If you thought there was a chance that Governor Shumlin would tone down his insistence on last-minute spending cuts, well, think again. Earlier, he’d called two key Senate committee chairs on the ceremonial carpet to argue for tax reductions and spending cuts — in a spending bill that had already passed the Senate Appropriations Committee. This didn’t go over well with Democxratic lawmakers, per Paul Heintz:
Gov. Peter Shumlin’s erstwhile allies in the Democratic legislature lashed out at him Thursday for pushing new cuts after the Senate Appropriations Committee signed off on the budget.
“It’s insulting to the process,” complained one top Dem.
… “It’s been pretty lonely in there all winter,” Sen. Bobby Starr (D-Essex/Orleans) said, referring to the Appropriations Committee, on which he serves. “I woulda thought they would’ve been in at least a month ago, if not five, six weeks ago, offering some suggestions.”
House Majority Leader Sarah Copeland Hanzas noted that the House-passed tax and spending bills actually called for less spending than the Governor’s original budget plan. She called the gubernatorial disconnect “perplexing.”
Welp, the Governor is unbowed by all the pushback.
In an interview with Neal Goswami of the Vermont Press Bureau, he said the legislative tax package “will hurt our economy and hurt Vermonters,” and stole arguments right out of the Republican playbook:
“They want to take away your home mortgage deduction because you bought a home, they want to take away your charitable deduction because you want to support charities in your community, they want to take away the catastrophic health care deduction,” he said. “They want to tax soda and everything else with sugar in it because they say that drinking that stuff isn’t healthy for you, which it probably isn’t, but they also want to tax water. Tax water? Really? I thought you just said you shouldn’t drink sugary things, now they’re saying we’re going to tax water.”
Don Turner couldn’t have said it better. I have previously explained why our current income tax system is overly friendly to the affluent, and explored the wisdom of a deduction cap. NOT, as Shumlin would have us believe, taking away deductions; just setting a limit, so the wealthy can’t suppress their tax bills while the rest of us can still claim reasonable deductions.
As fellow blogger Hamilton Davis pointed out recently, this is exactly how the Democrats have “lost the framing battle” in recent years: by echoing Republican talking points about taxation, spending, government programs, and public-sector workers.
The budget question is highly complex, but it is being seen against the Republican narrative that Vermont is highly unfriendly toward business, that its tax rates are too high, and that Democratic profligacy is hurting Vermont economically.
I believe the weight of the evidence shows that that is wrong; at a minimum, it is highly debatable. The weight of the evidence also shows, however, that the Democrats and the Progressives are losing the debate.
The Governor is aggressively leading this rhetorical retreat, and throwing his Democratic allies to the wolves.
Even if you agree with Shumlin’s position that we need to cut spending, well, as Sen. Starr put it, where has he been?
His original budget included plans to close a $94 million gap. After he submitted his plan, the gap widened to $114 million — and Shumlin offered absolutely no ideas for handling the additional $18 million. He left it up to lawmakers.
And now he’s upset over how they handled it?
What’s more, he claims that there’s nothing unusual in a governor big-footing the Legislature at the last minute. Which, if true, makes me wonder why top lawmakers don’t see it that way. He dismissed their complaints as “emotional” and added that “Folks get frustrated this time of year.”
Gee, thanks a bunch, Governor.
If I were a legislative Democrat, I’d be very tempted to respond with a hearty “Screw You” (except I’d use a shorter word that begins with the letter “F”), vote for the legislative plan, and let him sign it or veto it.
Maybe this is a sign that Shumlin isn’t running for re-election next year. He certainly seems to have no regard for public perception of his own party or his ostensible allies in the Legislature. He seems to be doing everything he can to write the Republican script for 2016.
Again, thanks a bunch, Governor.