Speaker says House will reject most of governor’s new budget proposals

House Speaker Shap Smith listens to the budget address, Jan. 25, 2011. Photo by Josh Larkin

House Speaker Shap Smith listens to the budget address, Jan. 25, 2011. Photo by Josh Larkin

House Speaker Shap Smith says lawmakers will likely reject most of the $50 million in “new spends” in the governor’s budget proposal.

Smith says the state can’t afford to pay for new programs. He cited pending federal budget cuts as the primary reason for rejecting Gov. Peter Shumlin’s proposals to fund $17 million in childcare subsidies, $17 million in energy programs, $10.7 million in increased Medicaid subsidies for health care providers and $2.5 million for higher education.

Though the speaker philosophically supports many of the proposals, he said the Shumlin administration’s budget leaves “no room for error.” In order to fill about half of the gap between state spending and tax revenues this year, the governor eliminated about $33 million in human services caseload reserve funds. These reserves have traditionally used to provide a cushion for budgetary exigencies in the Agency of Human Services, which is the largest area of spending in the state’s budget. (In fiscal year 2013, AHS spending was $2.1 billion, out of total state expenditures of $5 billion.) The governor’s budget leaves about $68 million in the budget stabilization fund.

“There’s really no room for some sort of unknown event that might occur where we need some space within the budget to solve it and that’s problematic from my perspective,” Smith said.

The unknown events in the offing include the federal sequester, further cuts in the 2014 budget as part the continuing resolution discussions later this month, and the debt ceiling debate in May. Not to mention $15 million in annual new spending for the health care exchange that will come down the pike in 2015.

“The thing is, we haven’t built into this anything for the sequester,” Smith said, “and we don’t have any reserves set aside.”

The prospect of federal cuts to state programs that will begin this year and continue for at least eight years as a result of the sequester gives Smith pause. The $15 million in federal reductions between now and the end of the federal fiscal year on Oct. 1 won’t all hit the General Fund bottom line in fiscal year 2013, he said, but it could be a harbinger of deeper cuts to come.

“The thing is, we haven’t built into this anything for the sequester,” Smith said, “and we don’t have any reserves set aside.”

The speaker said he hasn’t “gone through the numbers yet” with his committee chairs, but in concept, they have discussed the difficulty of following a number of the Shumlin administration’s budget recommendations.

“I think we will try to be deliberate in the way that we do it,” Smith said. “I’m not sure we’ll do it across the board.”

The only “new spend” that will remain unscathed, he said, is $4.5 million for cost share and premium subsidies for Vermonters in the Catamount Health and Vermont Health Access Plan programs which will be eliminated when the state health care exchange goes into effect in October.

The rest of the governor’s new spending proposals will get a serious haircut — if they survive the House Appropriations Committee’s budget scrubbing at all. The 3 percent increase in provider subsidies is out of the question this year, Smith says. That $17 million for childcare subsidies? Not an option, in his view. Many members don’t support Shumlin’s proposal to shift $17 million in Earned Income Tax Credits for low-income workers to the childcare subsidy program.

Cutting $6 million from the state’s welfare to work program has also been privately panned by House members, though Smith says lawmakers have not yet come to a decision about how to handle the governor’s proposal to cut more than 1,000 families off the Reach Up program on Oct. 1. “We haven’t reached any consensus there,” Smith said. “Nobody has explained to me what a middle ground looks like.”

Broad investments in thermal efficiency, which the speaker has supported in the past, will also get tabled. He said it may be possible to bolster weatherization programs for Vermonters who receive fuel assistance, but he said he didn’t think there would be any money available to further expand the program. (Businesses will have access to a new loan program for thermal efficiency projects, however.)

The speaker said the House will look at new revenues outside the governor’s budget. “We’re not constrained by what the governor’s proposed,” Smith said.

Expect to see at least one of the governor’s revenue proposals also fall by the wayside. Break open tickets? “There doesn’t seem to be a lot of enthusiasm from the Ways and Means Committee for the break open tickets,” Smith said. “I think that the enthusiasm for the funding source is directly related to how much money it raises so I think that we’ll look at a bunch of different things around revenue.” The 10 percent tax on raffle tickets for nonprofits would generate about $6 million, according to the Joint Fiscal Office — not $17 million as originally projected by the Shumlin administration.

