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.”
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.