“I Inherited a $170 million budget shortfall.” Come again, Gov. Shumlin?

by Rob Roper

Gov. Shumlin addresses reporters

Two quotes jumped out of Governor Peter Shumlin’s otherwise lackluster press conference on Thursday. The first was his shoulder-shrugging whine, “I inherited a $170 million budget shortfall.” This is like the kids who killed their parents asking for mercy because they’re orphans.

Back in June 2009, it was Shumlin who led the charge to override Governor Jim Douglas’ budget veto. Douglas warned at the time, “I’m disappointed because I believe the budget passed by the General Assembly is not in the best interest of Vermont. They own a budget that is unsustainable and doesn’t make the tough decisions.” (BFP, June 3, 2009)

Shumlin’s opinion of the veto override and the budget he supported over Douglas’ objection was different. “I’m extraordinarily proud of the Vermont Legislature today,” he said “This budget puts us on firm fiscal ground.”

Shumlin was wrong. Douglas was right. And, if Shumlin is “inheriting” a budget deficit, it is of his own making.

The second quote also brings an eerie sense of déjà vu from that same summer of 2009. Asked if igniting a divisive battle over a social issue (in this case Physician Assisted Death) would be destructive distraction fiscal matters, Shumlin replied, “You know, I don’t think it will. I’ve never subscribed to the view that the legislature can’t handle multiple balls in the air at the same time.”

Of course, Shumlin’s decision in 2009 to have the same sex marriage debate in the middle of a serious budget discussion poisoned that process and let to ugly veto battles over both bills. Fiscally, the result is, as the Governor points out, he’s now “inherited” a $170 million budget shortfall.

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