Olsen: Voters sent a clear message on Election Day

JAMAICA — Thanks for your support on Election Day. I am honored to have been elected to serve as my district's next representative.

The election was stunning in many ways. A number of Democrats in the Legislature (including the chair of the House Committee on Health Care) were defeated, and no candidate for governor received an outright majority of the vote.

For the second time in my legislative career, I will be part of a process where the Legislature chooses our next governor. Here in Vermont, if no candidate for governor receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the incoming Legislature chooses the governor.

Traditionally, the Legislature votes for the person who received a plurality (i.e., the most votes) and the practice is regarded as something of a formality.

Not many people would have guessed that incumbent governor with a million-dollar campaign war chest could have come within inches of being defeated by an unknown, underfunded challenger with almost no public-service experience.

Gov. Shumlin secured a narrow victory and will be heading into his presumptive third term with a clear message from the voters: it's time to reset the priorities and refocus on the bread-and-butter issues of economic growth, taxes, and affordability.

The first casualty will likely be the governor's push toward single-payer health care.

I have opined for some time that single-payer health care would likely fall to the wayside during the upcoming legislative session for practical and political reasons. But after seeing the election results, I think it's fair to say that single-payer health care was taken off life support on election night.

We have limited resources and a health-care exchange that is in serious need of focus and attention. Getting that fixed has to be job number one on the health-care front.

While Gov. Shumlin has been loathe to directly address the mounting challenges we have with our education system, Speaker of the House Shap Smith has been quietly laying the groundwork for action on this pressing issue.

Earlier this year, the speaker correctly recognized education and education finance (which drives property taxes) as priorities for 2015. I have been working diligently on this issue and continue to work closely with the speaker and several other key policy makers on the advance work that will jump-start the dialogue in January.

In my view, there is now a clear mandate to tackle education and education finance reform as the top priority in 2015, and the governor will have to get on board.

I encourage you to reach out to me with your questions and comments as I prepare for the next legislative session. You can reach me at my home office (802-444-9004), my cell phone (802-585-5435), or email.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates