Tag Archives: Vermont Press Bureau

Checking in on the new guy

So, how’s it goin’ down Phil Scott way?

For starters, he still hasn’t decided what he means by his core budgeting principle, that he would oppose any state budget that grows faster than wages or the state economy. April B. McCullum of the Burlington Free Press:

Scott has yet to settle on the formula he will use to measure the economy and limit state spending: Tax revenue? Gross state product? Median household income? Some combination?

Just a reminder, we’re almosttot the halfway mark between his election and his inauguration. And there’s some holidays between now and then.

Which also applies to naming a cabinet and staffing an entire administration, where he continues to fall further and further behind the pace set by Peter Shumlin in 2010, and which he’s apparently in no hurry to do. Neal Goswami of the Vermont Press Bureau:

Since winning the governor’s office on Nov. 8, Scott, a Republican, has appointed four people to serve on his staff. But top-level cabinet positions remain unfilled. Six years ago, outgoing Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin named several such appointees within a couple of weeks of his election.

… “When you have hundreds, literally hundreds of applications, it takes a little time and I don’t want to leave anything on the table. I want to make sure that we fully, fully take a look at their backgrounds, what they could bring to the table … and talent is very, very important,” Scott said.

Good to know talent is important. I was hoping the next cabinet wouldn’t feature Larry, Darryl and Darryl.

And the idea of open auditions for cabinet posts is certainly small-D democratic at its core, but wouldn’t it make sense for an incoming governor to have a few ideas going in? Maybe have a small team do some pre-election planning, even?

If they’re truly starting from scratch with piles and piles of applications, well, sheesh. I’ve never been elected governor of anything (although I am the captain of my kitchen), but I’d have a pretty good notion of the people I’d want at the top levels of my hypothetical administration.

Oh, and here’s a little tidbit that somebody might have thought to mention before Election Day, courtesy April B.

Outgoing Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, claimed this week that his administration already “righted the ship,” and that during his tenure the state budget grew less than the growth in Vermont’s gross state product.

An analysis by the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office showed state spending exceeded gains in Vermont’s gross domestic product in fiscal years 2012-14, but in recent years state spending has grown more slowly than the economy.

Well, gee whillikers, what do you know. State spending grew in the wake of a killer recession and Tropical Storm Irene, and was then brought under control in Shumlin’s final two years.

Which means what? Phil Scott’s mantra about the reckless spending increases of the past six years was nothing more than a politically motivated piece of accounting fakery?

Er, yeah.

How about that.

If that had ever been mentioned before now, I missed it. (And I’m sure whoever reported it will promptly correct me.)

(And I’ll ask them why they never fact-checked Candidate Scott on his alleged factoid.

In any case, one of these days Phil Scott will have to stop running for governor and start actually, y’know, governing.

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Phil Scott Makes Tax Cut Plan Somewhat Less Awful

It hasn’t been that long since Phil Scott unveiled his glossy 39-page economic plan, but he’s already acknowledging one major mistake.

As the Vermont Press Bureau’s Neal Goswami reported over the weekend, Scott’s plan to cut capital gains taxes was based on Vermont’s old tax formula. As a result, the Scott campaign has watered down its cap-gains proposal.

Details in a moment. But first, let’s just put this out there:

[Cutting the capital gains tax] would spur tax shelters, generate little new saving, give a windfall to the wealthy, and make long-term budget problems even worse.

That’s from the commie-pinkos at the Brookings Institution. There’s plenty where that came from; the consensus among experts (not employed by the Cato Institute and other right-wing policy shops) is that capital gains tax cuts are, at best, a grossly inefficient way to spur economic growth. At worst, they’re a pointless squandering of resources.

But let’s return to Phil Scott’s plan, before and after. This will get into the weeds of tax policy, so my apologies in advance. I’ll try to keep things simple.

Vermont used to allow taxpayers to exclude 40 percent of their capital gains. That was killed in 2009, in favor of an exclusion for the first $2,500 in capital gains. The change was designed to concentrate the tax benefits at lower income levels; whether you got $2,500 in capital gains or $2,500,000, you got the same tax break.

Scott’s original plan would have restored the 40 percent exclusion.

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The Paige Exclusion

Congratulations to the Vermont Democratic Party for giving perennial fringe candidate H. Brooke Paige more publicity in a few days than he could possibly earn on his own this entire year.

The VDP did so by ordering his banishment from all party events, reportedly due to impertinent and offensive comments posted by Paige on Facebook.

Mixed feelings about this. I don’t have much use for perennial fringe candidates; as far as I’m concerned, it’s too easy for people to get on the ballot and even grace the occasional debate stage without proving they hold the least bit of appeal or interest for the electorate. Waste of time and space. Detracts from direct confrontations among candidates who actually matter. That goes for Paige and for Emily Peyton and Cris Ericson and the entire Diamondstone clan.

Paige is an irritant* in all senses of the word. He runs for at least one office every cycle, sometimes as a Republican, sometimes as a Democrat, and I think as independent on occasion. He has also fomented birther claims against not only President Obama, but also Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. I can see why the Democrats would want to be rid of him. And, after all, it’s their party and they can make their own rules. Or even cry if they want to.

