So, whatcha gonna do to celebrate The New Biennium on January 7?
Well, if you’re Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, you’re going to do what no Lite-Guv has ever done and what he specifically has never come close to doing: you’re promoting your own policy agenda.
On the legislature’s Opening Day, when all eyes are on Montpelier, Scott is hosting a pitch session for, in the words of VTDigger’s Anne Galloway,
…business people of all stripes to pitch ideas about how to rejuvenate Vermont’s economy. Each person gets 5 minutes to tell lawmakers what they could do to help businesses thrive in Vermont.
The pitch session, billed as “Priority #1 on Day One,” will be from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier and will be followed by a reception.
“A reception” at which, I’m sure, donations will be cheerfully accepted.
But beyond that, Scott is spotlighting his own prescription for what ails Vermont, and making an absolutely unapologetic pitch of his own — for the support of the state’s business community. He is positioning himself as the business community’s advocate in Montpelier.
Has he ever done anything like this before? Nope.
Is there any doubt that his decisive victory over Dean Corren and the scent of gubernatorial blood in the water has awakened Mr. Nice Guy’s inner predator? Nope.
And while “business people of all stripes” are invited (bring your checkbooks!), look at the list of business groups already lined up for five-minute pitches:
Vermont Chamber of Commerce
Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce
Vermont Technology Alliance
Vermont Retail and Grocers’ Association
Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility
Associated Industries of Vermont
Vermont Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund
Associated General Contractors
Vermont Ski Areas Association
Vermont Association of Realtors
That list includes a few good guys — VBSR, Sustainable Jobs Fund, Fresh Tracks — plus all the usual business-community power brokers. Gee, I wonder what they’ll say.
Also, there are strong signs that the “centrist” forces for growth and affordability are aligning themselves. First, although Phil Scott is the headliner, the event’s sponsor is Vision to Action Vermont, the pro-business advocacy group led by outgoing Rep. Paul Ralston (D-Middlebury) and continuing Rep. Heidi Scheuermann (R-Stowe).
(Whaddya think? Scott/Scheuermann 2016, anyone?)
The latter chimes in herself in the Comments section below Galloway’s story:
This is just the beginning, we hope, of a legislative session that will have, as its primary focus, the health of our state’s economy. …Frankly, we want all to become engaged and will provide many other opportunities to do so.
Ah. A series of dog-and-pony shows designed to highlight an alternative to the Democrats’ agenda. That’s smart politics. Much better than the formulaic naysaying of past years.
Aside from V2AVT’s sponsorship, there’s also the latest manifesto from ex-Wall Street panjandrum (and co-founder of Campaign for Vermont) Bruce Lisman, echoing the affordability call from Scott and V2AVT. In Lisman’s own self-congratulatory way.
Affordability is a renewed slogan that has recently found its way into the vocabulary of Gov. Shumlin and some members of the Legislature.
Finally, the Democrats are awakening to the wisdom of Bruce Lisman!
Uncle Brucie’s version of the affordability crisis focuses almost entirely on the perceived failings of state government. There’s some truth to that, but national factors play a much bigger role. Stuff like our putrid economic recovery, decades of stagnant purchasing power among the middle and working classes, the rapid accumulation of wealth in the top one percent.
But this post isn’t about the convenient blind spots of Bruce Lisman. It’s about the fact that the forces of “centrist” Republicanism are loudly singing the same tune: Affordability, defined primarily in terms of boosting business. Not defined in terms of using government to counteract the economic forces beating down average Vermonters and help them work their way through an economy that’s rigged against them.
One other thing: all this activity is taking place without mention of, or participation by, Scott Milne. He is, after all, still running for governor, and he technically has the support of Republican lawmakers. But as usual, when it comes to planning their agenda, Milne has no seat at the VTGOP table. He is nothing more than a convenient stick to beat the Democrats with, and he will be discarded as soon as he stops being a useful tool.