Tag Archives: Neal Goswami

Checking in on the new guy

So, how’s it goin’ down Phil Scott way?

For starters, he still hasn’t decided what he means by his core budgeting principle, that he would oppose any state budget that grows faster than wages or the state economy. April B. McCullum of the Burlington Free Press:

Scott has yet to settle on the formula he will use to measure the economy and limit state spending: Tax revenue? Gross state product? Median household income? Some combination?

Just a reminder, we’re almosttot the halfway mark between his election and his inauguration. And there’s some holidays between now and then.

Which also applies to naming a cabinet and staffing an entire administration, where he continues to fall further and further behind the pace set by Peter Shumlin in 2010, and which he’s apparently in no hurry to do. Neal Goswami of the Vermont Press Bureau:

Since winning the governor’s office on Nov. 8, Scott, a Republican, has appointed four people to serve on his staff. But top-level cabinet positions remain unfilled. Six years ago, outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin named several such appointees within a couple of weeks of his election.

… “When you have hundreds, literally hundreds of applications, it takes a little time and I don’t want to leave anything on the table. I want to make sure that we fully, fully take a look at their backgrounds, what they could bring to the table … and talent is very, very important,” Scott said.

Good to know talent is important. I was hoping the next cabinet wouldn’t feature Larry, Darryl and Darryl.

And the idea of open auditions for cabinet posts is certainly small-D democratic at its core, but wouldn’t it make sense for an incoming governor to have a few ideas going in? Maybe have a small team do some pre-election planning, even?

If they’re truly starting from scratch with piles and piles of applications, well, sheesh. I’ve never been elected governor of anything (although I am the captain of my kitchen), but I’d have a pretty good notion of the people I’d want at the top levels of my hypothetical administration.

Oh, and here’s a little tidbit that somebody might have thought to mention before Election Day, courtesy April B.

Outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, claimed this week that his administration already “righted the ship,” and that during his tenure the state budget grew less than the growth in Vermont’s gross state product.

An analysis by the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office showed state spending exceeded gains in Vermont’s gross domestic product in fiscal years 2012-14, but in recent years state spending has grown more slowly than the economy.

Well, gee whillikers, what do you know. State spending grew in the wake of a killer recession and Tropical Storm Irene, and was then brought under control in Shumlin’s final two years.

Which means what? Phil Scott’s mantra about the reckless spending increases of the past six years was nothing more than a politically motivated piece of accounting fakery?

Er, yeah.

How about that.

If that had ever been mentioned before now, I missed it. (And I’m sure whoever reported it will promptly correct me.)

(And I’ll ask them why they never fact-checked Candidate Scott on his alleged factoid.

In any case, one of these days Phil Scott will have to stop running for governor and start actually, y’know, governing.

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When the truth isn’t truthy enough

The Phil Scott and Sue Minter campaigns are in full froth over alleged negative advertising. Each accuses the other of willful distortion: Team Scott is upset over ads questioning his pro-choice credentials; the Scott campaign, meanwhile, is slammed for tying Minter to a proposed carbon tax.

Funny thing is, they’re both right on both counts. The attacks are based in fact, but are designed to mislead.

The pro-choice ads were produced by the Planned Parenthood Vermont Action Fund. They cite two pieces of evidence that call Scott’s abortion stance into question. The first: his past support for some restrictions on access to abortion. The second: the fact that Right to Life Vermont “recommended” Scott.

Both are accurate. But still misleading.

Second point first. RTL did not endorse Scott, but it did “recommend” him as, basically, the best of an inadequate lot. RTL doesn’t particularly like Scott, and they’d much prefer a harder-line candidate, but he was, in RTL’s view, the least bad option.

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Phil Scott Makes Tax Cut Plan Somewhat Less Awful

It hasn’t been that long since Phil Scott unveiled his glossy 39-page economic plan, but he’s already acknowledging one major mistake.

As the Vermont Press Bureau’s Neal Goswami reported over the weekend, Scott’s plan to cut capital gains taxes was based on Vermont’s old tax formula. As a result, the Scott campaign has watered down its cap-gains proposal.

Details in a moment. But first, let’s just put this out there:

[Cutting the capital gains tax] would spur tax shelters, generate little new saving, give a windfall to the wealthy, and make long-term budget problems even worse.

That’s from the commie-pinkos at the Brookings Institution. There’s plenty where that came from; the consensus among experts (not employed by the Cato Institute and other right-wing policy shops) is that capital gains tax cuts are, at best, a grossly inefficient way to spur economic growth. At worst, they’re a pointless squandering of resources.

But let’s return to Phil Scott’s plan, before and after. This will get into the weeds of tax policy, so my apologies in advance. I’ll try to keep things simple.

Vermont used to allow taxpayers to exclude 40 percent of their capital gains. That was killed in 2009, in favor of an exclusion for the first $2,500 in capital gains. The change was designed to concentrate the tax benefits at lower income levels; whether you got $2,500 in capital gains or $2,500,000, you got the same tax break.

