When he was governor, Peter Shumlin made a big push on health care reform. It didn’t end well for reform or for Shumlin. Since then, the system has become less functional and more expensive but there’s been no appetite for another push.
With one major exception, and that’s OneCare Vermont. It has soldiered on in its effort to rein in health care costs by paying providers for outcomes rather than treatment. It has spent a tremendous amount of money, but so far there’s not much evidence of impact.
That’s troubling, and it’s more so when you read VTDigger’s piece about the latest Green Mountain Care Board meeting. Beyond that, there’s a broader critique of our health care system in a recent series of essays by journalist and health care policy analyst Hamilton Davis. Taken together, it looks like a huge sector of our economy (upon which our physical and financial well-being depends) is drifting along with a bunch of people who call themselves “Captain” staying as far away from the helm as they can.
The Digger article makes the leaders of OneCare look like The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. The GMCB, especially its new members, were asking questions that shouldn’t have been tough to answer. For instance, do you have any evidence that your system is working? Can you point to measurable results in terms of cost savings or improved outcomes?
OneCare leaders seemed to be taken aback by this line of questioning.
A curious thing happened one week after Election Day. The Scott administration, after much delay, released its rules for this winter’s emergency housing program. This is the thing that puts shelterless people in available motel rooms at state expense. .
The rules appear designed to minimize cost by putting strict limits on the program and giving the state plenty of reasons to reject applicants.
Hmm. The governor was running against Brenda Siegel, best known for her 2021 Statehouse protest over emergency housing… and his officials didn’t issue these rules until she was safely out of the way. The timing is too convenient to believe it was pure coincidence.
The delay does have consequences. These rules came out just as the program was opening for business. Recipients and administrators have had no time to digest them. It’s especially bad since we’ve slammed headlong into the first winter storm of the season.
Phil Scott didn’t exactly sweat out Campaign 2022. He did spend Election Eve barrelling around the state, touching down in all 14 counties, as is his wont. But before then, it was more like The Campaign That Wasn’t. So I guess it’s no surprise that he needed to flex his muscle after the election with a brisk session of punching a straw man.
His post-election message, “Vermonters Called for Balance and We All Need to Listen,” is classic Phil Scott from beginning to end. He starts with a Reaganesque appeal to our own well-developed self-regard. Referring to that Election Eve tour, he wrote “This 500+ mile tour has a way to put things into perspective. It reinforces how beautiful our state is and how much it has to offer.”
Having established his sunny view of Vermont, he identified one thing we have to do better on. No, it’s not the opioid crisis. It’s not climate change. It’s not universal health care or paid family leave. It’s all about economic opportunity, which is a distinctly Republican view of human fulfillment.
With Tuesday’s historic win, Phil Scott runs his electoral record to 12 wins, 0 losses. That’s combining his runs for state Senate, lieutenant governor, and governor.
That’s… um… rarefied air.
He has often faced weak opposition and benefited greatly from the incumbent’s edge. He’s also enjoyed good timing; his first run was in 2000, an historically good Republican year because of the backlash to civil unions. He ran for governor at the end of Peter Shumlin’s curdled administration, when voters were primed to make a change.
But still. Twelve and 0.
Leaving aside the quality of competition, what makes Phil Scott so popular? Well, you might not associate the plausibly moderate Phil Scott with the transformative conservative Ronald Reagan, but they are more similar than you might think. And that’s the secret sauce. Scott is Vermont’s Reagan.
Brenda Siegel the candidate will be remembered, to the extent she’s remembered at all, as a failure. She lost in anoverwhelming fashion to Gov. Phil Scott. She didn’t have much money, she couldn’t afford mass media until the campaign’s closing weeks (and even then, not enough to move the needle). And she lost in what was otherwise a wave election for her Democratic Party.
Consider a post-election VTDigger story about how Phil Scott won the election. The story mentioned Siegel a grand total of once. Maybe that’s for the best because when they did mention Siegel, it was usually in belittling tones. A Digger election night story described her as “a former dance instructor,” which is just ridiculous. In the world of dance alone, it’s ridiculous. She used to run a dance festival, which is a bit more than helping kids pull off their first arabesque.
More to the point, it ignores her years of advocacy in the Statehouse and elsewhere and her effort to build a political career with little support or encouragement, but sure, “former dance instructor.”
In her concession speech, Siegel said “We all need to become brave enough to lose.” And that’s the stone truth. She was the only one brave enough to challenge Scott in 2022. Which alone makes her worthy of respect.
