Tag Archives: Phil Scott

“Decrease the Surplus Population”

I hadn’t realized that Our Political Masters were Malthusians, but the current iteration of Covid policy would argue otherwise. They’ve thrown in the towel on limiting the spread of the virus, relying solely on vaccines, testing and treatment.

Meanwhile, SARS-COV-2 is spinning out vax-resistant variants at an alarming, and accelerating, clip. And it seems like every day we hear more bad news about long Covid, which nobody in government seems to care about.

I haven’t written about Covid in a while because (a) it’s too depressing, (b) new developments have been coming along too quickly to keep up with, and (c) this ain’t just the Scott administration anymore. The Biden administration’s policy is at least as Malthusian as Scott’s, maybe a little more. But today is the day the Vermont Health Department is posting its last daily Covid update. It’s switching to a weekly “syndromic surveillance report” that takes some effort to interpret. Those big bold inconvenient daily numbers for cases, hospitalizations, deaths and positivity rate? If they can’t make ’em look good, they’ll make ’em go away.

That may seem harsh, but the daily data is still being collected. It’s just not being posted in a high-profile space. The Health Department says so itself on its soon-to-be-shuttered Covid Dashboard: “COVID-19 data sets will still be accessible through the Vermont Open Geodata Portal, including case counts, hospitalizations, deaths, PCR testing and more.” The Department sees enough value in the daily numbers to keep track of them. They’re just hiding them better.

Is it a pure coincidence that this is happening one day after Gov. Phil Scott announced he’s runing for re-election? Running, to the extent he can be bothered to run at all, on his assertion that we’ve beaten the pandemic? And hey look, VTDigger is helping! They’ve discontinued their homepage front-and-center Covid updates!

I guess the pandemic is over. Right?

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Signs of a Backroom Deal

Did Beth Pearce just hand the treasurer’s office to Michael Pieciak? Consider the timing.

April 27: Gov. Phil Scott’s office announces that Pieciak would step down as Commissioner of the Department of Financial Regulation in mid-May “to pursue other opportunities” of the unspecified variety.

May 4: Pearce announces she will not seek re-election as treasurer. Her decision, she said, was made after being diagnosed with cancer three weeks earlier. Or about two weeks before Pieciak’s departure from the administration.

May 6: Pieciak launches a campaign for treasurer as a Democrat. (He served under Republican Scott, but he was brought into state government by Dem Peter Shumlin.)

Here’s what it looks like: Pearce realizes she’s stepping down and essentially handpicks Pieciak as her successor. How could you look at the sequence of events and think otherwise?

Pearce took a couple weeks after her diagnosis, more than enough time to drop a word to Pieciak. He steps down as commissioner “to pursue other opportunities” only a week before Pearce’s surprise announcement. And he launches his candidacy only two days after Pearce’s announcement.

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Governor Nice Guy Extends His All-Time Veto Record

What will it take to make us stop calling Phil Scott a Nice GuyTM?

Even as the House failed, by one vote each*, to override two of Scott’s vetoes, he came out and promised yet another. This time, the victim is S.234, a bill making changes in Act 250 designed to encourage housing construction.

*Special place in political hell for Rep. Thomas Bock, a Democrat who voted for the clean heat standard bill and switched his vote on the override at the last minute without informing leadership.

For those keeping track, and I sure as hell am, that will be his 31st veto. He’s threatening another on the budget bill, and he’s vetoed plenty of budgets in the past.

Scott continues to put more and more distance between himself and the rest of the Vermont gubernatorial field like Chase Elliott in a Soap Box Derby. The past record-holder, Howard Dean, racked up a “mere” 21 vetoes. Of course, he was governor for almost twelve full years and Scott is only partway through his sixth.

Jim Douglas vetoed 19 bills, but he served four full terms to Scott’s three and a half.

There is no competition. Phil Scott is the Veto King.

Two questions:

First, what exactly makes him a Nice Guy? The disarming smile? It sure isn’t policy.

Second, how can any Democrat vote for Scott and claim to support their party’s agenda? Scott has prevented the Legislature from taking stronger action not only with those 31-and-counting vetoes, but with the ever-present threat of even more. He’ll do it. You know he will.

Two answers:

First, he isn’t a nice guy, but he plays one on TV.

Second, they can’t.

To Resign… or Not to Resign. That is the Question.

Charity Clark stepped down today as Attorney General TJ Donovan’s chief of staff. The remarkably coy announcement of the move said she “has stepped down from her post to explore new opportunities” and would “make an announcement about her plans in the near future.”

Yuh-huh. She’s running for AG. She’s hinted as much, and it’s the most obvious reason for her sudden departure, which (a) apparently took immediate effect and (b) came only four days after Donovan announced he would leave office at the end of his term or possibly before.

I guess it ends all speculation that Clark might be elevated to acting attorney general should Donovan depart before Election Day, thus giving her the kinda-sorta incumbent’s edge. If so, it’s a noble and selfless move.

And it raises questions about Chris Winters, deputy secretary of state, who remains in office nearly three months after he announced his candidacy to succeed his boss, Jim Condos.

If Clark thought it best to resign before she even opened the doors on her campaign, why hasn’t Winters?

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And Another One Bites the Dust

Well now. One day after Beth Pearce announces she will not seek re-election, along comes Attorney General TJ Donovan to say he’s stepping aside. Might not even finish his term, in fact. Already his top deputy, Charity Clark, has taken to Twitter to announce she’s considering a run to succeed him.

That’s four, count ’em, four, openings out of our six statewide offices, and six out of nine if you include Congressional seats.

Anything you’re not telling us, governor? Auditor Hoffer?