The gas tax, however, will survive. Smith says the state has to find a way to make up for lost revenues in order to pay for repairs to roads and bridges. The House Transportation Committee just advanced a phased-in sales tax on gas to help shore up the Transportation Budget.

The speaker said the House will look at new revenues outside the governor’s budget, though he didn’t elaborate. “We’re not constrained by what the governor’s proposed,” Smith said.

Smith told reporters at a recent an impromptu press availability that he would, for example, support lifting a sales tax exemption for soda and candy. The 6 percent tax would raise about $6 million. A sugar sweetened beverage tax, which was approved by House Health Care, would raise about $27 million. Shumlin adamantly opposes the measure.

Smith, who has staunchly supported the governor (both politicians are Democrats), says he expects blowback from Shumlin on the House counter proposals.

“People tend to really like their own ideas, and they tend to not be as enamored with other people’s ideas, so it wouldn’t surprise me if there was some resistance to things that we propose,” Smith said. “But I’ve been in that boat before.”

“You can have pretty wildly divergent viewpoints about what you think should be on the table, but if you keep the lines of communication open I think you don’t have to have it be a huge confrontation,” Smith said. “It is what you want to make it. I would expect that there will be times along the way where the rhetoric will become heated, but at the end of the day, I think we’ll figure out a way to come to an agreement.”

At a recent press conference, the governor rebuffed the notion that lawmakers — the majority of whom are fellow Democrats — weren’t happy with his budget and wouldn’t say whether he would veto a budget that doesn’t include the elements of his package.

Whether Smith and Shumlin agree to disagree, the speaker says “the reality is we cannot fill every federal hole that is created so that means to me we have to be especially disciplined about decisions that relate to spending.”

A $5 million increase to working landscape programs has been put on a wish list.

That discipline was on view on the last day of the session before the Town Meeting Day break. Members of the House Appropriations Committee have been agonizing over every detail of the budget and on that Friday afternoon, things briefly came to a head.

Lawmakers were disgruntled by a letter signed by 66 lawmakers urging the committee to approve $5 million for the working landscape program, or about $1.5 million more than what was approved last year.

The committee members also grumbled about House Agriculture supporting the new spending. One lawmaker asked if the policy committees understand the pressure House Appropriations is under because it appeared they have no reason to show fiscal restraint. Another said, “$5 million is a lot of money when you don’t have it.”

In the end, the committee put the $5 million for working lands on a “wish list,” along with $17 million in additional childcare subsidies.

Correction: The total amount proposed for working lands is $5 million. We originally reported that the $5 million was in addition to the $3.5 million for forest and agricultural programs approved last year.

Follow Anne on Twitter @GallowayVTD

Anne GallowayAnne Galloway

Comments

  1. David Usher :

    Thanks, Mr. Speaker, for speaking clearly to the Administration, the Legislature and to Vermonters that fiscal restraint is essential. It’s long overdue. The spending binge cannot be supported by this economy.

    • David,
      You have it right. Vermont has been living off the federal government for decades, instead of educating and training the workforce to attract companies with high-paying, good-benefit jobs, such as Hypotherm. See my below comment.

      • Should be “Hypertherm”, West Lebanon, NH

    • Carl Werth :

      After reading this – I sure wish Smith was Governor instead of Shumlin.

  2. Anne,
    “Gov. Peter Shumlin’s proposals to fund $17 million in energy programs”

    1) $6 million to thermal efficiency initiatives
    2) $6 million to shore up Vermont’s Low Income Heating Assistance Program
    3) $5 million for the state’s Clean Energy Development Fund.

    1) Klein & Co live in a government-activism bubble, which has led to increased aggrandizement of state government operations that are crushing struggling households and businesses.

    Vermonters do not need more “Klein” taxes on their already-expensive fuel to heat their homes.

    Efficiency Vermont, a state-protected entity reporting to the VT-PSB, budget about $45 million/yr, a 175-person staff to deal only with electricity; about $30 million of the budget goes for employee salaries, generous benefits and various other expenses, the rest is used for subsidies for projects.

