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.
In response to the killing of social worker Lara Sobel and three other women, Governor Shumlin has issued a plea for change. But he’s not calling for tougher gun laws or even better enforcement of the ones we have*. He’s not calling to boost staffing to make the Department of Children and Families more effective. Heck, he’s not even calling for better security arrangements for state workers — although he has “ordered a full review of our security procedures,” so we’ll see where that goes.
*Reportedly, Jody Herring should not have been able to acquire the gun used in the murder spree.
The real problem is “hateful speech” delivered on “anonymous blog sites and unfiltered social media.”
I realize the Internets provide an easy target in times like these, especially for a politico capable of writing “anonymous blog sites” without a trace of irony. But even aside from that inelegant phrase, there’s a real “You kids get off my lawn” feel to the whole piece.
Yes, “anonymous blog sites” can be wretched hives of scum and villainy. But is this our real problem? Was Lara Sobel’s death triggered by “anonymous haters who use vicious language to incite public ill-will toward others,” as Shumlin seems to argue?
In recent years, there’s been a lot of criticism aimed at Vermont’s Department of Children and Families. Heck, there’s even a Facebook page entitled “VT and DCF Exposed,” which is a compendium of every news item, large or small, that reflects poorly on DCF. The coherence of its argument is best encapsulated in a comment posted by one Jeannie Flanagan Marchese:
Personal opinion, dcf takes kids away that shouldn’t be. Leaves kids that should be taken!! It’s a crap shoot!!! No excuses for them!!! Sorry just have seen a lot and read a lot!!
Okay, so DCF simultaneously does too much and too little. Got it.
Well, if the senseless tragedy of last Friday’s quadruple murder should teach us anything, it’s that DCF has an impossible job, as do its overburdened, oft-criticized social workers.