Lisman: Vermont fails badly at transparency

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Bruce Lisman, the founder of Campaign for Vermont.

Campaign for Vermont was formed with the goal of creating a robust debate about Vermont’s future. We believe that state policymakers must pursue a vibrant and diversified economy above all else; one that creates more jobs than there are people and provides shared prosperity for all. We believe also that non-partisan and informed debate results in middle-of-the-road, common sense public policy. We aggressively promote transparency because without it, we are left with uninformed arguments and angry partisanship and a government lacking accountability to you — its citizens.

As citizens, we have the right to know how we are taxed, how our money is spent, where it is spent and how well it’s spent. Yet, in two recent national studies on governmental transparency and accountability, the best Vermont could do was a D+.

Transparency and accountability is the clear path that allows Vermonters to judge how well our government is doing. Is health care reform important? Of course it is. Yet politicians in Montpelier are “rocketing” us toward a new system without showing us its cost. The Legislature is pushing alternative energy legislation that increases the state’s renewable energy portfolio. Does this make sense? Maybe, but at what cost? Vermonters want a low-carbon energy portfolio. But, again, Montpelier politicians haven’t told us how much our electric bills will rise. As an example of the dramatic cost increase; we recently learned how this legislation will impact IBM — Chittenden County’s largest private employer. IBM’s cost projection, prepared by Green Mountain Power, shows the company’s electric bill rising by $5 million-$7 million per year. That’s a 16-20 percent increase. But most other businesses and citizens have no idea how this legislation will impact them. And our property tax bills, well that’s also another sorry story.

Last week, USPIRG and the Center for Public Policy Integrity offered their assessment of Vermont’s governmental transparency. USPIRG ranked Vermont at D- and the CPPI ranked us at D+. Here are just some of the highlights from the transparency ranking reports.

• USPIRG gave Vermont a D- in “On Line Access to Government Spending Data”

• CPPI gave Vermont an F for Legislative Accountability, Ethics Enforcement and Judicial Accountability

• CPPI gave Vermont a D- for Executive Accountability and D+ for Public Access to Information, State Insurance Commissions and State Civil Service Management

These failures in transparency and accountability must be addressed. Vermonters can’t hold their government accountable without it. With proposals before us that dramatically restructure our health care system, cost shift subsidies for alternative energy onto ratepayers, increase our property taxes even though the number of students in our schools is declining, and a state budget growing at twice the rate of inflation, Vermonters must be prepared to act.

Campaign for Vermont believes Vermonters should demand transparency and accountability. Only if you do will you get it. Demand it soon, or pay the price. Without it, Vermonters will watch their prosperity suffocated by higher taxes, higher health care bills and higher energy costs.

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25 Comments on "Lisman: Vermont fails badly at transparency"

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Russell Aminzade
4 years 1 month ago

Mr. Lisman appears to be the sole funder of “The Campaign for Vermont,” but he’s refused to say how much he was pumped into it or how much they have spent.

If Mr. Lisman wants to “aggressively promote transparency,” perhaps he can start by practising what he is preaching.

walter carpenter
4 years 1 month ago

“If Mr. Lisman wants to “aggressively promote transparency,” perhaps he can start by practising what he is preaching.”

Good point, Russell. We should demand it of him.

4 years 1 month ago

Mr Lisman, are you aware that all of the committee meetings where they are discussing health care reform are free and ope to the public. Here is a link to guide you. All you do is click on the committee name that you are looking for and the schedule pops up. This week the Senate is taking up H559- mostly in Senate Health and Senate Finance. http://www.leg.state.vt.us/Committee01.cfm I’ve spent a lot of time in these committee hearings and I don’t think I have ever seen you there. The Green Mountain Care Board meetings are also free and open to the… Read more »

Tom Licata
4 years 1 month ago

Campaign for Vermont should stop pussyfooting around and address the crux of Vermont’s problem head-on. Here’s a taste of our problems from something I wrote back on these pages on Dec. 11, 2011: “In his superb book, “The Battle,” Arthur C. Brooks outlines this war: “This is not a fight over guns, abortions, religion, and gays. Nor is it about Republicans versus Democrats. Rather, it is a struggle between two competing visions of America’s future. In one, America will continue to be a unique and exceptional nation organized around the principles of free enterprise. In the other, America will move… Read more »

Christian Noll
4 years 1 month ago

Not too sure it would be the “Vermont progressive-democratic party” wanting to keep “The Truth” from the public Tom sorry. Interesting though you should side both the Burlington Free Press and WCAX in the same sentence. I wouldn’t even use them in the same sentence. WCAX doesn’t come close to printing, broadcasting, saying or touching what Sam Hemmingway alone has covered, ever. The bonds between WCAX and the Burlington police and other public entities in Burlington, binds them to turning away from Burlington corruption and covering other town’s misfortunes to try and make up for it or lead attention away.… Read more »

james rice
4 years 1 month ago

Russell has it exactly right. Mr. Lisman is just another wealthy man who, once he gets whatever it is he wants, will be as transparent as all of the other powerful conservatives who fund “grassroots” organizations and nonpartisan “think tanks.”

Doug Hoffer
4 years 1 month ago

Misleading? Let us count the ways. 1. “…politicians in Montpelier are ‘rocketing’ us toward a new system…” Actually, a new system won’t be possible for at least four or five years. That leaves plenty of time for analysis and debate. Does that sound like “rocketing”? 2. “IBM’s cost projection…shows the company’s electric bill rising by $5 million-$7 million per year.” First, you cut the last part of the original sentence. It said that IBM’s bills are expected to rise by $5m – $7m by 2032. Not next year, but 20 years from now. That’s pretty important because it ignores the… Read more »

4 years 1 month ago

Apparently the world gives Lisman an F- on transparency, and I agree. But then again Lisman has literally purchased his way into the conversation and sees nothing wrong with that.