Scott’s original plan would have restored the 40 percent exclusion.

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Ooh, Republican slapfight!

The Vermont Republican Party, said by Sen. Dustin Degree to be the party of youth, now has a 72-year-old running for Lieutenant Governor to go with the 68-year-old (Bruce Lisman) and the 57-year-old (Phil Scott) running for governor.

The latest AARP-eligible to grace the Republican campaign is Randy Brock, former state auditor and state senator, and spectacularly unsuccessful candidate for governor in 2012.

The best account of Brock’s announcement comes from the Vermont Press Bureau’s indefatigable Neal Goswami, who got the dirt on a freshly opened rift on the VTGOP’s right wing.

Recently, Brock had met with former VTGOP Treasurer Mark Snelling (65 years old, Dustin). The subject: the two men’s shared interest in Vermont’s Bucket of Warm Spit.

Snelling said he and Brock had a recent meeting in which the two agreed to ask the state party to host a meeting with candidates interested in the position “to try and maximize the talents within the party.”

But Brock called Snelling Wednesday night to tell him he was announcing his candidacy.

Sorta like two boxers ready for a fight. The bell rings, and one fighter suddenly says “Hey, look, it’s Muhammad Ali!” Second fighter turns his head; first fighter whomps him in the gut.

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A happy ending

Well hey, looky here:

Scott opposes efforts to defund Planned Parenthood

That’s the headline on a newly-minted story by the Vermont Press Bureau’s Neal Goswami, who reached out to Lt. Gov. Phil Scott for comment on the Planned Parenthood foofaraw. Don’t know whether Goswami’s inquiry was sparked by yesterday’s disgraceful Congressional “hearing” or by my earlier post calling for Scott to exercise some leadership, but the important thing is, Phil Scott stepped up and delivered.

“I’m pro-choice. I always have been and I believe that Planned Parenthood provides very important health services that go far beyond abortions for women,” he said. “They provide great services and needed services.”

Can’t say anything bad about that. It’s a strong and straightforward statement, and it puts Phil Scott at odds with the national party and all the Republican Presidential candidates. I do have one quibble:

Scott said he did not know if the videos that have inspired conservatives in Congress to cut funding for Planned Parenthood are reputable.

“I don’t know anything about the allegations, whether they are true or not, but I’m sure we can all agree that no organization should be profiting from abortions,” he said.

Well, he went a little Sergeant Schultz on us there at the end. But the rest of his position? Commendable.

Ways of seeing a blind trust

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott’s announcement that he will run for governor came with a side dish of confusion, for those who scanned more than one account of the event.

At issue: what he will do with his half-ownership of Dubois Construction, which frequently bids on state contracts. Keeping an active hand in the business would be a pretty clear conflict of interest; the still-hypothetical Governor Scott would, after all, be filling positions in the Agency of Transportation and could presumably bring influence to bear on his firm’s behalf. Or even, perish the thought, provide inside info that would help Dubois submit winning bids.

But we all know Phil Scott, the golden boy of Vermont politics, would never do such a thing. Everybody knows good ol’ Phil, right?

Yeah, just like the State Senate didn’t know it was harboring a[n alleged] serial rapist until state troopers arrested good ol’ Norm McAllister on the grounds of the Statehouse. Point being, you never really know, do you?

That’s why we have ethics rules and laws. Well, most states do, anyway.

Apparently, when asked about the conflict question, good ol’ Phil gave different answers to different reporters.

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Drawing the Shmethical Line

Brent Raymond’s move from regulating the EB-5 program to operating one of them is proving impossible to ignore. How impossible? Top Shumlin administration officials are actually raising questions about it. They’re even invoking the feared Executive Code of Ethics.

“The governor has concerns about the potential for a conflict of interest in this decision. … We fully expect all appointees and former appointees to comply with the Executive Code of Ethics,” spokesman Scott Coriell said in an email. “The governor has also asked (the Agency of Commerce and Community Development) to review the communications leading up to this departure to ensure that all actions were in compliance with the Executive Code of Ethics and conflict of interest policies.”

Ah, the Executive Code of Shmethics: the Mock Apple Pie of good government. (Mmmm, Ritz crackers and RealLemon!)

This picture should not be interpreted as visual commentary on the content of this post.

This picture should not be interpreted as visual commentary on the content of this post.


The most interesting phrase in the above paragraph is “leading up to his departure.” It would, indeed, be instructive to know how long Mr. Raymond was negotiating his new job with an EB-5 developer while continuing to be, at least in title, the state’s EB-5 regulator.

And how in Hell he thought it was okay to do that.

Well, at some level he probably knew it wasn’t okay. Otherwise he wouldn’t have kept his superiors in the dark until he actually had the job in hand. Whereupon they waived his 30-day notice and showed him the door toot suite.

He’ll still get paid for the 30 days. Because after all, why punish the guy?

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