Tag Archives: Enterprise Fund

A little bit slow and a fair bit lacking

This whole Stengerville fiasco presents a quandary for the three Democratic candidates for governor. On the one hand, it’s the biggest political scandal in years, ensnaring most of the state’s power elite in its icky-sticky web. You’ve gotta say something. On the other hand, well, it blew up on Governor Shumlin’s watch, and you’ve got to draw a careful line when criticizing your own party’s incumbent.

I guess that explains why it took Matt Dunne, Sue Minter, and Peter Galbraith a solid four days to issue any sort of response. And why, in the interim, the candidates’ press-release operations carried on as if nothing had happened.

There was Sue Minter on Thursday, holding a doomed-to-obscurity presser on “an aggressive plan” to address water quality issues from PFOA to Lake Champlain and beyond. A really nimble campaign might have taken notice of the Wednesday night SEC raid on Stengerville and postponed the event, but maybe that’s asking too much.

Matt Dunne did no better; on Friday he disclosed his personal financial information, as if anybody cared at that particular point. It may be unfair to conclude that the release was a double-barreled newsdump: it came on a Friday when everybody’s attention was focused elsewhere. Yes, it may be unfair, but these are cynical days.

As for Peter Galbraith, that rarest of phenomena: the sound of silence.

Finally, on Monday, all three came out with a gun or two a-blazing, but none have fully addressed the issues raised by this scandal — our scattershot approach to helping specific businesses and the lack of transparency and accountability in the process.

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The million-dollar greeting card

Okay, here’s my promised post about the Vermont Enterprise Incentive Fund.

It’s garbage. It stinks. It’s an insult to everyone, liberal or conservative, who believes in good government.

It needs to die. Or at the very least, it needs a complete overhaul. Strong words, but I can back ’em up.

The Enterprise Fund, for those just joining us, is a program of state grants for businesses moving to, or making significant investments in, Vermont. It is meant to be used in “unforeseen or extraordinary circumstances.” Those are Governor Peter Shumlin’s own words, quoted from his own press release.

The Fund was most recently deployed last Friday with a $1 million grant to GlobalFoundries, in support of a $72 million investment in its Essex Junction facility. In a number of ways, this grant seems at odds with the Fund’s stated purpose. Let’s start with this: GlobalFoundries announced the investment in October. By November, it had already invested $55 million of the money.

So, absent a time machine, how could an investment made in October be contingent on a state grant approved three months later?

Even if you ignore that anomaly, if the investment is already well underway, how in the world can you classify it as “unforeseen or extraordinary”?

Well, you can’t. In the words of State Auditor Doug Hoffer, this grant was “basically a thank-you note.”

A million-dollar thank-you note. Next time, maybe just go to Capitol Stationers. They have a very nice selection.

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State of the State: Tough sledding

Governor Shumlin’s State of the State address wasn’t quite the nothing-burger you might expect from a lame duck. But if early returns are anything to go by, the actual impact of his address may be a lot closer to a nothing-burger.

There were a few notable initiatives and ideas, but most of them got slapped around almost as soon as he left the podium. And I’m not talking about the predictable Republican naysaying; I’m talking about Democratic criticism. In past years, Shumlin has had a very hard time rescuing high-profile initiatives that get off to a rocky start at the Statehouse, and that’s likely to be even more true in his lame-duck year.

Other ideas are sure to garner opposition on January 21, when the Governor delivers his final budget address. That’s when he’ll have to explain how he wants to pay for new or expanded programs that cost money. (As opposed to, say, paid sick leave, which won’t cost the government a dime.) In the past, the Legislature hasn’t reacted kindly to Shumlin’s budget-cutting suggestions (see: Earned Income Tax Credit, 2013), and he hasn’t reacted well to legislative alternatives.

We can break down the new stuff into two categories: items that will cost money, and those that won’t. At least they won’t cost the state any money.

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