“Leadership” is a touchstone of the Phil Scott campaign, repeated ad nauseam as if the more often you say it, the more true it becomes. And from what I can tell of his plans for the governor’s office, his version of “leadership” involves tipping the balance of power in his favor.
Whether that’s a good thing or not, I can’t say; but I doubt he’s going to openly campaign on the idea that the governor needs more power.
Here’s what I’m talking about.
First, his proposal for a 90-day limit on legislative sessions. Assuming he means 90 calendar days rather than business days, the legislature would adjourn in early April. Unless they continue to recess for Town Meeting Week, in which case either (1) it’s not really 90 days, or (b) recess wouldn’t come until mid-April, which isn’t all that different from the current session length.
But let’s say that his intent is to have legislative sessions largely (or entirely) confined to January through March. In which case, lawmakers have significantly less time to finish their business. That means fewer bills passed and less legislative oversight of the executive branch.
Also under his plan, the governor would possess the authority to reconvene the legislature in extraordinary circumstances. Which means if the governor doesn’t want a special session, there isn’t one.
That’s a measurable power shift away from the citizen Legislature, no? And since Phil Scott supposedly doesn’t have a political bone in his body, I’m sure it has nothing to do with the fact that while the governorship might be within the Republicans’ grasp, the Democrats appear to have huge structural advantages in maintaining control of the Legislature. I’m sure it’s purely coincidence that, if elected, he would shift power away from the Democratic body and toward the Republican.
We continue. His plan for a two-year budget cycle, which has been panned by VTGOP Guru Emeritus Jim Douglas*, would give the Legislature half as many cracks at budget-writing — and make the governor’s job easier because he’d only have to prepare a budget every other year.
*Vermont used to have a two-year budget cycle… “It was abandoned because, frankly, the legislature found themselves amending the budget so much in the interim,” Douglas said.
Those are the plans he has publicly touted. But then you add this: Scott has been a proponent of four-year terms for governor. According to a source, he did so at a meeting with members of an advocacy group. A single anonymous source wouldnt prove the point, except for this: in 2012, Scott penned an opinion piece calling for four-year terms for governor.
At the time, the Legislature was considering a Constitutional amendment to lengthen the terms of all statewide officeholders. Scott backed the measure, “even if it’s just for the governor’s office.” His essay cites arguments pertaining only to the governor, not to other officials.
Well, if the governor only has to campaign every fourth year and everyone else is on a two-year cycle, then who has the upper hand?
The guy with more job security, that’s who.
Then there’s his advocacy for greater transparency in government. His agenda covers state IT initiatives, state expenditures, contract bidders and vendors, listings of state employees including salary information, and updates on his budget-cutting plans. The plan says nothing about the governor’s office itself.
Which is rather curious, since Republicans have frequently lambasted Governor Shumlin for his alleged opacity. You’d think Scott would want tougher standards for future governors. But I guess not.
(There’s also no mention of an oft-promoted reform: ending the “revolving door” in Montpelier. I suppose he doesn’t want to limit job opportunities for his future minions.)
Put it all together, and the Phil Scott agenda would mean a more powerful governor and a less powerful Legislature. It would also mean future governors wouldn’t have to work quite as hard as our past and current chief executives.
That’s leadership, the Phil Scott Way.