Vermont legislative leaders were quoted last week as saying that the session just ended was the most boring session in a long time.
Oh, really? I guess if you're in the majority party's shoes, having the monopoly of political power in Montpelier is probably ever so tedious-too few opposition rodents to chase around the House.
Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) has described the 2011 Legislative Session as the session for "getting tough things done." How tough can it be when you have a rubber stamp in the House and don't really make any tough decisions in getting one's fiscal house in order?
According to Vermont's tough new GOP bulldog chairwoman Pat McDonald, the majority sure did some tough things last session-"the Democrat supermajority made things tougher for Vermonters," she quipped. No matter, Democrats weren't even listening.
Here is what McDonald, and her minority party members, are griping about regarding the last legislative session.
We'll paraphrase some of McDonald's words below:
•$20 million in new tax revenues were levied against various segments of the health care field as well as $4.3 million against tobacco products. What, more taxes?
•Property taxes will likely increase due to expanded access to pre-K programs and a $23 million reduction in general fund transfers to the education fund. What, still more taxes?
Weak job creation effort-
The House job creation and economic development bill (H.287) is weak. "Where are the investments into the creation of meaningful and sustainable Vermont jobs," McDonald asks?
Vermont's budget is too dependent on federal handouts, according to the minority party. "The governor and Democratic leaders are already anticipating a $70 million budget shortfall next year," McDonald said. It's Candy Land on the Winooski when Uncle Sam comes ot the rescue.
When it comes to state tax structure, "It's no surprise that the supermajority..., directed by Gov. Shumlin, took education off the table," McDonald said. "But with a total expenditure of $1.4 billion for education, there has to be room for thoughtful cost containment and reduction in property taxes while ensuring continued support for students and teachers while strengthening the quality of education."
McDonald is right on and she's building up a powerful arsenal that will be used in the next election.
But it's clear that in order to expand Vermont's economy and create better, high-paying jobs (beyond green), both parties in Montpelier must work together, although I am not sure how this can be accomplished with such divergent visions: no matter, the goal must be to make the Green Mountain State more affordable and not create more financial burdens on people and businesses.
P.S. Relying on Uncle Sam's federal funds to create Candy Land on the Winooski, while increasing property taxes, ain't the way to do it.