- Associated Press - Thursday, October 6, 2016

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - The three candidates for governor offered sharply different visions of the state’s future in a debate on Thursday, with Republican Phil Scott saying a top goal will be to hold the line on taxes and Democrat Sue Minter saying she would raise $6 million in new bank fees to pay for two years of tuition-free technical or community college for students.

Minter and Scott, the leading candidates to replace the retiring Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, also sparred extensively on climate change.

Liberty Union candidate Bill Lee, a former pitcher for the Boston Red Sox and the Montreal Expos, offered views that wandered well beyond Vermont’s borders. He said that a cure for mistrust in government is to stop watching CNN and Fox News Channel and that Vermont should address its transportation problems by importing a paid hitchhiking system from Venezuela.

The comments came during a debate broadcast by Vermont PBS, the statewide public television network.

The debate was marked by Minter and Scott reiterating previously stated positions, though Minter stepped up her attacks on Scott for reciting what she called “Republican talking points.”

Scott, a Berlin resident who has served as a state senator and, since 2011, as lieutenant governor, said he would restore faith and trust in government and promised to behave with civility and respect. To a question from an audience member about an ad supporting him that features a female bobble-head representing Minter, Scott said he did not approve of the ad but could not legally coordinate with the political action committee that produced it and so could not ask that it be pulled from the air.

Scott accused Minter of supporting a tax on fuels emitting carbon dioxide, something she denied. She charged that Scott was too closely tied to national Republicans and the “oil tycoons” who fund the party to take strong action against climate change.

Minter, a former state representative from Waterbury who also served as secretary of transportation and the state’s recovery chief after Tropical Storm Irene caused extensive damage in 2011, said Scott should take climate change more seriously, rather than “towing the national Republican line to talk about climate change as if it’s not a problem.”

Another topic was recently declining gasoline tax revenue due in part to more efficient and electric vehicles and whether Vermont should shift to a system of taxing vehicles by the number of miles driven.

Scott said he would welcome Congress considering that strategy nationally, but not in Vermont.

“We can’t be doing something different than the rest of the country,” he said.

Shumlin, who has been in office since 2011, announced in mid-2015 he would not seek re-election.

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