. Growing up, I was a three-sport kid along with being avid in the local dance community. Participating in these extracurricular activities were vital to my growth as an individual, growing a strong bond to my local community, and learning valuable life lessons amongst my peers. In recent years, there have been issues concerning school budgets across the state. Partly this is due to the smaller class sizes in correlation to the older population in our state. This has led to schools making tough decisions in school budgets and they are looking at saving costs by shrinking the funding for the arts and sports. As a member of the Rutland City School board, I worry about these discussions that are happening at other board meetings within the county and state. As a state senator, I would make a commitment to finding potential federal funds for annual school budgets that can come to Vermont (and especially Rutland County) to support school-based arts and sports activities. Finding resources that are allocated from the federal level helps lighten the load on local citizens while still making a positive impact on our communities through the education of our future Vermonters, the local economy, and civic pride.
The other piece that we need to focus on is the well being of our performance venues in our state during these difficult times with COVID-19. With COVID-19 rocking the arts, music, and sports industries to its core, there needs to be a way to protect these communal experiences that are necessary to the social fabric of our county and state. Recently US Representative Peter Welch (D-Vt.) introduced the Save Our Stages (SOS) Act that tackles this very issue on looking into providing six months of financial support to keep independent live music venues afloat through the coronavirus pandemic. I support the bill presented by Rep. Welch and I feel that COVID funding of this sort should also account for local arts programs, dance studios, and sports/recreation organizations within our county and state. The impact these types of institutions in our community have on the well being of our future Vermonters is vital. The life lessons that I gained from my years in dance and sports is beyond words that I can describe. These same opportunities and experiences should be available to future generations. So I feel it is important to identify all cultural sectors as opportunities to help serve during these difficult times. I want to preserve the traditions that were a part of my life for future generations. This includes going to high school sporting events, yearly dance recitals, and drama club performances. Overall, as Vermonters, I feel that we can find ways to tackle this important platform because, in this fast-moving world, we need to cherish the ability to be communal through the local sports and arts in our state.
Bring Mobile Sports Betting to Vermont
This is a platform item that I have been looking into for the last few months. Back in May of 2018, the US Supreme Court struck down the constitutional legality of the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) which barred the ability to have professional sports betting in the United States (with the exception of Nevada). This decision allowed the State of New Jersey to have legal sports betting within its state. This decision has opened the gates to 21 states legalizing sports betting in the last two years. There have been a couple of bills introduced in the statehouse for Vermont’s opportunities at Sports Betting. The Bills are S.213 and S.59. I feel that the introduction and studies are good to get the conversation going, but I feel this is a type of decision with great benefits for our state from a revenue perspective that should be enacted sooner than later. One of the 21 states with legal sports betting is our “Twin State” New Hampshire. They enacted sports betting back in December of 2019. Since they have gone live this year, the state has received $2,367,611 in tax revenue from the $67,189,287 of legal sports bets that have been placed in the Granite State. This is also taking into consideration the fact that most sporting events were temporarily suspended for 3-4 months in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So these revenue numbers have the true potential to be even higher. Even our neighbors in New York State have legal sports betting on the books for in-person only and their revenues since July 2019 to the state is at $964,671. This is for only 6 legal locations for sports betting, being closed since March of 2020, and not including NYRA horse betting revenues (different system).
I feel that having such a recreational and safe method to allow fellow Vermonters or out of state residents to enjoy sports betting creates new revenue to help operational budgets. This also can lead to reducing the need to raise taxes on basic essentials for Vermonters such as heating oil. Like many other states have done, I would propose an operator fee for companies that would like to set up shop in our state, a tax percentage on each bet placed, and have this industry be overseen by the Department of Lottery. I would also support local sportsbook facilities within our state, but in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel making the effort to enact mobile sports betting would help establish a testing ground to see the impacts in our state while receiving the benefits that can help reduce budget deficits up in Montpelier.