Shumlin talks about UVM, Vermont Yankee, and taxes

by Angela Chagnon 

Gov. Peter Shumlin

During the governor’s weekly press conference held in Burlington on Thursday, Shumlin discussed his views about taxes, VT Yankee, UVM President Dan Fogel’s extravagant severance package and the university’s spending priorities.

UVM

Much has been in the news lately about Dan Fogel’s ungraceful exit from UVM and the extravagant severance package that he will receive. Although Shumlin, who is an inactive member of UVM’s Board of Trustees, said he was “disturbed” by Fogel’s “exorbitant” severance package, he wouldn’t comment on the alleged actions of UVM Chair Robert Cioffi, who has been accused of ignoring letters of complaint the university has received regarding Fogel’s pay.

Stewart Ledbetter of News Channel 5 reminded Shumlin that he was “in a position to do something about it” and asked if he would speak out against such actions.

“You know, I’ve got to tell you, I’ve got my hands full running the state of Vermont,” Shumlin said.

Although he said he was “very angry” about the situation, he did not want to take away the university’s monetary allocation from the state. Instead, Shumlin wants to help them find “more creative ways” to use the money.

“So what are our priorities?” he advised university leaders to ask themselves. “How can we be sure that we’re using taxpayer money to drive the areas of the university that are going to drive job growth [to create] high paying jobs for our kids when they graduate?”

Shumlin revealed that he had spoken to Fogel to suggest that part of Fogel’s severance package be used to set up a scholarship fund for underprivileged Vermont kids. “He wasn’t in favor of it,” Shumlin said.

Vermont Yankee

The questions turned to the NRC’s recent ruling requiring VT Yankee to make a $40 million payment to its decommission fund. VT Yankee had argued that the payment was unnecessary due to the NRC extending the nuclear plant’s operating license for another 20 years.

Shumlin praised the NRC’s decision, saying that the decommissioning process would “bring jobs” to Vermont.

“The jobs gap doesn’t really happen for about 16 years,” he said. “Five to six years for the plant to cool down, gotta keep all the systems running, that requires a number of employees, several hundred. And ten years of decommissioning. So the jobs cliff, despite what they tell you in those 30 second advertisements, is not as significant as long as they keep their promise on decommissioning the plant whenever it shuts down.”

Tax Increases

Noting that July’s revenue numbers were lower than expected, Shumlin said that he felt optimistic about Vermont’s future and that the country is on the road to a “very slow but true recovery.” The governor stated that he had “no intention of imposing broad based taxes next year.”

However, Shumlin clarified that he wasn’t saying “never”.

“The governor needs to do what the governor needs to do to take care of the state,” he remarked. Shumlin pointed out that the budget deal in Washington may have afforded Vermont more federal money than expected. Several million dollars had been put aside in anticipation of federal cuts to state programs, but Shumlin hopes that the “extra money” will now be used to bolster the state’s reserves.

“President Obama told me repeatedly that he was going to try to negotiate a package that wouldn’t hurt Vermont in the 2012 budget cycle, and he did,” the governor said. “So I’m grateful to him. But the unknown quantity here is what happens with the gang of 12 that’s going to make additional cuts. We just don’t know where they’re going to find that trillion dollars or where it’s going to come from.”