Tag Archives: Phil Scott

House Democrats Are Told How They Could Avoid a Humanitarian Disaster, and They Said “No Thanks”

If there’s anyone on this earth who could understandably be Sick Of This Shit, it’s Anne Sosin, pictured above in a space that Room Rater wold give at least eight out of 10. (“Nice window, background not too busy, solid but unpretentious bookshelf.”) Sosin has gone from arch-critic of Gov. Phil Scott’s Covid policies to interim head of the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, where she’s taken on the thankless task of developing plans to tackle the housing crisis that House Democrats routinely ignore.

On Thursday morning, Sosin appeared before the House General & Housing Committee with an articulate, well-researched and professional presentation on why it makes moral, political, and financial sense to address our crisis of housing insecurity. Her presentation was entitled “The Cost of Inaction on Homelessness and Eviction.” (Video available here; Sosin begins at the two-minute mark. Her presentation is downloadable here.)

The committee listened politely and sent her away. And within roughly 12 hours, the full House had approved a budget that ignored her testimony.

In other words, the cake was baked before Sosin got into the kitchen. Her appearance was nothing but window dressing.

(I’ll also note that committee chair Tom Stevens mispronounced her last name, which betrays a certain lack of engagement, especially since this wasn’t her first appearance before his committee.)

(It’s SOSS-in, not “SO-sin.”)

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The Curious Incident of the Moose in the Night-Time

Well, the Democrats seem bound and determined to enable a disastrous unsheltering of thousands of Vermonters this summer. But surely we can count on the stalwarts of the Progressive Party to raise a ruckus.


Err, no.

The Progs have been resolutely silent about the approaching end of the motel voucher program and the absence of options for its 2,500-plus clients. Indeed, some of the Progs’ most stalwart lawmakers have taken an active role in crafting a pinch-penny plan that’s like prepping an offramp on the far side of a canyon while not doing anything about the canyon itself.

Let’s name some names, shall we?

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“It’s Not Fair!” Maybe, But It Doesn’t Matter

The player on the left is the Vermont Legislature. The player on the right is Gov. Phil Scott. The potato in question is the emergency motel voucher program for the unhoused.

When last we met, I was castigating House leadership for proceeding, full speed ahead, toward the cliff at the end of the voucher program. I take none of that back. It’s a disaster, morally, politically and economically.

However, in fairness, it must be said that the real failure here is the governor’s. His administration has had two-plus years to devise an offramp from vouchers to adequate shelter/housing. It has not done so.

The Legislature gets to intervene in such things at budget time. It can try to craft policy and implementation and as badly as the House Human Services Committee has failed to address the end of the program, it has at least tried to build an offramp on the far side of the canyon in front of us. That’s more than the Scott administration has done.

That said, it doesn’t matter. The Legislature has the hot potato, and will get more than its share of the blame if they let the program expire without an adequate substitute. It’s not fair, but who said life is fair?

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Dems to Homeless: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Legislative Democrats are speeding toward a moral and political disaster of historic proportions. and either they don’t get it or they don’t care.

The House majority is prepared to approve a budget that will put nearly 3,000 Vermonters out on the street by the end of June*. They’ve decided to let the emergency motel voucher program expire on schedule. They’d resurrect a cut-down version for the winter months, because letting people actually freeze to death is cruel enough that it triggers their embarrassment reflex.

*Update. There are various figures for this. The highest is close to 3,000, but it might be more like 2,500.

But otherwise, hey, homeless folks, you’re on your own! Please don’t build encampments in public spaces or hang around our lovely downtowns. Please, if you can, simply disappear without a trace. We don’t care where you go, just go quietly.

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Governor Nice Guy Strikes Again

Gov. Phil Scott indulged his passive-aggressive tendencies this week by refusing to sign or veto H.145, the budget adjustment act. He laid down his pen despite the fact that the Legislature gave him everything he asked for in his budget adjustment plan.

But lawmakers did have the temerity to toss in a few items of their own. This was apparently too much for the governor. In his position, a Republican facing Democratic supermajorities, you’d think he might be willing to meet them halfway, but no sirree, not Governor Nice Guy.

As is often the case with vetoes or refusals to commit, Scott’s reasoning was awfully thin. He avoided taking a position on the Legislature’s additions, he merely wants them to wait another couple of months. And he chided lawmakers for failing to live up to his standard for “discipline and clarity” in appropriating state funds.

To put it the other way, he sees the Legislature as fuzzy and undisciplined. Nice guy.

