The Inaugural Address You Won’t Be Hearing

Gov. Phil Scott will deliver his fourth inaugural address Thursday afternoon. It’s likely to be another boilerplate session full of the same ol’, same ol’. Here’s the speech he ought to give, but won’t.

My fellow Vermonters, here we are again. My thanks to the voters who gave me their overwhelming support. I am humbled by their trust in my leadership.

These same voters gave the Democratic Party unprecedented majorities in the Legislature. This result may seem baffling from the outside, but I believe the voters were sending a strong and clear message: Get together, figure it out, and act with the interests of Vermonters above all other considerations.

I can claim a mandate. So can legislative Democrats. We should not argue about whose mandate is more meaningful; we should accept the obvious decision of the voters that we must work together to make Vermont a more livable, prosperous, and dynamic place. A better place to live, work, and raise a family. A place doing its best to battle the effects of climate change and environmental degradation. A place where every Vermonter, regardless of circumstances, can live secure, productive lives.

Right now, working together is more important than ever. We face many challenges that present both peril and opportunity. We can’t waste time and energy sniping at each other. Working together means fighting for principle but always listening to the other side, and being open to the idea that your idea might be better than mine.

At times, I have fallen short of that standard. As you all know, I own the all-time record for gubernatorial vetoes. Sometimes a veto is necessary, but every single veto represents a failure to work together and be open to ideas that are not my own.

From this day forward, I commit myself to a new era of cooperation across party lines. An era where we won’t just talk about bipartisanship, we will live it every single day.

I hope that legislative leadership will join me. I will make every effort to meet them halfway. In the past, there have been questions about how often and how openly I communicate with leadership. This year, there will be no doubt.

I will meet with House and Senate leadership at least once a week to assess our progress on critical legislation. In addition, I will make myself available in my ceremonial office for at least one hour per day. On Monday when the Legislature is not meeting, this will be an open house and coffee hour open to all. Tuesday through Friday, I’ll hold meetings with committee chairs and key lawmakers. The relevant members of my administration will join in those meetings. I also expect my Cabinet to consult frequently with leadership and committees about the progress of legislation and how we can find common ground.

Later this month I will deliver my annual budget address. It will contain my administration’s best ideas for how to move Vermont forward. I expect the Legislature to give those ideas a fair hearing, but I do not expect a rubber stamp. The outcome of a collaborative session will be new laws and programs that reflect the best ideas that all parties bring to the table, honed and refined in joint consultation. I am open to anything, even in areas where I have drawn a hard and fast line before now.

Even taxes. [Pause for laughter.]

Now, it’ll take some convincing, but at this moment in history we can’t afford the luxury of absolutes. The federal dollars that have helped us through the pandemic are running out, but the pandemic shone a harsh light on the issues we face: climate change, health care, education, opioids, housing, homelessness, broadband, workforce, economic development. Issues with racial and gender disparities remain, as do shortcomings in our legal system. We must face all these issues within the limits of our own resources.

I must also face the fact that, despite my best efforts, there are still shortcomings and inefficiencies in my own administration. I will redouble my efforts to make government run as efficiently as possible and be as responsive to the people as possible.

Today I call upon my administration and the Legislature to join hands and work together. Vermont and Vermonters deserve nothing less.

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