Shumlin offers Govt. assistance for flooded businesses; wants to consolidate VT utilities

by Angela Chagnon

Barre — Governor Shumlin pitched his business assistance plan from a podium set up in a corner of Dente’s Market, a Barre store damaged by the flood but now re-opened for business. The Governor’s plan is to appropriate $1 million to leverage up to $3 million in no- and low-interest loans for businesses damaged by the recent flooding. The Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA) will administer the program.

The Emergency Board, a subcommittee chaired by the Governor and consisting of legislative leaders and chairs of key money committees, must first approve the plan.

As for where the money will come from, Shumlin said, “The million dollars comes from anywhere we can find it. Frankly, we’ve just got to get this done. We believe that our revenues are a little bit ahead of projections. That’s where it will come from.”

When asked if Vermont had a surplus, Shumlin hesitated. “Better receipts than we had anticipated,” he answered.

The questions then turned to the May 30 sale of the Central Vermont Public Service Corporation (CVPS) utility to Fortis, Inc., a Canadian company, for $700 million.

“I’m less convinced that it’s a good deal for Vermont’s ratepayers,” Shumlin said of the deal. “I would like to see where in this deal Vermont ratepayers win, and I think that’s how we ought to look at it. So far, I haven’t seen any winning for ratepayers.”

He continued with his vision for Vermont utilities. “Generally, philosophically, I believe that if we had some consolidation of Vermont’s many, many utilities, in a small state, we would pay less in bureaucracy and therefore have lower power rates that would drive jobs and economic development.”

He said, “where we can get consolidation we should.”

The Governor clarified his comments. “What I mean is, per capita for 625,000 people, Vermont has more utilities, individual utilities, than almost any other state,” he said. “We have a high number of utilities for a small number of customers, and we all know that that costs money.”

When Anne Galloway of VT Digger pointed out that a lot of utilities are municipally owned, Shumlin said, “Yeah, but when you look at our customer base, we have very few customers served by many, many utilities. And in this case, consolidation would save ratepayers money.”

As a businessperson, Shumlin should know that competition is what keeps costs down. He previously admitted during a press conference in March, “The problem with healthcare is that we have no competition to speak of in Vermont.” Is Governor Shumlin now attempting to apply the “single-payer” plan to Vermont’s utilities?