Daily Archives: February 25, 2015

We can now put a price tag on John Campbell’s incompetence

…thanks to Terri Hallenbeck, pinch-hitting for Paul Heintz in the Freyne Memorial Chair:

In the last two years, [Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell has] quietly increased his office’s staffing and more than doubled his payroll.

He’s done so — without any explicit policy change, nor anyone else’s approval — even as lawmakers consider cutting other state jobs to close yet another budget gap. Some say the situation reveals a disturbing lack of oversight. Others consider the money well spent, given that his enhanced staff has helped restore order under the oft-distracted and perpetually disorganized Campbell.

Aww, that’s nice. We’re spending a bunch of extra money because John Campbell can’t keep his shit together. And yet the Democratic caucus keeps re-electing him out of classic Vermonty loyalty to “my grandfather’s lightbulb.” 

Now, the amount of money isn’t that much in state budget terms — somewhere in the $50,000 to $70,000 range. The Pro Tem staff historically consists of one person paid roughly $50K per year. When Campbell hired Rebecca Ramos to pull his fat out of the fire after a disastrous 2012 Senate session, her starting salary was $70K. But in her last year on the job, she took home $103,000 thanks to a whole lot of overtime and unused comp time.

Campbell has replaced her — with not one, but two staffers, with total compensation of $111,000. By comparison, Hallenbeck reports that House Speaker Shap Smith’s sole staffer makes $55,000, and Lt. Gov. Phil Scott’s staffing cost is roughly the same.

I think we’re safe in concluding that the taxpayers of Vermont are shelling out an extra $60,000 or so to keep John Campbell in a job he can’t handle.

But he’s such a nice guy!

Postscript. As commenter Seth Hopkins pointed out, my $60,000 estimate is almost certainly low. Now that Campbell has hired two staffers, they’re presumably drawing the state benefits package — health care, pension, etc. So the real price of Campbell’s incompetence is more than 60K. 

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Gun owners lose a skirmish, win the war

Pro wrestling, for whatever you might think of its artistic merits, has some of the most delicious vocabulary you can find.

Today’s entries are “work” and “shoot.” A work is a fake fight meant to look absolutely real to the audience. A shoot is a rare occasion when the confrontation actually is real. (Wrestlers are friends and coworkers behind the scenes, but tempers can run high in a testosterone-fueled industry based on [scripted] physical altercations.)

Cut to a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, as reported by VPR’s Peter Hirschfeld. Ed Cutler of Gun Owners of Vermont is testifying,when he suddenly draws the ire of committee chair Dick Sears. Hirschfeld offers a lengthy account of the affair, which is a fun read; here’s the trigger moment, when Cutler bemoans the annual introduction of gun legislation.

Ed Cutler and Dick Sears, with the corpse of S.31. Not exactly as illustrated.

Ed Cutler and Dick Sears, with the corpse of S.31. Not exactly as illustrated.

“The problem, and you guys, you’ve been thinking about … doing this for years now, trying to figure out some way to do this,” Cutler said.

Sears chuckled.

“How do you know this,” Sears asked.

“Because you keep putting this bill in,” Cutler said.

It was at this moment that Sears’ face began to redden.

“What? Now wait a minute. I keep putting this bill in? Ed! Ed! I have never introduced a gun bill. Ever!”

Sears’ anger continued for quite a while; at one point Cutler’s hands began to shake.

Eventually the moment passed, and after the hearing, the two men shared a hearty handshake.

Bringing us to the question: work or shoot?

Well, I don’t actually think the confrontation was staged — a pretend show of prickly independence by a veteran lawmaker. But the “prickly independence” itself? That’s a work.

These guys are on the same side. Sears said so himself. And if you have any doubts about that, the Burlington Free Press is reporting this statement from Sears regarding the gun bill:

“S.31 is not on the table,” said Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Quite frankly, it’s dead.”

It might have been a few uncomfortable minutes for Ed Cutler, but in the end it was just a dominance display by one of the Senate’s leading cocks. And in the end, the two men run in the same pack.