Shumlin’s Newsdump-a-palooza rolls on

If you regularly read this page, you don’t need to be reminded what a newsdump is. But just in case: it’s the popular maneuver of unloading bad news when the media and the public are least likely to notice. Friday afternoons are the most common times. The final working day before a holiday weekend is ideal.

The Shumlin administration has been making a habit of this lately, and now there are two more newsdumps on the horizon. The first, regarding budget cuts, and the second, Shumlin’s long-awaited big reveal on single-payer health care.

The administration hit a two-fer on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, ensuring minimal and shallow coverage of its planned $17 million in budget rescissions, and little to no coverage of its plan to make two-thirds of the cuts in Human Services, an agency already said to be underfunded and understaffed.

Shumlin.NewsdumpWell, there’s a sequel to the rescission newsdump. All affected agencies are supposed to submit their proposed cuts by December 5. Hey, what do you know — it’s a Friday!

This should ensure that news about specific cuts will leak out slowly. Or, will perhaps be dumped all at once in a news release issued around 5 p.m. Friday.

It’s also worth noting that the administration gave its agencies less than one business week to make these tough decisions. Its call was issued on Thanksgiving Eve, which meant that the work couldn’t commence in earnest until Monday, December 1.

But wait, you might be thinking. Didn’t the Administration decide not to pursue immediate cuts?

That’s right. Rather than risk a confrontation with the Legislature, it opted to hold off on rescissions until January.

However, the December 5 deadline remains in effect. So state agencies are being rushed into critical budget decisions, even though no action will be taken until more than a month later.

Curious. Methinks the administration might get an early start on those cuts, despite its abnegation of unilateral action.

As for the second newsdump… the Governor announced Wednesday that he would unveil the proposed benefits offered by a single-payer health care system by mid-December, and that his financing plan — the real bone of contention — will come out on December 29 or 30.

What, does he have plans for New Year’s Eve? Or would that be just too damn obvious?

Well, I guess it was too damn obvious anyway. Paul Heintz:

…he swears he’s not trying to bury the news in the lull of the holiday season.

“That’s exactly why I wanted to give you the date now,” Shumlin said during a wide-ranging discussion with reporters at Burlington’s Hotel Vermont. “Because I didn’t want to wake up on December 31 and [read], ‘It was a late-night news dump.'”

So I guess I’m helping out by labeling it a newsdump well before New Year’s Eve Morning. Wouldn’t want to spoil the last cappucino of 2014. (Or maybe I shouldn’t assume he drinks Gucci coffee. Folger’s?)

He claims that he wants to get the plan out early to “get it to the legislators before they’re sworn in.” But the specificity, to use a grand old Watergate word, is a little strange. His team, he says, “is working really hard to get this together.” A task involving that much intensive work with a bunch of people would seem, by its nature, to be somewhat open-ended. And the Governor has particularly avoided deadlines in the health care reform process because so many have been flouted in the past.

And yet he can predict, with certainty, that it will all come together on the 29th or 30th.

Somehow I doubt an extra week or so, including a long holiday weekend, will make a whole lot of difference for lawmakers. If the early release isn’t a newsdump, it will certainly have the effect of one: limiting coverage and blunting immediate reaction to the plan, allowing the Administration to prepare counter-arguments and perhaps even refine the plan before it’s formally submitted.

To me, it looks like a newsdump, walks like a newsdump, and quacks like a newsdump.

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