Phil Scott, miracle worker

Phil Scott’s proto-campaign for governor has, so far, been a matter of personality: Phil Scott is the nice-guy leader that Vermonters have been looking for. On the issues, nothing but vague hints and bromides.

Well, he gives it another go in an essay posted on VTDigger.

Sadly, it’s kind of an incoherent mess. He calls for a moratorium on all tax and fee increases, a tight rein on state spending, and expansion of several state programs.

And he claims he can do that “without cutting off services to Vermont’s most vulnerable populations or weakening environmental protections.”

Oh, yeah?

Whatcha got in that basket, Phil? Five loaves and two fishes?

Let’s start with the conservative stuff. Scott wants to “truly balance the budget” without depending on any one-time savings or revenues. He notes that the state budget has been growing faster than the economy, and says the two figures need to be brought into line. In fact:

State spending should never grow faster than growth in the economy and budgets should be built on conservative revenue projections.

First of all, it’s standard practice for governments to spend more in bad economic times in order to prime the pump. Setting an artificial limit is (1) irresponsible and (2) signifies a poverty of imagination. A real executive knows when to spend and when to save without putting on a fiscal straitjacket.

But even if you agree with Scott, how the hell do you accomplish that task? Budgeting is done a year or two in advance; figures on economic growth come in after the fact.

Scott also calls for no increases in fees or taxes in 2016. Okay, fine, standard Republican stuff. But what about this?

…the Legislature should prioritize spending in pro-growth areas like job training, higher education, technical education and road and telecommunications infrastructure.

Interesting that the veteran road contractor puts “roads” high on the priority list. But really, I have no quarrel with this paragraph; it’s just impossible to do all that stuff while freezing taxes and cutting spending.

Where, exactly, does Phil Scott want to cut? The lion’s share of the general fund budget is human services. If he wants to forego new revenue and make a sizable cut in the budget, then the Agency Human Services is in the bull’s eye. Does he have some Secret Plan to slash human services “without cutting off services to Vermont’s most vulnerable populations”?

Governors have been trying to impose efficiencies, trim the fat, and reinvent state government at least since Richard Snelling. Despite all that, here we are with a persistent budget problem and unmet needs in many areas.

And Phil Scott, a man never known for his courage, vision, or fresh ideas, is going to cut spending, preserve human services and environmental protection, AND invest heavily in education, training, and infrastructure?

It is to laugh.

7 thoughts on “Phil Scott, miracle worker

  1. Lee Russ

    I think it’s the theme of “a pot in every kitchen, a chicken in every pot, and a strong dose of drugs in every chicken so you don’t notice it’s just a fantasy.” But then the drugs in the chicken would also be a fantasy…..It’s very confusing, but I’m sure Mr. Scott will eventually be able to explain how this all works.

  2. Fred Crowley (town of Vershire)

    You ended your observations on Phil Scot’s promises with “It is to laugh.” As I remember, more of the same absurdity was performed 50 years ago in an album by UVM professor and humorist Francis Colburn (I think entitled “The Campaign Speech”) in which a politician promises to build a new school, on the site of the old school, using material from the old school, and not tearing down the old school until the new one was built.
    His material might be worth tracking down…he had a good eye on human foibles and the Vermont scene.

  3. Walter Carpenter

    “the Legislature should prioritize spending in pro-growth areas like job training, higher education, technical education and road and telecommunications infrastructure.” The usual stuff: Cut out the bottom so that the wealth moves up to the top. And nowhere does Scott mention that wages have been stagnant for so long and that the raise to the $9.15 minimum wage is still not enough.

  4. newzjunqie

    Scott is uniquely positioned as LG. He very surely knows most of the problems result from
    Shummys’ risk-taking and budgetary brinkmanship, bloat and waste – the standard stuff bureaucrats are typically responsible for.

    Personally do not believe that he or insider club – ALL of them were in the dark about the revenues and growth projection – in this case lack thereof. If so, all who signed off involved in either fraud or grossly incompetent as the books had to have been cooked. This was no accident imo. So at the very least living w/in our means is millions in savings.

