Scott rolls out lengthy ‘got it done’ list after 100 days

Phil Scott
​Gov. Phil Scott​ at a news conference earlier this month. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger
Gov. Phil Scott touted the accomplishments of his first 100 days in office on Tuesday, including claiming credit for the Vermont House’s passage of a budget that requires no additional taxes or fees.

The governor also continued pushing several proposals the Legislature has so far rebuffed, including an effort to merge the Department of Liquor Control and the Lottery Commission. He called the failure to achieve that proposal his biggest disappointment in an initial three months he said were otherwise marked by progress and a needed shift in priorities.

“I’m very pleased with the progress we’re making, and the important conversations we’re having. But there is much more work to do over the next 21 months of this term. There is a sense of optimism I’m seeing as I travel the state,” Scott said.

“Vermonters know that if we all pull in the same direction — if we make the economy and affordability our focus and work hard to make change — we can chart a course to a more prosperous future and make a difference in the lives of Vermonters,” he said.

At a news conference flanked by members of his administration, Scott focused on accomplishments and didn’t dwell on proposals that had been rejected, including a move to curb spending on K-through-12 education to boost spending for early and higher education.

Several lawmakers saw a less rosy view of Scott’s first 100 days and criticized him for not engaging in a back-and-forth with legislators to come up with mutually agreeable ideas. For example, lawmakers have criticized Scott for not coming up with another education proposal once his original idea was viewed as a nonstarter.

“What I hear from my senators is they’d like to see the governor more involved in the process in this building,” said Windham County Sen. Becca Balint, the Democratic majority leader. “There seems to be a different tenor and tone in terms of commitment to his own policies.”

“We’re not always quite sure where the ship is headed,” she said of the Scott administration.

Sen. Chris Pearson, P/D-Chittenden, echoed Balint’s view that Scott’s administration has been disengaged from the legislative process.

“My assessment is they have not been very present in the Legislature proposing changes and really engaging in a public process that I’ve seen in my time here. So compared to the Shumlin administration and the Douglas administration, they’ve been very standoffish,” Pearson said.

Kurt Wright
Rep. Kurt Wright, R-Burlington. File photo by John Herrick/VTDigger
Rep. Kurt Wright, a Burlington Republican, said Scott’s focus on affordability had “shifted the paradigm” in Montpelier and — as Scott claimed at the news conference — that the governor’s veto threat had held lawmakers in check on spending.

“Under another governor, we probably would have been passing a budget and tax bills that would have had taxes and fees, so I think that’s a big success for him,” Wright said.

Scott said his “commitment” to vetoing the state budget if it raised taxes or fees had led the House to pass a balanced budget with no new taxes.

Scott’s education proposal, Wright said, was poorly presented and included ideas, such as moving school voting from March to May, that were unacceptable. But he said Scott has won in the eyes of the public regardless.

“I think that clearly out of the gate there was some stumbling over the education bill. I don’t think that was rolled out in the best way,” Wright said. “There were things in there I just couldn’t support. … But on that big issue, I think he’s won the day” because the public sees him fighting for lower school spending.

Scott cited three trade trips to Canada, the nomination of a Supreme Court justice and the appointment of two lawmakers among his accomplishments. He also highlighted modernization and efficiency programs, including changes in the use of the state vehicle fleet, that have saved money. And he listed as accomplishments the immigration bill he trumpeted and the $150 million in settlements reached with the brokerage firm in the Jay Peak fraud scandal to pay back investors and contractors. The bulk of that amount comes in a deal between a court-appointed receiver and the brokerage.

Scott acknowledged failing to come up with a way to deal with Vermonters on the “benefit cliff” who lose public aid when they go back to work, a proposal he promised to come up with in the first 100 days when on the campaign trail.

“Everything is harder than I thought,” Scott said and smiled when a reporter asked why the proposal wasn’t finished.

Chris Pearson
Sen. Chris Pearson, P/D-Chittenden. File photo by Erin Mansfield/VTDigger
Pearson gave the administration credit on the immigration bill and said Scott had separated himself from President Donald Trump.

“I would say they’ve done a pretty good job finding places to poke against the Trump administration and offered themselves as a contrast to that, but in the nuts and bolts of changing laws they have been noticeably absent,” Pearson said.