The coming biennium may be the most combative in recent memory. The best comp might be Jim Douglas’ final years in office when he had huge budget battles with the Democratic Legislature and saw his veto of marriage equality overridden.
The stage is set. Phil Scott comfortably won re-election, and can rightly claim the overwhelming support of the Vermont electorate. Legislative leaders can equally assert a mandate, given the fact that the Democratic slash Progressive caucuses are at historic highs. Legislative leadership will have a nice margin for error on veto overrides.
On top of all that, the next couple of budget cycles are going to be tough. The federal tide of Covid relief funds has made it easy to pass budgets — until now. Tight budget times and both sides claiming mandates? That spells trouble by the bushelful.
Phil Scott? Untouchable. Every other Republican? Radioactive.
That’s pretty much the only thing you need to know about the 2022 election in Vermont. Scott cruised to victory; the rest of the VTGOP, which followed a Trumpier path, got absolutely steamrolled.
And they leave Scott in a significantly weakened position for the next two years. Barring any late turnarounds, the Dem/Prog caucus in the Senate will stay at 23 out of 30. But the House, oh my God. It’s looking like a net 11-seat pickup for the Dem/Prog caucus, which means they will have more breathing room than they’ve ever had for veto overrides.
As it looks now, the House Republican caucus will be reduced to a paltry 38 seats. Yikes.
It’s absolutely clear why this happened. The voters rejected far-right candidates almost across the board. The vast majority of my “stealth Republicans” lost their races, usually by big margins. The only bright spot for the VTGOP was Franklin County, which also happens to have the sanest of the county committees. Republicans took all but one Franklin County seat in the House and Senate. That’s two of the seven Republican senators and seven of the 38 House Republicans, all from Franklin County alone.
The party’s state leadership is to blame. They followed this path. They recruited a bunch of unelectable candidates. They turned their backs on Phil Scott. They should collectively resign in shame, but they probably won’t. They’re too deep up their own asses to realize that everything they did was wrong.
Planning on a very short or nice long evening, sitting in front of my desktop hitting REFRESH on the Vermont vote count. Here are the things I’ll be watching for, in roughly descending order:
The #1 thing is whether the Democrats and Progressives can add to their supermajorities. They’ve already got a comfortable margin in the Senate, but they barely clear the bar in the House and could use a few more seats. More on that below; for now let’s go to the top of the ballot.
Scott/Siegel. Everybody expects Gov. Phil Scott will win a fourth term. Democrat Brenda Siegel has run a strong campaign, but it’s been underfunded and she’s had to climb a very tall mountain. The polls say Scott will win a majority of the Democratic voters which, need I repeat, means that those voters are not serious about advancing their party’s agenda.
I still give Siegel a puncher’s chance. If she does pull up short, I’ll be very interested in the margin of victory for Scott. How close can Siegel make it? How much of a dent has she put in Scott’s Teflon? Has she created a template for a future candidate with deeper pockets?
Otherwise, the statewide races are not going to be close. It’s hard to see anything but a Democratic sweep of U.S. Senate, Congress, lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor, secretary of state and treasurer. Bragging rights go to the Democratic candidate with the biggest win. I suspect that will be Mike Pieciak.
When I started my series on “stealth conservatives,” i had no idea it would go on so long. Or that I’d get nowhere close to finishing. I’ve done 20 of those pieces and I could do a lot more.
It’s no longer accurate to say the Vermont Republican Party tolerates a few extremist candidates where they have no other options. It’s that extremists account for more than halfof all Republican candidates for the Legislature, and the vast majority of the first-time candidates.
The bottom line: By my count the Republicans have a total of 100 candidates for House or Senate, and 58 of them are out on the fringe. Well, really, the fringe has become the center of an extremist Republican Party.
The 58 includes 15 incumbents. The rest have never held state-level office. The new Republican caucuses will swing dramatically to the hard right, with all that that entails for the quality and civility of legislative sessions.
Gov. Phil Scott’s re-election campaign has been sleepwalking through the 2022 campaign, barely bothering to raise money and spending very little.
The Scott campaign’s recent financial disclosures show that, with very little time remaining, Team Scott has seriously kicked it into overdrive.
Between October 27 and November 4, the Scott campaign filed five Mass Media spending reports, totaling $63,471. That’s more than they’d spent on mass media in the entire cycle before then. The media buys break down like this: $45,086 for TV, cable and streaming ads, $1,142 for Facebook ads, and $7,513 for newspaper ads.
In the six weeks before that big splurge, the Scott campaign had spent less than $10,000 on mass media.
Why spend so much so late? In fact, almost too late? The impact will be limited because so many have already voted. Did they get a bad poll?