Ideology and money trail skew focus of Vermont’s political leaders

by Robert Maynard

True North recently ran an article by Vermont WatchDog’s Jon Street in which Lt. Governor Phil Scott laments the lack of focus on job creation by our political leadership: “When there are a thousand bills and there’s only a handful that deal with the economy or are trying to grow the economy or in some way make it more attractive to do business here, I think we’re missing the mark.”  Lt. Governor Scott may actually be understating the case.  The cumulative effect of  a lot of those bills is to create economic uncertainty and stall private sector job growth.  The pushing through of a health care bill that we still have not been told how we are going to pay for has added greatly to that uncertainty.  In a press release, theVermont Federation of Independent Businesses pointed out that this uncertainty contines to be the enemy of small businesses, which is causing optimism to tumble: “Small business optimism continues its winter hibernation with the latest Index dropping 2.7 points to 91.4, a reading that historically has been associated with recessions and periods of sub-par growth.”

So, what is our political leadership doing to ease this uncertainty?  If recent comments by Governot Shumlin are any indication, if anything, they are adding to it.  This is from a press realease issued by Vermonters for Health Care Freedom: “Governor Shumlin responded to reporters with a childish remark that Single Payer Health Care could be paid for with lollipops and gum when they pushed him on what taxes could be used to pay for single payer health care.”  No matter how much of a mess Vermont’s rush to single payer creates, its proponents continue to brush off concerns expressed by Vermonters.  Indeed, instead of heeding those concerns, Shumlin and company are busy jumping through hoops to satisfy well funded, ideological special interest groups who are funneling money into the state to make is a small scale laboratory for progressive experimentation.  The push for single payer is just the latest example.  Our political leaders have a habit of addressing our econmic concerns with rhetoric during campaigns, but quickly switch focus to satisfying the whims of these well funded left wing special interest groups.  Here are a few examples:

The central issue of the 2006 campaign was the cost of education and high property taxes. The campaign was filled with promises on the part of those running for office to address this issue. This was not done.

So what was the focus of the 2007 legislative session? According to a True North Commentary by Ethan Allen Institute founder and current Vice Presdent John McClaughry: “The legislative centerpiece of the session, at least in the eyes of Senate President Peter Shumlin, was the need to mobilize Vermonters in the great battle against Anthropogenic Global Warming, that is, against the menace of carbon dioxide.” The supposed threat of global warming was used as an excuse to go on a hunt for even more taxes to support a VPIRG endorsed energy bill. This is a state that is already among the highest taxed states in the country. Here is how McClaughry described it: “Shumlin’s first idea was to levy a tax on heating oil, natural gas, and propane. That sank like a stone. Then he went after Entergy’s Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant.”

In 2008 the legislature picked up where they left off in 2007. Here is an excerpt from a Fox News article: “Democratic Speaker Gaye Symington is coming back to the statehouse, renewing her efforts to pass a climate change bill.” Why is this? We had a Republican Governor messing things up in 2007. From the Fox News article: “Last year it was Democrats’ number one priority, they spent weeks learning about the issue. But all that work produced no new laws, because after attaching a funding source that taxed Vermont Yankee, Gov. Jim Douglas, R-Vermont, vetoed the bill. The tax was controversial even among Democrats, and despite their strong numbers, they could not override the veto.” So we have yet another session, which starts out by totally ignoring what the 2008 legislative candidates campaigned on in 2006. It appears that they think Vermonters will not notice. Once again the priority is shifted to an agenda dictated by VPIRG. Here is an excerpt from yet another McClaughry True North Commentary: ‘The Senate has in waiting the new bill Sen. Shumlin promised last July, S.350. Modestly titled the “energy independence and economic prosperity” act, the bill incorporates the entire radical agenda put forth by VPIRG.’

The 2008 campaign was focused on the economy and the need to get our budget under control without raising even more taxes. Here is Rob Roper’s take on the issue in another True North Commentary: “House Speaker Shap Smith and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin adjourned the legislature on May 9th because, at the beginning of the year, this is what they said they would do. It was a good idea that, if competently executed, could have saved Vermont taxpayers a half a million dollars. What Smith and Shumlin did not say they would do at the beginning of the year is bring up the issue of same sex marriage. They outlined their priorities, and that issue was not one of them. The 2009 legislative session was supposed to be focused like a laser beam on fixing the budget crisis, the economy and jobs. In the end, it wasn’t.

The 2010 legislative session, like the 2009 session was supposed to be about the economy and the budget. There was, at least, a stab in that direction with “Challenges for Change”. Although it came up far short, at leas there was a pretense of addressing the issue. Of course, in the era of Vermont’s “Money Politics”, no session would be complete without at least some concession to an agenda driven by money funneled through Vermont’s non-profits. Already mentioned above is the Vermont Senate vote to close Vermont Yankee by “VPIRG and friends”. There was also a vote on what John McClaughry labeled as the “dumbest bill of the year”. “S.88 is Sen. Racine’s bill to create a government run single payer health care system for Vermont.

Yes, Lt. Governot Scott is onto something.  Hopefully he will now dig a little deeper into the cause of a lack of focus on job creation.  He has the chance to use the bully pulpit of his office to shine a light on this whole mess that he has started to touch on.