Scott mentioned repeatedly in the news conference his desire to see the merger of the lottery and Liquor Control Department go forward and said he was hopeful Senate support would push House lawmakers to reconsider their initial disapproval. The governor had issued an executive order calling for the merger. But he said he would not force it through by using a legal dispute over whether both chambers need to reject an executive order. It would be better to wait another year, he said, and get legislative buy-in.

The governor said he would continue to focus in the next few months on workforce development and attacking the opiate addiction problem. He highlighted his focus on “6-3-1” — six fewer people in the workforce every day, three fewer students on average every day, and almost one child per day born addicted to opiates.

“We must grow the workforce in order to grow the economy, invest in our future and care for the most vulnerable — and that means we have to make Vermont more affordable for families and businesses. That’s the bottom line,” Scott said.

“He’s taken time to settle into the office — it’s a new role for him,” said House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero. “I think the part where we’re struggling is waiting for, having taken quite a bit of the session to wait for some key posts to be filled,” including a commissioner of environmental conservation, which “slows down some of the legislative session a bit.”

“I think trying to learn when’s the time to draw the lines in the sand and put the ideas out there and when is the time to sort of come to the table and say, ‘OK, Vermonters handed us divided government and now’s the time to work through some of our initial statements and begin to work together,’” Johnson said. “We’re figuring that piece out.”

Scott said he and the Legislature are “still trying to jockey for position” and that there was a natural “friction” between the two branches of government.

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  • I guess talk, meetings, ideas count as results in Phil’s book. Whose taxes have gone? Whose insurance costs less? Whose job is more secure (surely not Phil’s)? Whose kids decided to stay in state to prosper? Whose ..

    • Cheryl Ganley

      So in 100 days everything that has taken years to build up should be corrected? Seems like your expectations are a bit skewed.

  • Valerie Mullin

    Scott can also thank each voter who assisted in creating a veto proof House. This has created an atmosphere where Scott has some leverage. Each and every seat matters this next election.

  • Edward Letourneau

    “…Scott’s administration has been disengaged from the legislative process” Maybe that is because the liberals don’t want to discuss things that Vermont really needs, like lower taxes and fees, and more jobs!

  • “Everything is harder then I thought …”

    What is it about
    Republican politicians nowadays and some sudden realization that working
    together can be difficult? Do all of them, including Trump and Scott,
    believe they can act like unchallenged kings once in office? Do they
    expect everyone to say “Oh well, guess I’ll give up all my long and
    strongly held principles”?

    • Matt Young

      Rama, “Oh well, guess I’ll give up all my long and strongly held principles”?
      Which principles?…spending more on the big public education monopoly for lower enrollments and worse results? Creating more government jobs? Handing out more entitlements? Creating anti-everything regulations? Increasing taxes for struggling Vermonters? Yup Rama, keep fighting for these things.

      • Steve Baker

        Exactly, We spend more each year for less. Why can NH provide for about half the cost?

        • Forbes Morrell

          Because the people of N H care and are active in their government plus the fact they have a 5 district oversight governing mechanism that any legislation or spending program must have 3 of the 5 districts approval.. That kind of checkmate system is why NH can and will be the leading state in New England in the near future. Go ahead match that VT…

    • Neil Johnson

      When politicians divide rather than come together the people lose and the lobbyists/parties/PACs win.

      Montpelier has been completely democratic for 6 years and majority for how long?

      Take family leave for example. I’m sure many Republicans think it’s a great idea for one of the family members to stay home with the kids. Many might even think more than 22 weeks!

      They may also think it’s part of family planning to figure out how a couple is going to pay for raising their child. Should the state be paying leave just because people can’t save money? Should the state be paying leave while people are driving fancy cars?

      Compromise might be….we’ll help you out but not when your living in a really big house driving a new 2500 Dodge pickup or new Subaru Legacy. It might be we’ll help you out after you’ve spent your savings first in order to raise your child.

      But then who is responsible for bring this child into the world? Something as precious and wonderful should be given some serious consideration prior to starting a family. Are we even teaching family planning? Based upon what is going on and the expectations of people, it appears we’re not doing a good job in that education department.

      • You do understand that all those Democratic (capital ‘D’) legislators were elected by Vermonters, don’t you? The Governor does not get to decide who he works with – you and I get as much say so as the Governor. That is what democratic (lower case ‘d’) principles are about.