    Efficiency Vermont should be ended. It would mean a $45 million reduction of the electric bills of struggling households and businesses.

    CEDF
    The CEDF invests in RE projects that produce variable, intermittent energy, i.e., junk energy, at a high cost/kWh. A $250,000 cash donation to the money-losing Bolton Valley wind turbine fiasco is a good example. CEDF should be ended and any funds used to finance Item 2.
    http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/53258/examples-wind-power-learn

    SPEED
    In 2012, the SPEED program paid $5.06 million for 3.33 million kWh, for an average of 17.2 c/kWh, largely because some multi-millionaires put up 2.2 MW PV solar tax shelters to receive 30 c/kWh for PV solar energy for 25 years.

    NOTE: It was originally 27 c/kWh, was deemed too high so it was reduced to 24 c/kWh, but then it was raised to 30 c/kWh, even though solar panel prices had gone down. Does not seem rational in the real world, but not in the “Alice-in-Wonderland” world. When read it, I could not believe it.
    http://vermontspeed.com/speed-monthly-production/

    – NE grid prices are less than 5 c/kWh,
    – Hydro Quebec and Vermont Yankee about 5.5-6 c/kWh; 24/7/365 energy, all CO2-free.
    – GMP bought 60 MW of steady, 24/7/365, CO2-free nuclear energy at 4.66 cents/kWh. Smart move, now that Lowell has become a PR disaster and will likely be a financial fiasco.

    http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-capacity-less-estimated
    http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/61309/lowell-mountain-wind-turbine-facility-vermont

    A SPEED above-market payment of (17.2 – 6)/17.2 x $5.06 = $3.29 million to reduce about 3.33 million lbs of CO2, or about $1/lb of CO2, or about $2,204.6/metric ton. That must be highest cost ever. Only a Keystone-cop government could come up with such a farcical Rube Goldberg scheme. Klein & Co are defending the SPEED program and wants more money for it.

    The SPEED program should be ended and any funds used to reduce state taxes.

    • John Greenberg :

      Willem Post likes his little fibs.

      “Hydro Quebec and Vermont Yankee about 5.5-6 c/kWh; 24/7/365 energy, all CO2-free.”

      First, nuclear power is not “CO2 free.” Milling, mining, enriching, fabricating and transporting nuclear fuel all produce C02, as does building and decommissioning plants, and removing and storing their waste.

      Second, the Hydro-Quebec contract is NOT 24/7: “the new Hydro-Quebec contract will provide on-peak energy for 16 hours per day, seven days per week …” (Declaration of Seth G. Parker, p. 8, US District Court, May 23, 2011)

      Third, Vermont utilities no longer purchase power from Vermont Yankee.

      • John,

        “First, nuclear power is not “CO2 free.” Milling, mining, enriching, fabricating and transporting nuclear fuel all produce C02, as does building and decommissioning plants, and removing and storing their waste.

        IWTs require the same milling, mining, etc.

        At greater annual wind energy on the grid are less effective at reducing CO2 emissions, as proven by 1/4-hour real-time operating data of the Irish grid, which has a large component of gas turbines, similar to NE.

        EXCERPT from below URL

        A summary of wind energy CO2 emission reduction effectiveness versus annual wind energy percent, for various grids is shown below:

        1.0 at 0% wind energy on any grid.
        0.95 (my assumption) at 0.6%, New England grid.
        0.70 (calculated by Dr. LePair) at 3.36%, the Netherlands grid; based on at least 10 years of actual fuel and production data.
        0.706 (calculated by Dr. Udo) at 12.6%, Ireland grid; based on deficient EirGrid data.
        0.526 (calculated by Wheatly) at 17%, Ireland grid; based on SEMO data, which are more accurate than EirGrid data.

        Note: Wind energy CO2 reduction effectiveness = (CO2 intensity, metric ton/MWh, with wind)/(CO2 intensity with no wind).
        Ireland = (0.279, 17% wind)/(0.53, no wind) = 0.526, based on SEMO data.

        http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/89476/wind-energy-co2-emissions-are-overstated

        “Third, Vermont utilities no longer purchase power from Vermont Yankee.”

