by Rob Roper
On Thursday, Governor Shumlin held his weekly press conference at the State House. The governor used the opportunity to introduce Karen Marshal, who he hired to the position of Chief of Connect VT, which is Shumlin’s plan to achieve universal broadband and cell phone service in Vermont by the year 2013.
This is a new position, which the Governor insists is necessary to coordinate a number of disconnected efforts to expand broadband and cell coverage. These enterprises have no legal requirement to work together, but should, contends the governor, if we are to succeed in meeting the objective of full, integrated coverage.
“Karen will work with private sector companies and utilities that are deploying roughly $410 million in federal funding and their own capital to do this,” said Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding. “She will also be engaged in efforts across state government to use broadband to improve the way public services are delivered.”
The question and answer period produced good news, bad news and some head scratching.
The bad news is that Shumlin appears totally un-moveable from his insistence that Vermont Yankee be closed in 2012, despite being deemed safe for operation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. This, despite red flags raised this week by IBM that Vermont’s largest private employer could be “outta here” if electric rates rise to un uncompetitive levels. Speculation in the State House is that Shumlin’s looking for a federal lawsuit by Entergy denying the legislature the authority to close the plant to get him off the hook without overtly breaking his campaign promies.
The good news is Shumlin is holding his ground on no new taxes. Asked if his repeated use of the term “broad based” taxes was a loophole of some kind, paving the way for splinter taxes like a soda or candy tax, Shumlin answered with a clear “no.” (See video below) However, he does hold open the door to nailing Entergy with new taxes for storing nuclear waste in Vermont after 2012.
The head scratching comes from comments regarding the failure of Catamount Heath to contain costs, and its unsustainable reliance upon taxpayers to keep it afloat. Shumlin acknowledges the failure, acknowledges the failure of every other state and federal attempt to control costs and maintain quality… yet he’s putting all of Vermont’s economic eggs in the basket of succeeding in this feat of eco-political alchemy… that has a plus or minus margin of error of 20%.
(See video and related articles below.)