In a debate forum Thursday between Republican Scott Milne and Democrat Molly Gray, both candidates for lieutenant governor made appeals to the political left in an effort to persuade Vermont voters.
The forum, held at Mad River Barn in Waitsfield, was sponsored by VTDigger and moderated by Anne Galloway.
Milne made it clear he did not join the 95,369 Vermont voters who voted for Donald Trump in 2016, and he’s not going to vote for him in 2020.
“I took a tough stance that cost me a lot of friends by announcing in 2016 that I wasn’t voting for Donal Trump,” he said. ” … I’ve announced in this election that I’m not voting for Donald Trump.”
Milne is a former Republican gubernatorial candidate and the president of Milne Travel, a family-owned travel management company.
Gray, who is an assistant attorney general, expressed support for the unrest around the nation.
“I think we’re in an incredible moment, as I said, a justifiable social unrest. We’re seeing the Black Lives Matter movement, which will be a historic movement not only globally and nationally, but also right here in Vermont.” she said. “I see the role of the lieutenant governor in rooting out systemic racism wherever it exists.”
She continued that Vermont has its own racism.
“Systemic racism also exists in access to health care, in access to education, and access to unemployment and access to housing,” she said.
Milne was asked how he will fight racism.
“Black lives matter and we need to make sure that all people are treated with dignity, especially by law enforcement, by prosecutors, by the criminal justice system,” he said.
He shared about his time working for a public defender’s office in Washington, D.C, including his role in working to keep minorities out of jail.
“The only white people I worked with were fellow investigators or attorneys,” he said.
On the state’s response to COVID-19, Gray said she will support continued mask-wearing and maintaining physical distancing.
“We have to continue to be vigilant in our response to COVID-19, wearing our masks and abiding by social distancing guidelines, because the more that we do that the more that our restaurants will be able to be open, [and] our ski areas, our bike areas, all of the things that people are coming to Vermont to enjoy.”
Milne called the economic fallout from the shutdowns “the biggest economic problem probably that we’ve seen in at least 75 years.”
On the economy, the two candidates differed in their priorities. Milne said he’s for tax reform.
“Two specific proposals that I’ll be working towards in an effort to make Vermont a desirable place to live, to work, to raise a family, to retire and prosper … [are] elimination on taxes on social security benefits, elimination of taxes on military retirements,” he said.
Gray said she opposes new tax credits.
“Now is not the time to give tax credits that taxpayers are going to have to pay for — I know we see that in plans that are being put forward,” she said. “Now’s the time to say that we’re going to invest in broadband, we’re going to invest in workforce development to make sure that we can keep talent here in the state, and that’s what we can do to help our economy and to help our businesses.”
She also said she wants a green economy mandated by the Global Warming Solutions Act.
“The Global Warming Solutions Act allows us as a state to bring the expertise that we need to help Vermonters weatherize their homes, invest in solar, greater investments in electric vehicles,” she said. “It’s not going to be easy. I was meeting with the Auto Dealers Association this morning; we need everyone at the table as we think about how we’re going to reduce emissions here in Vermont.”
Milne asked Gray about how she intends to pay for these types of initiatives.
“I went through and I just picked the top six of your promises that you’ve made Vermonters that you are going to deliver to them as lieutenant governor, and the price tag is over a half a billion dollars. So could you take a few minutes and explain where the half a billion dollars is going to come from?” he said.
Gray responded that she needs more specifics.
“If we’re going to talk about budgets and money, I just need to know which ones you are talking about,” she said, to which Milne replied that he’s not going to recite each of the six.