Tag Archives: Vermont Edition

Phil Scott draws a line in the sand

Of course, “a line in the sand” is the easiest thing to erase.

Last Friday on VPR’s “Vermont Edition,” Gov. Phil Scott asserted that Vermont faces a $70-80 million budget shortfall.

Err, well, not quite.

What he actually said was, Vermont “maybe” faces what “could” be a gap of $70-80 million between revenue and spending. And those weren’t the only qualifiers. In fact, if you read a transcript of his remarks, you might wonder what he actually meant to say. (Part of Scott’s charm, and his political appeal, is that if you listen to him long enough you’re almost certain to hear something you can agree with.)

As far as I can recall, this is the first time Scott has made this claim, which seems to be a gauntlet thrown at the legislature’s feet. It’s familiar and politically attractive ground for the Republican governor, who has to deal with a restless base (and a conservative challenger) in the 2020 primary. Being tough on the budget is Scott’s best tactic for shoring up the base — and for drawing a distinction between himself and those evil, big-spending Democrats and their endless appetite for raising taxes.

That’s a joke, by the way. The Dems may be fiscally looser than the Repubs, but they are about as far as you can get from Tax-And-Spend Libertines as you can get. Just ask any of the four money committee chairs.

But let’s get back to the governor’s remarks. (NOTE: All transcripts are mine, and are as accurate as I could get. I left out the stammers and false starts, which were quite numerous. The gov wasn’t on his A-Game.) Start with this… um… not-a-sentence.

We’re seeing a lot of pressures, maybe even creating a $70-80 million gap between what we’re taking in and, if all remains the same, that we would feel.

I listened to this passage several times, and that’s what I heard. Let’s leave aside the disconnect between the beginning and the ending, and focus on the “maybe even creating” part. He’s not claiming an actual $70-80M gap; he’s saying that budgetary pressures could, at worst, create such a gap.

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So unbelievable.

VPR rolled out its latest poll today, conducted by the Castleton Polling Institute. I dutifully pored over the results, about which more later. But for now, one simple stupid thing.

There was an impressive array of questions about issues of concern, Vermonters’ impressions of candidates, how they feel about the presidential election…

… but nothing about voter preferences on the August primary races. No head-to-head numbers. No question asking “If the primary were today, who would you vote for?”

(Or, “for whom would you vote” if you insist.)

So I Tweeted an inquiry and got the following, stupefying response.

“We didn’t do a head-to-head.”

As in, “We didn’t ask the question that would be foremost on the minds of those who care about the polls.”

Double-u Tee Eff.

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Pat Moulton has a great idea.

Commerce Secretary Patricia Moulton was far too busy to comment on the sudden, unexplained departure of Gene Fullam as head of Vermont’s EB-5 office, but she did manage to make time for a live interview on Thursday’s “Vermont Edition.” Subject: EB-5.

Inexplicably, host Jane Lindholm didn’t ask about Fullam’s departure. A deal, perhaps?

UPDATE 7/23: Got this Tweet from Lindholm:

Immediately preceding Moulton was State Auditor Doug Hoffer, who’s been critical of the grant programs administered by her agency. Among other things, he pointed out that it’s impossible to prove whether the state grants actually create economic activity that wouldn’t exist in their absence.

And then Moulton came on and admitted that those programs operate on the honor system. Regarding the Vermont Economic Growth Initiative, she said:

… we believe the CEOs, when they sign an application, that the material is true and correct.

Aww. Isn’t that sweet. “We believe the CEOs.”

Because a CEO would never lie to us.

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Triangulatin’ Tim

Congratulations to Tim Ashe, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, for shepherding this year’s tax bill to the Senate floor. He managed to find some new money for the budget while keeping true to the intention he stated earlier this week:

“In terms of the major tax areas, my goal is not to have the Senate need to go to those sources,” Ashe said.

The final package emerging from Senate Finance and Appropriations:

The lion’s share of the Senate’s revenue package is generated by the miscellaneous fee bill. The Senate version removes an increase in the employer assessment for uninsured workers, as well as a hike in bank taxes.

The latter two were passed by the House.

My congratulations are tempered with confusion, however. Ashe’s goal would be sensible and reasonable if he were a centrist Democrat in the mold of John Campbell or Dick Mazza, not a Progressive who now lists himself as a D slash P.

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The Governor gives the Republicans a ready-made campaign slogan

Hey, remember last Friday, when Governor Shumlin had to walk back a budget-cutting proposal he’d made less than 24 hours earlier?

Yeah, embarrassing and sad. I mean, how many people looked over the text of his budget address and didn’t realize that “cutting benefits to poor pregnant women” might cause a kerfuffle? Even if the cuts are counterbalanced by new benefits, that’s the worst possible topline for a sales pitch.

Well, maybe second worst to “confiscating crutches from crippled kids,” or possibly “Scrooge was right the first time,” but I digress.

Shumlin rolled out his kneecap-the-preggers initiative on Thursday, and took it back during a Friday appearance on VPR’s “Vermont Edition.” And just in case the abandonment itself wasn’t bad enough, he went and said this. For real.

“I don’t want to use this as a way to cost pregnant women more money,” the governor said on the program. “I said to my team this morning, ‘Listen there’s plenty of ways to save money in the budget. Go back to the Legislature and give them alternatives of other ways to make savings.’”

Wait, what?

“There’s plenty of ways to save money in the budget”?????????

?????????????

This, from a guy in his sixth year as governor, whose tenure has been marked by penny-pinching and an absolute refusal to raise “broad-based taxes” (as he himself defines the term)?

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The McAllister Shuffle

Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell was on VPR’s “Vermont Edition” today. And eventually*, the conversation turned to Norm McAllister.

*More on this below. 

The topline: Campbell expects the Senate will suspend McAllister pending the outcome of his criminal trial.

Yup, the coward’s way out. They don’t have to get their hands dirty, and they’ll have a pretext for keeping him away from the Statehouse, thus limiting the potential media circus. At least they hope so.

Now, Campbell dressed it up in talk of not interfering in McAllister’s right to a fair trial. But that ignores some inconvenient facts:

— If they’d wanted to, Senators could have come up with a way to oust McAllister without trampling on his rights.

— By taking this course of action, the Senate will be putting its own needs ahead of the disenfranchised voters of Franklin County, who will be short one Senator for the entire 2016 session. (Trial is scheduled for March, but there will almost certainly be delays beyond adjournment.)

— Said voters have no recourse. There is no recall provision in state law. The people are dependent on the tender mercies of the Senate, which oh God.

By suspending McAllister, the Senate will drop this hot potato right in the laps of Franklin County Republicans. Because if McAllister is clueless enough to resist the near-universal calls for his resignation, there’s a good chance he will actually run for re-election. (Unless he is convicted and sentenced, but that’s not likely to happen until the campaign is well underway and the filing deadline is past. And if he is convicted, why not appeal and drag it out even longer?)

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A monument departs

Well, geez. I go out of town for a few days, and the Easter Island Statue of Vermont media gets up and leaves.

Veteran Vermont journalist Mark Johnson announced Monday he will be leaving WDEV radio to take a position as senior reporter/editor at the online news site, VTDigger.

Johnson has hosted the popular public affairs, call-in program for 25 years, 16 years with WDEV in Waterbury and for nine years before that with WKDR, a Burlington station that Johnson also co-owned.

His last program is scheduled for Aug. 28.

Disclosure: I’ve been an occasional substitute host on Mark’s show for several years. But this has no bearing on my comments here.

This is a fantastic move by VTDigger, and a tremendous loss for the radio audience and for WDEV.

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