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Here’s the Early Favorite for 2023’s Saddest Piece of Legislative Testimony

Pictured above: Members of the House Human Services Committee, giving themselves a round of applause after unanimously passing H.222, a bill that would do quite a few good things on overdose prevention. The bill would make it easier for providers to prescribe buprenorphine without going through the cumbersome process of getting prior authorization* from the state Health Department; improve access to needle and syringe disposal programs and pay for it with a fee charged to prescription drug makers; make it easier to site recovery residences; give reasonable protection against lawsuits for those who administer overdose treatments; and set up some studies on how to best administer treatment and reduce opioid-related deaths.

*Stick a pin in that. We’ll circle back to it in time, and you won’t want to miss it.

All reasonable. And all acceptable to the entire panel. The “Yes” votes included Republicans Anne Donahue and James Gregoire and right-of-center independent Kelly Pajala.

Which brings us to this guy.

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You’d Think a Governor Who Spent His Life Building Roads Would Have a Flawless, Efficient Road Construction Process

Now comes Auditor Doug Hoffer with all kinds of cheery news about the Agency of Transportation’s road construction effort. His latest performance audit takes a look at VTrans’ work in cost and scheduling of paving projects, and he didn’t find much for former contractor and now Governor Phil Scott to be proud of.

In fact, Scott ought to be embarrassed.

(Full report downloadable here.)

Hoffer looked at 14 major paving projects and found… “significant deviations” in project scheduling, especially in the preliminary engineering phase; “a lack of consistent record-keeping” that made it difficult to determine why delays took place; a lack of performance metrics for scheduling; and while VTrans did fairly well with simpler projects,

… for the more complex projects, VTrans always exceeded the initial cost estimates provided to the Legislature by more than 50 percent and completed them up to six years late.

That sounds like abject failure to me.

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Turtle Season

In January, when a new legislative session begins, ambitious agendas are rolled out. Big bills are proposed. Committees are ready to get down to work. This year, hopes were especially high on the Dem/Prog side, thanks to their historically large majorities in the House and Senate.

And then stuff starts to happen. Things get complicated, or are perceived to be complicated. The days rush by like the old movie trope of a calendar’s pages flying in all directions. Now, suddenly, time is short, hopes are muted, compromises are made, bills are sidetracked, and the aspirations of a new session lay in tatters. Yes, it’s Disappointment Time.

Necessary stipulations: Lawmaking is hard. It takes thorough consideration. It takes time, a commodity that’s always in short supply. Building majority support is complicated work, even when a single party holds all the cards. The Vermont Democratic Party is not a monolith; lawmakers have their own beliefs and constituencies. Many a Democratic lawmaker would have been a Republican before the VTGOP went off the rails. Now they’re moderate Democrats who often don’t support the party’s agenda.

That said, the VDP puts forward a platform every two years and urges people to give them money and elect Democratic majorities so they can get stuff done, not so they can think about it and decide that maybe it’s not such a good idea after all and they need to give it more study. It’s definitely not so they can parrot Gov. Phil Scott’s assumptions about public policy, and there’s a hell of a lot of that going on right now.

So let’s take a look at some of the areas where the Brave Hopes of January have given way to the Turtling of March.

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Phil Scott Elevates Anti-Abortion, Young Earth Christian to Environmental Post

Gov. Phil Scott’s press office occasionally releases lists of gubernatorial appointments that are so long as to defy close reading. So, if not for the sharp eyes of a VPO reader, I would not have noticed that our Moderate-Republican-In-Chief had appointed Rob North to the District 3 Environmental Commission.

You may recall North from my 2022 campaign series about stealth Republicans. He ran for House last year, positioning himself as a reasonable guy who wanted to bring “Common Sense, Trust, and Transparency” to the Statehouse. Problem is, he had an easily discoverable record as a hard-right Christian who rabidly opposes abortion, has an active role in the conservative Evangelical “church planting” effort in Vermont, and is a member of a fringey denomination that forbids divorce, bars women from the ministry, and believes that the theory of evolution is heresy.

Look I realize that the governor has to fill literally hundreds of vacancies on our bottomless pit of boards and commissions, but really now. This guy?

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Vermont, Home of the Homeless

Here’s something I didn’t know about our Brave Little State: Vermont has the second highest rate of homelessness in the country. Only California is worse.

That little tidbit appeared in a story posted by The Guardian on Friday, February 3. But it wasn’t new; it came from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2022 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report. Which also noted that between 2007 and 2022, Vermont experienced the highest increase in homelessness of any state.

Did I miss the widespread outrage? Did I miss our media’s in-depth coverage of this? Did I miss the hastily-called meetings and press conferences where Our Leaders expressed dismay and promised immediate action to make it better?


May I take a moment to be retroactively appalled?

This is not the kind of ranking I expect from our green and pleasant land. Quite the opposite, in fact.

There was one significant piece of good news in the HUD report, but that news may get quite a bit worse in the very near future.

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