By Patricia Minichiello
@vtpresspass

The crowd at the gubernatorial debate Wednesday night, at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland, gasped when a Castleton University student told Sue Minter she was “going on a rant.”

Patrick Gilligan, vice president of the Republican Club at Castleton, interrupted Minter as she was speaking about the state’s fiscal responsibilities.

“We need fiscal discipline, absolutely. We’re not looking to add taxes, we’re talking about key problems affecting our economy,” Minter said. “Let’s just talk about transportation…”

“Sue you are going on a rant right now,” Gilligan said, interrupting the candidate and shaking his head.

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Patricia Minichiello Photo / Debate moderator Mark Johnson, left, listens to candidates with Castleton University students Patrick Gilligan and Vanessa Robertson Wednesday night at the Paramount Theatre in Rutland.

 

The debate drew about 350 people to downtown Rutland, and topics ranged from health care reform to refugee resettlement.

“I believe this will become a very positive experience in the long run,” Minter said of the latest news, of the state department approving Rutland as a new refugee resettlement site in the country.

Rutland’s application as a new site to bring refugees to the city was approved by the State Department on Wednesday. The city is expected to see 100 refugees a year resettle in the community, but many people question that number and hope it changes.

“I don’t know that I have a limit on the number,” Minter said during the debate, “But communities need to be sure they are ready to welcome.”

Scott said members of the Rutland delegation have posed legitimate questions that have gone unanswered.

“I think that transparency is what we need. … There are some legitimate concerns about what this is going to mean to Rutland and how much it is going to cost,” he said.

The hot-button issue of Scott’s family benefitting from government contracts also surfaced.

“It is important to know that a governor is not going to be awarding state-funded contracts to his own business or frankly to his family,” Minter brought up the topic. “That, I think undermines the public trust,” she said.

Mark Johnson, moderator of the debate and a senior editor for VT Digger, challenged Minter on the topic.

“You said it was about time that (Scott) come to the conclusion there was a conflict,” Johnson said. “In the past 15 years has it been improper for his family to have gotten this business?”

There are not rules in place for conflicts of interest at this time, she responded, and added that she would like to see an ethics committee in place in the future.

“Sue was secretary of transportation for seven months,” Scott said. “She had to sign off on every contract. If there were any improprieties, she should have spoken up at that point.”

On the economy Minter said she’s going to look at tax reform that reduces the burden for  middle class Vermonters, while Scott said there has to be fiscal discipline, frugality and prudence.

“We can’t spend more than we’re taking in,” he said.

At times the audience was reprimanded for applauding and asked to keep their praise for the candidates quiet. But after closing remarks by both candidates, the audience was encouraged to show their support.

Castleton University student Vanessa Robertson, a city alderwoman and president of both the Democratic Leadership club and the Political Science club, was also on stage asking questions of both candidates.

The debate was presented by VTDigger in partnership with Castleton University and The Paramount Theatre as part of the Project 240 Series.

Patricia Minichiello is a freelance reporter and editor of vtpresspass.com. You can reach her at vtpresspass@gmail.com.