        A second point: have you stopped to consider how Governor Scott could come out with the “harder then I thought” statement after having spent 16 years as a state Senator and Lt Governor?

        The dividing I see is Scott and the Republicans (remember their baby walk out the other day?) refusing to acknowledge the will of the Vermont voter.

        • Neil Johnson

          The Republican legislators were also elected. The majority beating up on the minority was exactly we have a republic and not a democracy.

          Bullies beat up on the minority, it’s common. Doesn’t make the ideas of the minority wrong or not worth considering. Saving money one merger seemed pretty harmless, but you’ll note it was all party lines that kept it from passing.

          One has a hard time seeing the problem when they are part of it. Could you acknowledge that Phil Scott and Republicans have some good ideas? How about President Trump? Does he have any good ideas? Your answer will help you figure out if you are part of the problem or part of the cure. Divisiveness or working together. I’d be very curious to your thoughts.

    • Peter Chick

      Using the word “they” is the root of the problem. We are in this together Rama.

  • Steve Baker

    It’s a hard job. As Abe Lincoln said, if you’re too big for the small jobs, you’re too small for the big jobs. Getting Vermont back on a better economic footing will be a BIG JOB, made even harder by the daily drumbeat of the tax and spenders entrenched throughout the State.
    Another large failure is the lack of charges and or indictments against any State employees involved with the EB-5 fraud. $150 million is a lot of money, but money alone doesn’t bring justice from the Fraudsters.
    While the Governor boasts about his meaningless immigration bill, he and the AG continue doing a pretty good job finding places to poke against the Trump administration. Which in the end may cost our welfare State dearly and cause a whole host of problems for the State.
    Highlighting “6-3-1”
    — six fewer people in the workforce every day, three fewer students on
    average every day, and almost one child per day born addicted to
    opiates. That’s the downward spiral we continue to face with blinders on.

    After all, the productive taxpayers pay dearly for a State Government that continues to not do anything well.

  • Neil Johnson

    Great job on slowing the increase of government spending. That alone is pretty huge, the real trick will be what happens next year. I’m sure it’s very difficult, how do we bring people together, that’s a huge challenge.

  • Christopher Daniels

    Work together, please. If the Governor has a great idea, let’s hope he takes time to work with the legislature to get it done instead of simply governing by press conference. Legislators, please don’t automatically dismiss the Governor’s ideas. Work together. No party has a monopoly on good ideas.

    • Steve Baker

      In this State one party has the Monopoly.

      • robert bristow-johnson

        what party is that? the party whom the guv belongs?

        • Steve Baker

          The party of tax and spend repeat, tax-and-spend repeat.

  • Dan DeCoteau

    It appears that Vermont has become the California of the east. Population centers of the large cities, L.A., San Francisco and Oakland for example control the liberal/progressive political parties’ reelection due to the shear number of those voters as opposed to rural areas that are more conservative. Not everyone in California or Vermont aligns with the liberal or progressive ideology but here in Vermont it is mostly Chittenden County and the surrounding areas that controls the power in Montpelier. That arrangement is fine with them but is bad for the state. Absolute power corrupts the process and we are now experiencing the results. Time has long past for the overdue reorganization of the government structure related to the election of representatives and senators to the Vermont House and Senate. By not leveling the playing field Vermont will be domed to continue as a one party state with one ideology controlling everything. As for the election of a republican governor this time I think it is fair to say that he may have spent too much time with the other party for the last 16 years and is either unwilling or just too friendly with club members to make much of a difference. Perhaps he could start by acting like a republican. Vermont and California are fictional islands with an ocean of American conservatives between them. There are 3,141 counties in the USA President Trump won 2,623 of them or 84%.

  • Willem Post

    Scott made a campaign pledge to level fund state spending and education, and to have no increases in taxes, fees and surcharges.

    He achieved the latter, because he has enough Republican votes in the House to uphold any vetos of bills that would increase the state’s burden on families and companies.

    His next budget must be a level funding budget. That means reorganization of programs, cuts in existing programs, and eliminating some out of date programs with low benefit to cost ratios.

    The legislature should be creative and offer its own smorgasbord of spending reductions, and thereby show it willingness to work with the governor to slowly unburden the state’s wet blanket on the private sector, so companies can become more profitable, and so they can start creating more steady, full time, well paying, skilled jobs with good benefits.