        They are not buying for political reasons, but they ARE buying higher-priced RE energy, and rolling their higher costs into household electric rates, causing them to go up faster than they would otherwise, all to the detriment of VT’s economic growth.

        • John Greenberg :

          Willem:

          1) Even if another power source, in this case wind, ALSO creates CO2, your statement that nuclear power is C)2-free is still false. I’ve responded to you and others by correcting this point numerous times. The responsible thing to do is stop making the statement.

          2) “They are not buying for political reasons”

          They’re not buying because they could not arrive at a contract after 2 years of negotiation during the politically friendly Douglas administration.

          Entergy’s Mark Potkin likes to blame Peter Shumlin for Entergy’s current situation vis-a-vis Vermont’s utilities, but Shumlin wasn’t governor when the negotiations failed. The time frames he mentions in his testimony concern the period AFTER the Senate overwhelmingly voted not to allow the Board to grant a CPG, a fact which would have weighed heavily in the mind of any utility negotiator concerned with the long-term reliability of the contract before him. (During the period in question, Jim Douglas was still governor, and David O’Brien still ran DPS.)

          In addition, the public record now makes it pretty clear that the utilities and Entergy never saw eye to eye on what the market price of power would be for the period beginning in 2012. Entergy’s estimates were repeatedly and hugely off-base because Entergy vastly over-estimated what the market costs of power would be.

          This meant that prices which Entergy believed to be “below-market” were actually correctly perceived by Vermont utilities as significantly ABOVE market, a fact which precluded any kind of deal.

          But more to the point, you apparently do not dispute that your original statement was, once again, simply false.

          • John,

            You are of course correct, nuclear energy is not CO2-free, it is near-CO2-free, as is hydro.

            As an aside, I looked into this and was surprised PV solar had a higher lifecycle CO2/kWh than I thought.

            Apparently, making panels in China is a dirty business: mining, refining, energy from inefficient coal plants, etc.

            “(During the period in question, Jim Douglas was still governor, and David O’Brien still ran DPS.)”

            Both gentlemen were disgusted and stymied by veto-proof majorities in the legislature.

            Most of the above narrative you relate is true. The atmosphere was poisonous, as some people were saying at the time, many people are to blame. RE folks were frustrated, wanted to break logjams. Some politicians played it up.

          • John Greenberg :

            Willem: If what I write is, as you acknowledge, “of course correct,” then why do you keep repeating claims that you now acknowledge are NOT true??

  3. phil baker :

    I second the above statement. As for the gas tax proposal I could go for that provided it is guaranteed to remain in Transportaion & not “transported” to the Gen. Fund.

  4. John Burgess :

    The Speaker deserves the total support of real Democrats as he shows the leadership and courage to speak common sense to Vermonters of all parties
    John A. Burgess, SR.

    • John,

      Speaker Smith sees the handwriting on the wall. He cannot lead, if no one will follow.

      The legislators have heard lots of hard-scrabble comments from struggling households and businesses.

      They do not dare raise more taxes, lest they kill the goose, i.e., the private sector, they pluck year after year.

      The Governor acts as if he lives in an Alice-in-Wonderland, La-La-Land where money grows on trees. He must know there are only a few Vermonters who earn more than $1 million/yr.

      In a low/no-growth economy, if the government sector percent of the state gross product grows, it can do so only by taking “market share” from the private sector.

      The government sets up, with other people’s money, low/no-efficiency RE programs which use excessive resources to do a measly job, and, because of higher energy prices, act as an additional drag on the private sector. Economics 101 applies.

      Now that the federal government has no money to dole out for Vermont’s follies, the mind-set needs to change in Montpelier.

      The state government must retrench programs, sunset programs, reduce staff and budgets, etc., in many areas.

      The current political leadership may be genetically unsuitable, i.e., not have a clue, to make proper choices for achieve a thriving Vermont private sector economy.

