June 11, 2017
Rep. Valerie Stuart from Brattleboro sent this text as a letter to the editor of the Brattleboro Reformer. She captures the innate conflict between what reality the Legislature worked with during the session, and the alternative reality created by the Scott Administration in the waning days of the session. Her words are clear and accurate.
There’s an old saying, and like a lot of old sayings there is a lot of truth to it: Actions speak louder than words. That axiom comes to mind when House and Senate Democrats reflect on the last session, which, unfortunately, hasn’t ended yet because Governor Scott vetoed the budget. As a result, the Legislature plans to convene again on June 21 and 22 and attempt to reach a compromise that will avert our state government’s shutdown.
During his tenure as Lt. Governor, Phil Scott appeared to be a moderate Republican. He also appeared to be a middle of the road Republican throughout his gubernatorial campaign. Consequently, many Democrats assumed he would pursue the open lines of communication characteristic of Vermont’s governors.
Unfortunately, there have been many instances during the last session when Governor Scott’s actions have spoken louder than his words. For example, during his inaugural address the governor said he would sign a budget that was balanced and did not raise new taxes or fees. The budget passed by the House and Senate — just one vote short of unanimous support — achieves both goals. It lowers property taxes for working Vermonters. And it balances the budget without raising any new taxes or fees. In addition, the budget the House and Senate developed: invests $100 million in affordable housing statewide; fosters mental health care improvements; bolsters higher education; and supports child care. Those were all priorities Vermonters called for during the last election. The Democratically led Legislature delivered a budget that addresses Vermonters’ concerns.
So what is wrong with this picture? Everything. Cleary, Phil Scott is playing politics with Vermonters. He has vetoed the budget, ostensibly over an idea his administration sprang on the General Assembly during the final weeks of the session when there was insufficient time to carefully vet it. What is particularly troubling about his proposal is the fact that it takes away local control away from school boards and school staff, which are values Vermonters have repeatedly shown they support.
Perhaps worst of all, the Governor did not negotiate in good faith. Democratic leaders from both the House and Senate put multiple proposals on the table that would insure an equal amount of savings for Vermont taxpayers as the Scott’s proposal. And both bodies’ leadership teams were more than willing to meet him halfway.
Scott ran his campaign claiming to be a leader who was committed to working across the aisle. By refusing to work with legislative leadership and refusing to play by the rules that have historically underpinned politics in Vermont, he has proven that what he said was just empty campaign rhetoric. So now one of the key questions Vermont voters need to ask themselves is: Who is the real Phil Scott. And what does he really stand for?