Letter to the Editor: Banner and Journal 8.26.2022
What We’ve Accomplished and Why We’re Running: James and Bongartz
We’re honored to be running as a team for the Vermont House of Representatives in the Bennington-4 district, which includes the towns of Arlington, Sandgate, Manchester and part of Sunderland.
After an uncontested Democratic primary, it’s now a three-way race for two House seats in the upcoming November 8 election. In casting your two votes, you’ll have a clear choice: We’re running against a Republican opponent who holds extreme views that are very different from our own.
We’ve been honored to represent our district for the last two years. During the 2020 campaign, we promised to focus on COVID recovery, housing that is affordable for all segments of Vermont’s population, extending broadband coverage to all of Vermont, making high-quality childcare affordable to working parents, and tackling climate change with smart policy that curbs emissions and strengthens our economy while leaving no one behind. We also promised to listen to our constituents and keep in touch with our communities. Here at home and in the statehouse, we have kept those promises.
Working as a team — and within the larger team that is the 150 members of the House of Representatives — we supported legislation directing more than $375 million in General Fund and American Rescue Plan dollars to short and long-term housing needs and $245 million to extend broadband across Vermont. In 2019, Kath helped to found the Southern Vermont CUD, which led by citizen volunteers has partnered with Consolidated and is now bringing high-speed fiber to our member towns.
Along with others, we sponsored and championed H.171, now law. This landmark legislation establishes a goal that no family would have to pay more than 10 percent of their income for childcare. Between this bill and more recent legislation, Vermont is now providing retention bonuses, scholarships and loan repayment, and stronger support for our valued early educators and childcare providers. Legislation to help maintain our forests as carbon sinks, help weatherize homes, improve our electric car incentives and charging network, and switch to cleaner, more reliable — and importantly, more affordable heat — will put Vermont on a path to climate resiliency. All these efforts create jobs and help Vermont transition to the renewable energy economy of the future.
Crafting legislation that makes it across the finish line is a team effort. Supporting and influencing legislation requires a lot of reading and research — and strong people skills. We work hard in the legislature to build and maintain collaborative relationships with colleagues from across the state. We are respectful and respected, and that makes a big difference for our communities. We’re also key players in our committees, which is where the real work of the legislature gets done. Seth works on land-use, clean water and environmental policies in House Natural Resources, while Kath focuses on preK-12, higher education and career and technical education in House Education. She’s also serving as an assistant majority leader this year. We’re both active in various issue caucuses that focus on topics like rural economic development and thoughtful climate action.
The work of the legislature for the last two years will produce generational change. We are proud to have played a constructive role in making it happen. Between our housing summit in Arlington last October, our Northshire Career Expo in Manchester in May, attending town meetings in all four of the communities we represent, writing columns for the paper, our newsletters, our coffee hours during the session, and responding to requests for information from our friends and neighbors, we have worked hard to be available and stay in touch.
The last two years had the rare challenge of a lot of money and making sure we were smart and strategic about allocating those funds. The next two years will be tighter, as federal COVID relief dollars dry up. We will have to carefully prioritize scarcer dollars for the policies most critical to the communities we serve. While a lot of progress on our housing crisis and access to broadband (and cell service) is in the pipeline, they remain high priorities with much more to be done. We will also need to take the next critical steps toward achieving our policy goals for affordable childcare and climate mitigation. We want to make more progress on these and other key policy goals.
Ballots will be available at town offices for early voting and mailed to all active registered voters this fall. To confirm your mailing address and ensure you receive your ballot, stop by your town clerk or go to: https://mvp.vermont.gov. Vermont was ranked as 1st in the nation for election administration in 2020 and 2016 by MIT’s Election Performance Index, a highly regarded, data-driven measure of a state’s election administration performance.
Between now and November, we’ll be knocking on doors, attending and holding events, and sending out clear information about our policies and beliefs. We look forward to seeing you on the campaign trail.
Rep. Kathleen James
Rep. Seth Bongartz