Moran, who has held the office since he was elected in 2006, says he’s looking forward to another biennium to continue work on several issues the Legislature has been wrestling with. “I think I’ve accomplished a lot and laid the groundwork for a lot,” he says. “And part of the process, what gets things done, is working together and developing coalitions.”
Moran identifies three major challenges facing the Legislature in the next session, including financing of the state’s health care system, education funding and governance, and economic development.
Moran is a supporter of the state’s goal of a single-payer health care system. “One of the reasons I got into this in the first place was because of my concern about the lack of universal health care,” Moran says. “I remember hearing about someone who was diagnosed with cancer and people had to get together to raise money for their treatment. It shows the community cares, but it’s not right in an industrialized nation like ours. We should have a system where people don’t have to do that to meet basic needs.”
The Shumlin administration was due to release recommendations for funding a single-payer system during the last session but failed to put a plan on the table. “We’ve been putting pressure on the governor,” Moran says. “There are a lot of ideas out there, but I’m sure there will be some rough edges along the way, just as there have been. We’ve had glitches, but I believe we’re on the right track with single-payer.”
Although many have expressed concern about the cost of a single-payer universal system, Moran points out that much of the money is already there, and already being spent on health care. “It’s not a question of whether we can finance it, but how,” he says. “We’re already spending billions on premiums. The question is how to make it more equitable.”
Moran says there is pressure on the Legislature from outside the state – pressure from those who want Vermont’s single-payer system to work, and pressure from those who want it to fail. The same groups are active in the national health care debate. “There’s a real threat to undermine Obamacare and for Vermont health care to fail. A lot of people want it to succeed, but the real power and money lie with the affluent.”
During the last legislative session, local school districts came under fire with an effort to eliminate the state grant to small schools, as well as a governance plan that would have consolidated school supervisory unions and eliminated local school boards. The elimination of the small schools grant would mean the loss of $187,000 in revenue to towns in Moran’s district.
Both measures failed, and Moran says the victory for the towns in his district is a “classic example” of the kind of coalition building that’s necessary to accomplish legislative goals. Although a motion by Moran and Rep. Vicki Strong failed to halt the effort to eliminate the small schools grant in the House, Moran says he and other legislators had already lobbied senators. The measure was stripped from the Senate version of the bill.
Moran says the governance bill was doomed from its late passage in the House Education Committee. Moran says it bounced between committees and finally died in the Senate. “One of my closest allies in the Senate is Dick McCormack, chair of the Senate Education Committee. He was not going to be supportive of the bill when it came out of the House, and it went nowhere in the Senate.”
Education financing is likely to be on the agenda next year, and Moran says House Ways and Means Committee member Rep. Jim Condon,of Colchester, has been working on a proposal for a new financing sytem. “The plan is to have a fixed property tax and a graduated income tax on top of that. It would reduce the burden on the property tax, and that’s something I will definitely fight for.”
Moran says his approach to economic development is pro-worker and pro-business.
In the last session, Moran supported a measure that would have required employers to pay a minimum “living wage” of about $15 per hour. Another minimum wage bill set a lower goal of $10.10 an hour. The final compromise was a bill that raised Vermont’s minimum wage to $10.50, the highest in the nation. “You set the goal high, and when you negotiate with other legislators and the administration, you compromise,” Moran says. “We have a lot of retail and service industry jobs in this district, and I’d like to see everyone be able to support their family on their wages. But you have to have wages that work for workers and for businesses.”
The final bill, Moran says, brought legislators from all three parties together with independents. “Republicans, Democrats, Progressives, and independents were all speaking in favor of it. Working across party lines is so important, and a bill with that kind of support is an indication you’ve reached consensus.”
Moran says he’d like to see some of the rooms, meals, and sales tax revenue diverted back to economic development in the areas where the tax is collected. “Rooms, meals, and sales taxes are a valuable source of revenue to the state, and a lot of it comes from places like the Deerfield Valley. I’d like to see 2.5% of that go back to the community to an agency that represents the businesses in that area, and uses the money to develop businesses’ ability to earn more money. At the same time, they’ll be able to provide more revenue.”
Of his top accomplishments over the last eight years, Moran counts his work on legislation to help local workers and small businesses, including legislation easing restrictions on Vermont wineries, distilleries, and breweries.
“But at the end of the day, when I look back, one of the things I’m most proud of is being one of the 100 votes to overturn (Gov. Jim Douglas’) veto of the equal marriage bill. Any time I can help expand rights, such as disability rights, workers’ rights, that’s a proud moment for me.”
This year, Moran will face two challengers, Laura Sibilia and Philip Gilpin, running as independents in the general election. Moran says he’s looking forward to the discussing the issues.
“Both candidates are equally credible, and they’ll raise issues that are important to me, too. And I have a feeling we’ll agree on most of the issues. Democracy functions best when people have choices, so this is a real opportunity for voters to take a look at the issues again.”