Besides the lieutenant governor vacancy in 2020, it’s been a long time since any Democrat could see a way to move up the ladder. Now, it’s not so much a ladder as a single step onto a boundless plateau. Who’s got next?

Besides Clark, I have no idea. I’d love to see Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah Fair George give it a shot, but she seems uninterested. She told VTDigger she will run for re-election instead because she’s more interested in criminal law than in the civil cases that make up the bulk of the AGO’s work. Otherwise, I’m sure there are boatloads of people contemplating a run for AG or Treasurer.

This is going to be one hell of an August primary.

Well, that’s a look at my political crystal ball, hopelessly opaque like a furiously shaken snowglobe. But there are still a few things to say about Mr. Donovan and the odd specifics of his departure.

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Finally, Someone Challenges Phil Scott

Our Democratic “leaders” have been studiously avoiding the long-odds task of running for governor against Phil Scott. The Dems have made a habit of this — not only during Scott’s tenure, but also under Jim Douglas. The top Democrats ducked and covered until Douglas decided to step down, and then there was a land rush of suddenly-eager candidates.

For the party that otherwise rules the roost in these parts, it’s a disgraceful history.

But now, finally, in early May for Pete’s sake, we have a Democrat in the race: Brenda Siegel, activist, advocate, two-time candidate for statewide office and, as she likes to say, the only person to beat Scott in the public arena. You may recall the epic sleep-out on the Statehouse steps that shamed the governor into reversing course on emergency housing.

Siegel braved the onset of winter. She stared down the governor. That’s the famously genial guy who never bothered to step outside his office and meet with Siegel and her allies. It’s no surprise that she’s willing to go where no other Democrat is willing to go: into the arena with Phil Scott.

She deserves all the credit in the world for that. And other potential candidates, who are clearly waiting for Scott to retire, deserve their share of scorn.

But… can she win?

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Is This the Dumbest Thing Phil Scott Has Ever Done, the Most Pointless, or Both?

Words can barely express how inexplicable this is. Why did Gov. Phil Scott veto the public sector pension deal? Well, I know his stated reasons, but they’re stupid. He has expect an override, so his veto won’t accomplish anything except make him look needlessly obstructionist.

There’s more, a lot more, but let’s take ’em one at a time.

This deal came at the end of a years-long search for common ground on how to make the pensions fiscally sound. Last year, the Legislature set up a committee to recommend a way out of the mess. The panel included members of the Legislature and Scott’s administration, and the unions. It worked diligently for months.

At no point did Scott or any of his officials sound the alarm.

The committee brought its recommendation to the Legislature. It went through the entire process of committee hearing after committee hearing, amendments major and picayune, floor debates and floor votes.

At no point did Scott raise a hand and say the deal was unacceptable.

The votes in the House and Senate were UNANIMOUS. Every single goddamn Republican voted in favor of it.

At no point before the votes did Scott think to warn his legislative allies that he didn’t like the deal. Some of them would have happily voted “No” if they thought he had a problem.

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Let’s Talk Civility, Shall We?

The Democrats’ Phil Scott playbook seems to consist of rolling over on their backs and begging for a belly scratch. This all-too-familiar pattern recurred this week, when the governor threatened to veto two very important bills on Tuesday… and then was welcomed as part of the Pat Leahy Statehouse lovefest on Wednesday.

I guess if someone tosses a couple of turds in your punchbowl, the appropriate response is to invite them back for High Tea the following day.

As for the governor, his schedule is arranged far in advance. He had to know before his Tuesday presser that he was going to share the stage on Wednesday with all the top Democrats… but nonetheless, he went ahead and trashed the Legislature’s budget and the hard-fought public sector pension reform plan.

Mr. Civility strikes again. And they let him get away with it. As usual.

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Lightning Round!

As the Legislature winds down, the political news is coming thick and fast. Got several items worthy of comment including Gov. Phil Scott’s generic condemnation of persons unknown, a better use for the state’s “extra” money, three potentially interesting House races, and a depressingly rote report on last night’s Congressional debate. Let’s GOOOO!!!

Scott condemns… somebody. Perhaps because of the killing of Fern Feather, the governor (or his comms staff) took to Twitter and amped up his language condemning hate speech in the political arena. He cited “disturbing hostility toward the transgender community” and lamented that Vermont “is not immune to this.” It was a good statement, as far as it went.

But he failed to mention the source of all the hostility: his own Republican Party. He also failed to name the two individuals responsible for bringing the hate home: VTGOP chair Paul Dame and Burlington Republican Committee chair Christopher-Aaron Felker. As long as the governor refrains from identifying those responsible and refuses to step into his own party and deal with this garbage, his words are sadly empty, In the vernacular, it’s time for him to grow a pair.

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Phil Scott’s Tax Cut Hypocrisy

At his press conference yesterday, Gov. Phil Scott offered a mixed message to the state Legislature. He seemed to be holding an olive branch, but whether he’ll use it as a peace offering or a weapon remains uncertain.

His topic was the budget, and the differences between his plan and what’s on the table in the Statehouse right now. He cautioned against squandering our historic federal windfall, by which he means spending it in ways he doesn’t like. But he offered some praise for Senate budget writers on one important point:

I heard in Senate Appropriations yesterday they are concerned about creating cliffs by funding new programs with one-time money that will be difficult to address in the future. I couldn’t agree more.

It’s a point he’s made before. Use the one-time money for one-time investments, not to create or sustain programs that will remain on the books after the federal tsunami recedes.

I’ve got no beef with that concept. But the governor expresses none of that concern when it comes to cutting taxes. We’ve got the money right now, thanks to all the economic activity generated by all those federal dollars. We can afford some tax relief now, but any tax cuts we adopt this year will remain on the books indefinitely.

And he doesn’t care about that.

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