  5. Nicole LeBlanc :

    Thank you. Shap! Please Keep Standing Up to Shumlin and Tell him to Raise his own taxes and taxes on the wealthy! The poor Cant afford a Tax Hike!!! Cutting the EITC is Bad Economic Policy!!!! Also Please Stop the 2.5 million dollar cut to the Developmental Services Waiver program.

  6. WE recently heard that VT has received a $1M fed grant to rehab the WAterbury complex damagedby Huricane Irene.Per the governor’s office,following the rehab, the building will contain 27 affordable housing apartments and the building will then be GIVEN to CVCLT-Central Vermont Community Land Trust. Why do we have to have a beverage tax ad a gas tax when the State is getting a free ride from the feds, with a trillion dollar deficit to then give the building away? I was not asked about this and I am a taxpayer. Is VT now a middleman for developer projects witin our state, that then compete with private, ie taxpaying, citizens who are recipients of grants, ie free money from the fed? What is happening here? Let us prioritize and stop charging one sector of our population to give it away free to another, expecially a non profit such as CVCLT!!!!

  7. should say are NOT recipients of grant money.

  8. Tony Lolli :

    Stand firm Mr. Speaker. Don’t spend what you don’t have.

  9. Ralph Colin :

    Well, at long last, the lightning finally hit the bunny rabbit and woke up the whole family.

  10. Walter Carpenter :

    “They do not dare raise more taxes, lest they kill the goose, i.e., the private sector, they pluck year after year.”

    Many segments of The private sector are not being “plucked,” too hard, considering that some of them, like GE, pay no taxes at all; others like IBM receive nice tax breaks. This forces smaller business and us to make up for their gain.

  11. Nicole LeBlanc :

    Shumlin/Smith need to raise taxes on the wealthy by 1 billion and stop cutting services to people with disabilties

  12. Craig Powers :

    Did the amazing Montpelier money tree not get enough water?

  13. Bob Stannard :

    What seems to go unnoticed by the regular responders here is that this Speaker and at least two legislatures have made cuts in the budget totalling roughly $300 mil. Considering the state budget is rougly $1 billion these cuts have not been insignificant.

    It’s always convenient to bash the legislature and politicians, but they ALL deserve credit for making tough choice and balancing our budget. After the past 4 or 5 years they are down to brass tacks; just in time for our friends in Washington to hand off to the states a sequester.

    The sequester is going to have serious consequences for our state; especially in light of recent cuts. The next couple of years are going to be extremely difficult; especially for the least fortunate Vermonters.

    • Tom Pelham :

      Bob…
      It might be helpful for you when you have some free time from your lobbying duties to go over to the JFO and research your above statement. There you will find this JFO spreadsheet documenting the state budget from 2009 to 2013 (pre-budget adjustment). The tally for the entire budget, all funds and individual funds, can be found on page 31.

      http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/education/FY2014%20Ed%20Fund%20Outlook%20H265%20Rates.pdf

      Contrary to your statement, you won’t find cuts. The total state budget grew from $4.374 billion to $5.011 billion. That equals a greater-than-inflation annual rate of growth of 3.5%. The 2013 budget grew by 6.3%. The share of this coming from Vermont’s tax and fee payers (non-federal funds) grew from $2.918 billion to $3.233 billion, a portion of which was fueled by increases in the income tax in fiscal 2010 and a subsequent assessment on health insurance claims in 2011. Plus, the legislature has cost shifted tens of millions of Medicaid expenses onto hospital budgets beyond the appropriated spending in the JFO spreadsheet. You can go to page 18 and see that, exclusive of the millions in Medicaid cost shifts, the Human Services’ budget increased from $1.742 billion to $2.085 billion, an increase of 19.7%.

      I know that many of your lobbyist peers like to say the budget has been cut when they didn’t get all the increases for which they lobbied. And unfortunately, some of our not so diligent members of media pass along these urban legends despite the underlying financial realities. But, the JFO spread sheet is an accurate record, to the dollar, of the legislature’s spending during the period referenced in your comment above. Equating a $637 million increase to a “cut” and a “tough choice” is a bit of a stretch.

      • Tom,
        You did a great service for Glasnost and reality.