As the good doctor asks above: how many of those public meetings have you attended, Mr Lisman?

It is because of people like Lisman that we need to redefine money as property and not speech.

4 years 1 month ago

@ Dr. Richter: I wrote this question last week but have heard no responses from health care for all advocates…maybe you can enlighten the public since you are championing this massive change? “Has anyone looked hard at the implications of GMC completely ruining the worker’s compensation coverage system in VT, which is in the property casualty side of the insurance market? Why would any PC company continue to insure just the disability side of a claim to pay lost wages when they cannot control the medical cost portion? I have already heard from PC carriers that they will no longer… Read more »

Patrick Cashman
4 years 1 month ago

In the vein of transparency, it should probably be highlighted that Ms. Richter (comment above) is a registered lobbyist for and director of a single payer advocacy organization.

4 years 1 month ago

In the vein of transparency, it should definitely be highlighted that most (if not all) of us are very aware of all the good work Dr. Deb is involved in.

Thanks for highlighting her good works, however.

Tom Licata
4 years 1 month ago

In order to truly flourish, free enterprise requires a strong, vibrant and independent civil society that is free to interact with one another and separate from the coercive nature of an unlimited government. Hence, this requires government to be limited, enabling the free-will of its citizens to creatively interact among themselves. Limited government requires a representative form of government, for without such, the citizens in civil society would spend more of their time directing government than in the free exchange of ideas and commerce that make life enhancing and rewarding; leading to the pursuit of happiness. Finally, representative government requires… Read more »

Walter Carpenter
4 years 1 month ago

“I guess that is ok to some, because we will have health care for all, and that is the answer to all the world’s complexities and problems” Craig, exactly what is wrong with health care for all Vermonters? Do you believe that all Vermonters should have access to health care or that some should and others should not? If so, why? As for workers compensation, this is hardly the issue here with Mr.Lisman just assuming that there is little or no transparency — while his campaign is shrouded in secrecy. But with health care for all would not workers compensation… Read more »

G. Cross
4 years 1 month ago

For the truth about the ratings Mr. Lisman has cherry-picked and rants about, read the original reports or read the excellent Jon Margolis article above. Lisman will go the way of other wealthy Republicans who have attempted to buy their way into Vermont politics.

Christian Noll
4 years 1 month ago

We live in a state where public digital recordings of public meetings go missing.

What more need one say?

4 years 1 month ago

Bruce Lisman’s “Campaign for Vermont” is sounding more like a campaign for Mr. Lisman’s political future than Vermont’s. If he truly interested in health care, for example,let him offer his own plan for our broken system and the 190,000 Vermonters that are uninsured or under-insured. As far as Dr. Richter’s advocacy for “single Payer” goes, if anyone has spent a modicum of time in Vermont over the last few years they would know of her involvement which is as transparent as it gets. She has also seen first hand how the current health care system, or lack of it, doesn’t… Read more »

Patrick Cashman
4 years 1 month ago

So we agree then? Ms. Richter is heavily invested in this issue, has staked out a particular position, and that should be taken into account when assessing her comment for bias.

Mike Kerin
4 years 1 month ago

Where is Mr. Lisman from? Is he another carpetbagger? Is he the head of one of those SuperPacs? What is his agenda?

Craig Powers
4 years 1 month ago

Mike,

See Tom Licata’s first post above. Looks like he is offering an alternative to the socialist legislation from the Montpelier super majority.

Hod Palmer,
4 years 1 month ago

The current Vt health care system was created by the Vt Legislature starting in the early 1990s when they started mandating community rating and expanded coverage. If the system is “broken” now, the Legislature broke it, with almost all the insurers fleeing the state when underwriting and pricing were denied them. So the Legislature is going to fix our broken system. Is there any reason we should have confidence in their ability to do so? I suspect that the will bankrupt the State within 10 years, or less. Yikes!

Christian Noll
4 years 1 month ago

Seems like Campaign for Vermont is an attempt to build some kind of political platform.

Jim Mulligan
4 years 1 month ago

I do not know Mr Lisman but based on a sampling of the comments which one might describe as being authored by less than dedicated subscribers, I guess it is within the realm of probability that he is “wealthy”. I am also persuaded that he is a native son and not a summer resident. And that while there are a myriad of activities he could pursue from athletics to zoology he has opted to wander onto the Goddess of Agricultures playing field where he finds that tran$parency has wandered toward Tran$ylvania. Being accepting of the foregoing or not – as… Read more »

4 years 1 month ago

Yes Patrick,Dr.Richter is invested in “single payer” health care reform due to her first hand knowledge in dealing with problems of our insurance based health care system. Your point?
Meanwhile, Bruce Lisman, former Managing Director of investment bank Bear Stearns until 2008, says in his ads he is for health care reform, but he has yet to say what kind of reform!

Ron Pulcer
4 years 1 month ago

Mr. Lisman, like everyone else, has every right to participate in the political process. As far as transparency, according to the Campaign For Vermont website, it states that Mr. Lisman retired from JP Morgan Chase & Co as Chairman of their Global Equities Division in 2009. That is true. However, to put this in full context, JP Morgan Chase purchased Bear Stearns for only $2 per share. This was announced on 3/17/2008, after the collapse of Bear Stearns. Before the JP Morgan Chase bargain purchase, Mr. Lisman was co-head of Bear Stearns’s Global Equities division”. Wall Street circa 2008 and… Read more »

walter carpenter
4 years 1 month ago

“which in part were caused by a lack of transparency between Wall Street & Washington DC and the American citizenry.”

Thanks, Ron. I am sure that this lisman fellow was part of that lack of transparency.

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