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.
Yesterday, State of the State Address: Governor Shumlin introduces a variety of people whose stories illustrate the impact of his policies. They include two executives from GlobalFoundries and two from BHS Composites. The latter was a surprise entry; Shumlin sprang the news that BHS had decided to open a facility in the Northeast Kingdom, creating an estimated 70 jobs.
Today, the state’s Emergency Board met on very short notice to approve state grants to both companies: $1 million for GF and $200,000 for BHS. VTDigger has the deets:
The Emergency Board, which includes the four chairs of the Legislature’s money committees and Gov. Peter Shumlin as the chair, voted at a largely hush-hush meeting that started at 8:30 a.m.
The Shumlin administration did not formally announce the morning meeting until Thursday afternoon, following his State of the State address.
The information in the meeting’s agenda packet, which was printed on Dec. 29, was considered confidential.
Hm. The agenda packet was printed eleven days ago, and the meeting wasn’t warned until yesterday afternoon — less than 24 hours beforehand.
Okay, so the administration sat on the news so the Governor could make a splash. Great. But if Shumlin ever wonders why he has a reputation as a slippery dealmaker, well, here it is.
Pity our poor Lieutenant Governor. He had to sit directly behind Governor Shumlin during the State of the State address, and try to figure out what he should do with his face. Most of the time, he looked pouty and miserable. And then tonight, he’d scheduled a major speech of his own to react to Shumlin’s address — only to be bigfooted by Donald Trump.
I’m sure he’ll still draw a crowd of the Republican faithful, but he’s not gonna get much media attention. It’ll be lots of Trump and a goodly helping of Shumlin, with Scott hoping for a few crumbs off the table.
Phil Scott Trying Not To Be Seen during Shumlin’s climate remarks. Screengrab from WCAX-TV.
To be fair, he was put in a difficult position today. He couldn’t afford to appear enthusiastic for fear of alienating the Republican base; but he didn’t want to seem like an ingrate either. The result looked more like dyspepsia than a firm stance. He rarely looked directly at the Governor; his eyes wandered around the room; he looked down at the floor for long stretches of time. (Especially when Shumlin talked about climate change, when he seemed to be willing himself invisible.)
Is Peter Shumlin starting to act like a lame duck? It would seem so. To judge by this week’s paltry trinkle of news, he looks to have one eye fixed on the past and the other on his post-gubernatorial future. And he’s already given up on fixing one major debit in his administrative ledger.
As VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, Shumlin opposes any tax increases to pay for Vermont’s burgeoning Medicaid bill, but he doesn’t want to cut eligibility or benefits either. In fact, he’s washing his hands of the whole mess.
“I don’t know which governor is going to get to solve this problem,” he added. “But I hope a governor gets to solve it soon.”
“…once I’m safely ensconced in the private sector with my lissome new bride,” he might have added under his breath.
Yeah, screw the 2016 session. The Governor, you see, proposed a Medicaid fix last year and the Legislature ungratefully rejected it. So he’s done his duty, and hereby washes his hands of the matter.