    Taking the long view, knowing full well that he would be jumping ship following the revelation of Singlepayergate after using it to get in and stay in office, and why he never produced the numbers showing what it would cost a waste of all the time and many millions another savings.

    Not difficult to recognize what this corrupt politician and ‘team’ was up to nor does there seem to be a limit to what they are capable of. I believe either Scott or Dunne would end this malfeasance.

    Must say rather stunned that this outside audit showing VHC still not fixed and has many fundamental flaws and was sat on by outside agency (why?) since last February, seeing the light of day almost a year late. Earning the failing grade of “Adverse Opinion” an F in auditorese and “out of compliance” w/federal standards.

    State Auditor Hoffer kindly gave credit where due but the facts of own 38 page audit damning.

    This is not new, it was forced by the feds to go offline before as the security flaws could have taken down their system. And seems to be par for the course with this administration as Miller who blithely said he wasn’t surprised by the findings – whaaa?! Getting rid of these six-figure suits and the rest of the fools more millions in savings.

    Soo, all of the aforementioned represent a huge cost as well as loss for VT taxpayers which leads me to believe absence thereof is in the many millions. Scott surely must recognize the burn rate and bonfire taxpayer revenue has become but maintaing nice-guy status not easy if one must say he’d put out the fire.

    As with the rest of Team Shummys’ incompetence, VHC was to cost $14 million to operate. Surprise! It’s now over $50 million. Scott has said he would be interested in going to the federal system which would be like $4-5 million *I think*. Oh, and the tech firm which owns the code just gifted VT with it as they are ‘going out of business’, and VT is the only state to use it – how much did this technology that still doesn’t work cost us? Savings? Millions.

    Medicaid another fiasco – pays millions a year for a cystic fibrosis med for 40 ppl at $750 per daily dose. Not having to pay exorbitant VHC operation cost could ease the shock for some of these big tickets. Also taking a look at residency requirements for services so that VT isn’t being flooded with those leaving taxpayers on the hook while simultaneously replacing taxpayers like workers and youth.

    Audit shows enrollees were not properly vetted or screened and like over 1500 Dr D ineligible were never cancelled. And audit(s) found Medicaid lacks controls to prevent fraud. How much more?

    Well over 14,000 jobs in VT have been lost since 2011, recession hurt everyone including VT but these numbers are later. And take a bite out of revenue as in taxes. Lack of broadband coverage which is hurting VT business climate yet another fail – Broadbandgate.

    No one is ever going to be very specific about what they would do – Dunne has been the most transparent. But though Scott seems to be talking generalities I believe he could at least begin to stop the bonfires and hemmoraging and move on to healing our state by fostering a less volatile business environment instead of paying many more millions to lure and keep business here.

      1. newzjunqie

        Why thank you Jvwalt – point taken. Will keep tip under advisement. Dizzying numbers – always in the many millions – is rather eyepopping. Long story short – merely cutting bloat and waste alone though an unknown, pretty sure it could balance books at the very least. Not sure what Scott has up sleeve but I do not think a D/P is up to it.

        Biggest concern is that the basis for budgets is always built upon what was spent prior. I would like to see everything on the table most importantly reduction in high-level bureaucrats and staffers. There are also fed funds available for cutting hours rather than employees don’t know much about it but it piqued my interest.

        VT schools also have an extremely high number of employes-to-student ratio. If this were reconfigured could this alone make taxes affordable? Again, if a D/P is at the helm and hold a majority in statehouse we may never know.

        Have also wondered if kicking VSEA to curb by Shummy has anything to do with the seemingly massive number of staffers he himself has added to the rolls.

  5. NanuqFC

    The real key is in Scott’s promise not to “cut off services to Vermont’s most vulnerable populations.” He doesn’t say he won’t cut them (i.e., shrink their value), just won’t cut them them off. He could leave families getting food stamps and other assistance with $1 each and still keep his promise.


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