Woodward sets priorities

State Representative Mark Woodward, (D) Lamoille County, who is seeking re-election, cites health care reform, education funding, and high-speed internet as the three most important issues for the upcoming session.

“That would be my number one priority, health care reform,” Woodward said.

Woodward feels that the upcoming presidential election will prove pivotal in the struggle to improve health care in Vermont. He said that if Romney wins it could have a negative effect on recent and future health care reforms.

“I’m really hopeful that Obama can win this election. That’d be really important for Vermont,” Woodward said.

Health care is not a new issue for Woodward. “I am on the health care reform committee,” Woodward said. “I have spent 22 years on health care boards of directors… I have spent a lot of years trying to reform health care and make health care work for everybody.”

Woodward, who also considers education funding to be an important issue, graduated from JSC in 1980 with a degree in psychology and a minor in art, and lives in Johnson up the hill from the college. “I have a very special place in my heart for Johnson State. I got the education and the attention that I needed.”

Conscious of the students in his district, Woodward said that funding for higher education has for a long time been a focus of his. “Student debt is just staggering,” he said. “I think we really need to look at doing a better job of funding people who are in college. I think we do a pretty good job funding K through 12, [but] I think we really fall down on funding for people in college. It has always been a priority of mine to see that those that are outside of the traditional funding streams get funds.”

Woodward said that the movement to address the burgeoning cost and debt associated with higher education is growing. “We are just starting to become a stronger voice,” he said. “Students are really starting to feel the pain of the failure in state funds…There’s reps from Burlington, there’s reps from Lyndon, there’s reps from Castleton, that represent those areas, that have helped me. But it has been a relatively lonely voice down there.”

Woodward made a call to action to Vermont students: “You need to make your voice heard and your parents’ voices heard in the towns where you grew up in so that I can get other allies in the legislature. When I stand up and say, ‘This is a critical need, that we fund state colleges.”

Another high priority for Woodward is high-speed internet. “I am very interested in getting high-speed internet throughout the state of Vermont, high-speed internet and cell phone coverage,” Woodward said. “High-speed internet means fiber [fiber-optic]. It’s not DSL and it’s not cable. The next step is fiber.

“We’ve got federal funding to do fiber around the state. In my mind, I don’t have any problem with the government being directly involved in subsidizing bringing fiber to the home.”

Woodward went on to compare our current need for high-speed internet in Vermont, to the drive to bring electricity to the masses in the early Twentieth Century, a process enabled in great deal by government spending. “I think high-speed internet is the electricity of the Twenty-first Century,” said Woodward.

Another issue that Woodward considers critical is participation in the democratic process. “Whether they vote for me or not, it is really important that they vote,” Woodward said. “I talk to people a lot, and I get a lot of, ‘Well I don’t care to vote. I don’t want to vote, blah, blah, blah.’ And in the state of Vermont two years ago we had five people become representatives on election day, [and in these contests] combined we had, I think, two one-vote victories and a couple of two-vote victories. Every person’s vote matters…Your vote really matters.”

As to the upcoming election, Woodward said, “I’m cautiously optimistic that I can win. I am always a very thorough and hardworking candidate.”

Election Day is Nov. 6.