*Irritants produce distress, annoyance, and the occasional pearl. 

That said, their reaction seems unduly stiff.

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The decline of the newspaper continues apace

Sad, but entirely predictable, news from the world of Vermont media. The Mitchell family newspapers, the Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times Argus, will no longer be daily papers as of early next month.

Both organs are jettisoning their Monday through Wednesday print editions, and will publish physical newspapers Thursday through Sunday. Thursday and Sunday are the biggest advertising days of the week, with Friday not far behind. The news was reported first by Seven Days; a few hours later, both papers posted stories about the change online.

Many newspapers around the country have already abandoned daily delivery. My old hometown paper, the Ann Arbor News, publishes only on Thursday and Sunday. Which is a disgrace, because Ann Arbor is a prosperous city of more than 100,000 with masses of affluent suburbs on every side.

The Mitchells and their minions have been doing yeoman’s work in maintaining a daily schedule AND providing decent coverage of local news AND a two-person Statehouse bureau. The T-A and Herald do a lot more with less than, say, the Burlington Free Press.

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The Property Tax Rebellion Has Been Postponed Indefinitely

It’s common knowledge that the people of Vermont are mad as hell over the high cost of public schools. And even angrier over the Legislature’s attempt to fix the problem. The situation was so dire that Governor Shumlin and Democratic leaders rushed through a fix to Act 46’s perceived unpopularities at the start of this year’s session.

Then came The VPR Poll, which showed an astounding lack of engagement with the issue. Here’s how I wrote it up:

As for Act 46, the school governance bill seemingly reviled by all — from conservatives who want tougher spending controls, to liberals who want no restrictions — most people are, well, ehh. Only 13 percent are “very familiar” with Act 46; 44 percent are “somewhat familiar”; and a whopping 42 percent are “not at all familiar.”

… Also, despite the Act 46 uproar, a solid 51 percent support Vermont’s efforts to encourage school consolidation. An underwhelming 29 percent oppose. 20 percent say “it depends” or “no opinion.”

One week later came Town Meeting Day, and the results add more credence to the poll. Josh O’Gorman of the Vermont Press Bureau totted up the numbers, and the conclusion may surprise you.

Around the state, voters approved 95 percent of school spending plans, and approved five merger plans by wide margins, according to unofficial data from the Vermont Superintendents Association.

All told, voters approved 231 of the 242 budgets offered Tuesday, creating a three-year trend that has seen fewer budgets defeated each year.

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The Brock campaign’s nuclear connections — UPDATED

Last week, Randy Brock kinda re-introduced his bid for lieutenant governor at the same news conferece where a bunch of Republicans threw their lot in with Marco Rubio, the presidential candidate last seen telling dick jokes about Donald Trump.

Mm-hmm, presidential.

Brock made headlines by claiming he knows how to boost state tax revenue by $100 million, and I’ll be writing more about that in the near future. But he also showcased his campaign team. And the media coverage was notable for what it didn’t say.

VTDigger identified campaign manager Brad Ferland in passing, without specifying his credentials. The Vermont Press Bureau named Ferland* (listing his day job as deputy commissioner of the state Department of Finance and Management) and two others: Brent Burns, credentials unspecified; and Guy Page, identified as “field director for VT Watchdog.”

*UPDATE: The VPB was in error. There are two Brad Ferlands. The one who works for the state is not connected with the Brock campaign in any way. 

The latter is interesting enough; VT Watchdog is the Green Mountain outpost of the national Watchdog network, which is funded by far-right wealthy donors in the Koch brothers orbit.

But what’s even more interesting about Page and Ferland is what wasn’t reported: both are on the payroll of the Vermont Energy Partnership. For those unfamiliar, this bland-sounding organization is basically a sounding board for corporate energy interests in Vermont. As Green Mountain Daily put it:

The Vermont Energy Partnership was founded by [some] of the most powerful corporations, few from Windham County, including IBM, Casella Waste Management, and Pizzagalli Construction, plus business associations like the Vermont Fuel Dealers Association. And, of course, Entergy.

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Bizarro Dave

I’m writing an awful lot about David Sunderland lately, but then he’s been doing a lot of dumb stuff lately. And this tidbit is the cherry on his hacktastic sundae.

The Vermont Press Bureau’s Josh O’Gorman did a writeup of the VTGOP chair’s latest stunt — the anti-carbon tax website, which seeks to blame Democrats for something that’s not going to happen.

And deep within the article, I discovered the source of Sunderland’s difficulty with facts.

David Sunderland (not exactly as illustrated)

David Sunderland (not exactly as illustrated)

He appears to live in an alternate dimension, with a parallel but very different set of events. Look:

Sunderland said he believes a carbon tax could be in the cards come January.

“It’s possible this will happen,” Sunderland said. “If you look to the past, nobody in million years would have ever thought we would enact state-run, single-payer health care, but it happened.”

Whaaaaaat?

Vermont has a state-run, single-payer health care system?

How did I miss that?

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