        The state government sector has been growing and on a spending binge far in excess of private sector growth for the past few years.

        As a result, the government sector of the economy grew at the expense of the private sector, which shrank, and many households and businesses are over-stressed.

        One cannot have a viable government without a thriving private sector to pay for it.

        Some folks, as you say, make statements with “zero back-up”, disconnected from facts, as you just proved.

        In a low/no-growth economy, if the government sector percent of the state gross product grows, it can do so only by taking “market share” from the private sector.

        The government sets up, with other people’s money, low/no-efficiency RE programs which use excessive resources to do a measly job, and, because of higher energy prices, act as an additional drag on the private sector. Economics 101 applies.

        Now that the federal government has no money to dole out for Vermont’s follies, the mind-set needs to change in Montpelier.

        The state government must retrench programs, sunset programs, reduce staff and budgets, etc., in many areas.

        The current political leadership may be genetically unsuitable, i.e., not have a clue, to make proper choices to achieve a thriving Vermont private sector economy.

        • Tom Pelham :

          Thanks Willem….I’m just trying to help Mr. Stannard avoid compromising his credibility as a lobbyist by pointing him in the direction of the JFO’s definitive fiscal facts that unarguably contradict the flights of rhetorical fancy upon which he often embarks.

      • Bob Stannard :

        Not unlike as the days get longer the hibernating creatures reappear, I guess my words have awakened the sleeping Tom Pelham.

        I should have clarified my comments better. The General Assembly has been faced with deficits in recent years and have made cuts in recommended spending to ensure that they have a balanced budget.

        I think it’s safe to say that in his capacity as Finance Commissioner under the Dean Administration and Tax Commissioner under the Douglas Administration the budget was not cut either. Recommended spending may have been reduced back then, I don’t know.

        I do seem to recall that our economic worsened due to a recession beginning around 2007. You may recall that our economy collapsed and huge company like Bear Sterns went down leaving many, if not most, of their customers broke. Of course, many executives at the top of this company made out very well; some made tens of millions and they could, presumably, afford to pay a little more in taxes on their gains.

        Thank you for the correction. Always nice to hear from you, Tom.

        • Tom Pelham :

          Hi Bob:

          If you read this document

          http://campaignforvermont.org/cms-assets/documents/95246-114634.01.21.13-cfv-budget-paper-final.pdf

          you’ll see that, contrary to your above “safe to say” observation, we actually did cut the budget in 1993 and the state budget grew by only 7/10ths of one percent from 1992 through 1994. This period of constrained spending set the table to reverse in 1998 the bond rating downgrade Vt. received in 1991 and its further increase in 2000, both of which occurred during my terms as Finance Commissioner. All this historical information is available in the appendices of the document linked above. As Tax Commissioner, I had little to do with crafting the state budget except for the Tax Dept’s piece of that pie yet I believe that Jim Reardon did great work for the Douglas Administration.

          But, it seems this extended period of relative budget peace from the mid-1900’s until 2009 maybe be coming to an end. Our teacher and state employee pension funding levels are on the decline; as the Speaker noted recently we’ve spent the last of our reserves, except for rainy day funds and even here education fund spending for 2014 calls for the use of rainy day funds to fuel a 5.3% spending increase; we are not prepared for pending federal cutbacks necessary to balance the federal budget; we are cost shifting over $150 million of Medicaid costs onto our hospitals; we’ve raised or are about to raise income taxes , property taxes, assessments on healthcare insurance claims and gasoline taxes, among others; and health care reform maybe be just around the corner, which could more than double state budget responsibilities from $5 billion to $11 billion.

          So, as you tour the statehouse doing your lobbying, you are likely witnessing the unfolding of events that lead to the first downgrade in the state’s bond rating in 23 years unless our leaders can find a path to the type of courage that Governor Dean displayed. Blissful unawareness of the above events unfolding before your eyes has its rewards but you are a state house lobbyist after all.

