Daily Archives: February 26, 2015

Free offer: Dinner’s on me

VPR’s John Dillon has captured and preserved a lovely bit of flamboyant hypocrisy from the fine folks at Your Chambers of Commerce. On the one hand:

Tom Torti, president of the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, told lawmakers last week that Vermont’s brand is defined by its clean environment. A polluted lake hurts the state economically because visitors will chose not to return, he said.

On the other hand:

A day later, Katie Taylor, a lobbyist for Torti’s organization was in a House committee. She delivered a different message.

…Taylor made clear the Lake Champlain chamber will fight a tax increase aimed at the tourism industry to pay for water pollution controls.

,,, Kendal Melvin of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce also opposed the half-cent rooms and meals tax increase. When one lawmaker asked her to recommend alternatives, she offered nothing.

Yeah, well, thanks for nothing.

Which brings me to my Free Offer. The first lobbyist who accepts financial responsibility, in whole or in part, for a problem or issue facing Vermont, will be treated to dinner by me at the restaurant of their choice. Hen of the Wood? Great. Leunig’s? Fine. J. Morgan’s? Predictable but acceptable. Slum it at Al’s Frys? Outstanding.

To meet my conditions, the statement has to go something like this: “We realize we have a real problem with _________ in Vermont, and we accept that our [industry/company/group/granfalloon] plays a part in solving this problem. We are willing to bear our share of the costs of ___________.” You can add as many bells and whistles as you like.

The lobbyist must represent an entity with “skin in the game” — exposure to increased costs in taxes or fees. This, unfortunately, disqualifies most public-interest groups.

The statement must be delivered in testimony to a relevant legislative committee, and submitted to theVPO in transcript or audio recording.

Caveats: Judging is by theVPO. Judge’s decisions are final. There will be a limit on the bar tab — a reasonable one.

This offer is good until the legislature adjourns for the year. C’mon, lobbyists — do the right thing, and earn yourself a free feed in the process!


The Campbell Assessment, updated

My previous post concerned apparent featherbedding by Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell. Traditionally, the Speaker and Pro Tem each get one full-time aide, at a salary in the $55,000 range. The Speaker is still there, but Campbell now has two full-time staffers drawing a combined salary of $111,000.

Since Campbell started padding his staff following his disastrous performance in the 2011-12 biennium, I called the difference “the price tag for John Campbell’s incompetence.” We could shorten that to The Campbell Assessment if you like.

In response, commenter Seth Hopkins pointed out that a state worker gets more than a salary; there are also public-sector-quality benefits. Since Campbell has added a second staffer, his payroll now includes full-time bennies for both.

What does that cost? The answer, from the state HR Department website:

The State’s total compensation package for employees features an outstanding set of employee benefits that are worth about 30% of your salary.

Okay, so add 30% to the cost of Campbell’s staff. That brings us to $144,000, more or less. It might end up being more than that; Campbell’s previous aide, Rebecca Ramos, piled up $23,000 in overtime and comp time in her last year on the job. But let’s stick with $144,000.

House Speaker Shap Smith’s aide earns $55,000. Add 30% for bennies ($16,500), and you get $71,500. So the baseline Campbell Assessment is $72,500.

But hey, he’s a great guy. You just can’t put a price tag on that. Can you?