Gov. Peter Shumlin ignored the most pressing issues facing Vermont in the first speech of his third term, Republican leaders said Thursday in response to the inaugural address.
In a news conference called to respond to the speech, which focused only on energy and the environment, Republicans said it was not what the governor said, but what he did not say, that mattered.
“We heard lot of words, but we’ve heard a lot of words in the past and the governor has not delivered,” said house minority leader Rep. Don Turner, R-Milton.
Republicans, gathered in the Senate cloakroom, said they were disappointed Shumlin ignored property taxes and health care — two issues that topped voter concerns during the elections last fall. Those same issues contributed to Shumlin’s near defeat and a host of victories for Republicans across the state in November.
The GOP members pledged to spend the rest of the session holding Shumlin’s feet to the fire to make sure he addresses not only health care, property tax but also job creation, issues to which Shumlin pledged renewed support after his narrow victory in November.
“Hopefully the governor will come around and deliver on these promises,” Turner said.
Shumlin’s inaugural speech Thursday came hours after he was re-elected 110-69 by lawmakers. The Legislature voted because neither candidate received a plurality, an outcome that surprised many because Shumlin was expected to win by a landslide.
Republican Scott Milne, who lost to Shumlin in November by 2,434 votes, was in the Statehouse Thursday for the vote and said he had his own inaugural speech prepared just in case.
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“I voted for Peter Shumlin today but I’m disappointed in his speech,” said Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington.
The governor’s eight-page speech focused on renewable energy and environmental restoration. Shumlin said he will address health care, job creation and education finance/property tax in next week’s budget address.
Republicans said they are open to his ideas about cleaning up Lake Champlain and other waterways but those are not the big problems.
Republicans pointed out that they have known for years that Lake Champlain and other waterways need to be cleaned up, but thus far the governor failed to act.
“It needs doing but where was he four years ago on this?” said Rep. Brian Savage, R-Swanton.
Sen. Joe Benning, R-Lyndonville, said the speech focused not on saving money but on spending more. The GOP knocked Shumlin on health care as well.
“Just because the governor has acknowledged that his plan is a failure doesn’t mean he can ignore health care. We still need to address it,” said Rep. Patti Komline, R-Dorset.
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