          Regarding Bear Stearns, I appreciate your veiled mudslinging but here again your narrative lacks substance. Mr. Lisman was one of 14,000 Bear Stearns employees when it went down. The vast majority of these employees, including Mr. Lisman, had nothing to do with the types of investing that undermined Bear Stearns. Bruce had worked for many years at Bear Stearns dutifully climbing his way up to near the top of equity investing in foreign markets. If you want to see where his was at Bear Stearns, five layers down from the top, you can check it out on Wikipedia. The decline of Bear Stearns is well chronicled and investigated and I haven’t found a material reference to him yet in this regard. Though he was well rewarded for his efforts in leading global equity investing, it’s certain he lost a bundle when his shares of Bear Stearns tanked with the company’s decline. He also shares a lot of his resources with organizations like the Vt. Symphony Orchestra, the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, the Shelburne Museum, among others. So, rather than sling mud and guilt-by-association , if you’ve got hard information that Mr. Lisman had anything to do with the decline of Bear Stearns, please share it.

  14. Bob Stannard :

    “But, it seems this extended period of relative budget peace from the mid-1900’s until 2009 maybe be coming to an end.”

    Yes, I would suggest, Tom, that our “budget peace” has come to an end beginning in ’07 when the housing bubble burst and all the bad loans that were made, bundled, insured and resold caused the global economy to retract.

    Our country and countries around the world are now paying the price for the mistakes that were made by lenders and politicians alike. I think we would both agree that Vermont has always put forth a balanced budget and our citizen legislture has served us well in keeping our spending in line with our revenues.

    The economic slowdown is having its impact on Vermont just like it is with most other states as well as European nations. Times are tough and yes as one who patrols the halls of the State House I get to watch everyday Vermont citizens who’ve been chosen by their peers to work hard to make hard decisions. Whether I agree or not on the outcome I would say they do a pretty darned good job.

    They’re doing what they can to boost the economy and create more jobs by supporting the renewable energy industry, which appears to be not one of your favorites. That’s fine, you may not agree with the direction.

    Regarding Mr. Lisman and Bear Stearns I have no idea what level he was at. He’s down as CEO of Global Equities, which presumably put him higher up on the food chain than his original position as clerk. Was he high enough in the corporation to have the ear of those more influential? Gee, you’d think so. Could the collapse have been avoided and spared having thousands of customers lose their life savings? We’ll never know, but what we should be doing is spending a little more time overseeing this industry to ensure that what happened in ’07 never happens again. Unfortunately, Wall St. is a very powerful industry and to date it doesn’t appear as though anything has changed.

    I happy for Mr. Lisman that he was able to rise up in a Wall St. firm and do so very well. But perhaps instead of campaigning around the state telling Vermonters how they can be more prosperous perhaps he could dedicate more of his time assisting regulators and Congress as to how better we could regulate Wall St. and avoid another financial meltdown.

  15. Bob Stannard :

    Darn the luck. I replied to your last post, Tom, but it appears as though when I hit post comment it dissolved into cyberspace.

    I won’t rewrite it, but here’s what I will say. I don’t know Bruce Lisman and I doubt that he caused the collapse of Bear Stearns. Was he in a position as CEO of Global Equities to have the ear of those who did collapse B.S. and offer input as to changes that could/should be made? I don’t know the answer to that question either, but I would think that he would’ve been in a better position than his previously held position as clerk.

    But here’s what I do know. I’ve been in the State House for three decades this year. I’ve spent half my life around politically ambitious people. They’re a fun group that I find interesting and facinating. I’ve watched politicians come and go and now I’m watching Mr. Lisman. There is no doubt that he has political ambitions. I do know that he contacted a lobbying firm prior to starting Campaign for Vermont to discuss the idea of running for governor. I believe that he was told he wasn’t ready; wasn’t known well enough.

    To overcome that handicap we now have Campaign for Vermont; a vehicle billed as non-partisan, but with a very noticeable and heavy Republican influence that allows Mr. Lisman to travel around the state talking about the virtues of mom and apple pie.

    Unless my instincts of 30 years are wrong I think we can expect to see Mr. Lisman’s name on a ballot. The only question is will it be 2014 or 2016? Presumably you are positioning yourself to continue your behind the scenes work in his administration, as you, too, have always exhibited the desire for political power in our small state.

    Time will tell I guess.

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