In Part One, I mused about the overreactions and hurt fee-fees on both sides of yesterday’s Inaugural protest. Now, let’s turn our attention to the Republican reaction to Gov. Shumlin’s inaugural address.
Their main point, according to VTDigger’s Laura Krantz?
Gov. Peter Shumlin ignored the most pressing issues facing Vermont in the first speech of his third term, Republican leaders said Thursday in response to the inaugural address.
… Republicans, gathered in the Senate cloakroom, said they were disappointed Shumlin ignored property taxes and health care — two issues that topped voter concerns during the elections last fall.
The speech focused on energy and the environment, so the complaint is technically accurate. But it deliberately ignores the fact that Shumlin billed this speech as Part One of a two-part 2015 agenda. And the governor specifically said he will address the “missing” issues in next week’s budget address.
“Just because the governor has acknowledged that his plan is a failure doesn’t mean he can ignore health care. We still need to address it,” said Rep. Patti Komline, R-Dorset.
Well, he didn’t “ignore” health care. He said he’d address it next week.
Sen. Joe Benning, R-Lyndonville, said the speech focused not on saving money but on spending more.
Again, the budget address hasn’t happened yet. That’s when Shumlin promises a plan to balance the budget. And, for the fiscal conservatives among us, Shumlin’s energy/environment speech contained very little in the way of new spending. The energy part was mainly about new regulation of renewables, which doesn’t involve any state spending. The Governor did propose two fees to help fund Lake Champlain cleanup, but both are narrowly targeted on sectors that contribute heavily to Champlain’s problems — agriculture and commercial/industrial development.
Republicans said they are open to his ideas about cleaning up Lake Champlain and other waterways but those are not the big problems.
Well, actually it IS a big and urgent problem because, as they well know, the EPA is holding Vermont’s feet to the fire. If we don’t come up with a solid plan, including new funding, then the feds will come down on us hard. That makes Champlain a top priority.
Speaking of new urgency, here’s another Republican missing the point.
“It needs doing but where was he four years ago on this?” said Rep. Brian Savage, R-Swanton.
Well, he was doing the same thing Jim Douglas did before him: postponing the Day of Reckoning as long as possible. As Rep. Savage well knows, the EPA has run out of patience, so Shumlin can’t possibly put it off any longer.
House Minority Leader Don Turner was his usual obstructive self, strongly opposing any new taxes or fees, and even blasting Shumlin’s proposal to use the current use law as an enforcement mechanism for farmers and loggers. And he did so in a stunningly inarticulate fashion:
“I think that we know that current use is a very popular program, and it is a very expensive program. But if we want open land in Vermont its been one of those tools that has worked really well,” he said.
So wait. Current use is “very expensive,” and, in fact, Republicans have called for new limits on the program, but it’s “worked really well” and we can’t possibly do without it. You’d need a couple hours of pounding ’em back at the Capitol Plaza bar before that started to make sense.
The entire Republican response consisted of the automatic gainsaying of anything Shumlin said.
With one exception. Lt. Gov. Phil Scott released a statement that began thusly:
“I was encouraged to hear the Governor talk about economic growth. It was good to hear about the Governor’s support of research and development, especially after this important incentive was reduced last year. I hope that the Governor’s mention in his speech today is a precursor to a proposal included in the budget next week.”
Admittedly Scott sort of bent Shumlin’s message in his own direction, but look at what he did:
— He identified common ground instead of just saying “No.”
— He acknowledged that the inaugural address was Part One of Shumlin’s agenda.
A hint of politics, but overall gracious and inclusive. That’s the way you do it.