Editor’s note: President of the Vermont Senate Peter Shumlin responded to questions Thursday evening, shortly after the Vermont House amended the Challenges for Change bill to include a provision for a special session on July 22, in the event that the Senate didn’t find a way to close the government reorganization budget gap. The House bill, H.792, passed, 98-43 a little after 6 p.m. Shumlin is a Democratic candidate for governor.
Q. Do you support a special session?
Shumlin: We need to get the people’s work done on time to save taxpayers’ money. I’ve never found that decisions are easier to make when you put them off. So, let’s get the hard decisions made and go home.
Q. So you don’t think they need more time, clearly.
Shumlin: I’ve never met a Legislature that wouldn’t wish for more time, but I’ve never known it to be helpful.
Q. Are you confident the Senate will be able to resolve the $18 million that’s missing?
Shumlin: Let’s give it our best shot, but my view is we have a responsibility to get the work done and we should do it.
Q. Do you have some specific suggestions about how that might be done?
Shumlin: The Speaker (Shap Smith) and I are working together with all the various constituencies to try to do this right. And we’ll continue to do that work.
Q. Are you disappointed with some of the Douglas administration’s proposals?
Shumlin: I think that at this point in the session, it’s unfortunate that they didn’t engage more providers and hard working Vermonters before they came up with sweeping overhaul plans, but we’re doing our best to come up with efficiencies.
Q. What about the campaign? Is there a problem with having a summer session?
Shumlin: I’ve said right from the beginning about all those campaign questions, my job is to do the best job I can as Senate president and that’s what I’m going to focus on.
Q. I just wondered if there’s a special session in the summer if that’s going to screw things up for raising money.
Shumlin: I don’t think so. I don’t think it has to do with the campaign, I think it has to do with for 10 years as Senate president I’ve been consistent in understanding that my job is to get the people’s work done in a timely fashion and get the citizen Legislature home, and I’m not planning to sway from that commitment.
Q. Potentially then there could be a battle between the House and the Senate over the special session?
Shumlin: Well, I don’t think we’ll have a battle. I think what the members see here is for us to work through the problems in the administration’s plan and come up with real solutions, and if we can do that, I don’t think the Legislature will come back.
Q. What about raising more money somehow so that you can take more time to figure out some of the problems?
Shumlin: Government is extraordinarily efficient. The mistake that was made by the administration was to propose cuts when they were supposed to restructure. So let’s try to get this back on course and continue what can be a very important process. Change is hard and the administration didn’t help matters, but let’s not forget the goal – making government more efficient, providing services to the people that need us in a more thoughtful, cost-effective way. Business has been doing this for years, there’s no reason why government can’t do it.
The best way to resist change is to complain about the process.