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Vermont Lawmakers Choose Governor and Hear Inaugural Address

Former Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin
WAMC/Pat Bradley

Legislators were busy at the Statehouse in Montpelier Thursday.  A joint session of the House and Senate formally elected the governor in the morning and in the afternoon met again to hear the inaugural address.

There were seven candidates for Vermont governor in the November election. None received more than 50 percent of the vote.  Under the Vermont Constitution when that happens the Legislature must vote by secret ballot to choose the governor when it convenes in January. In a Joint session Thursday morning legislators heard the report of the canvassing committee verifying the election results. Ballots were distributed to the 180 lawmakers to choose between the top three candidates for governor.  Presiding officer Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott announced the results.

Phil Scott
Credit WAMC/Pat Bradley
Vermont Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott 1-8-15

“The total votes cast was 179.  Necessary for election is 90.  Dan Feliciano received zero votes. Scott Milne received 69 votes. Peter E. Shumlin received 110 votes.  Peter Shumlin, having received a majority of the total votes cast,  is hereby declared duly elected to the office of governor for the term of two years ensuing.”

Republican Scott Milne spoke about the results shortly after the session. 

Scott Milne (file)
Credit WAMC/Pat Bradley
Republican Scott Milne discusses the results of the Vermont Legislature's vote for governor January 8, 2015

“What people in here should have been voting for today, in my opinion it’s what I told every legislator that reached out to me and talked to me,  is if I won your district and you think Peter Shumlin is going to be a better governor than me you should vote for Peter Shumlin and I have no problem with that. I hope they’re right. I hope Vermont’s on track and I hope what we’ve seen over the last four years is an aberration and we’re not going to see a continuation of that for the next two years because if we do Vermont’s going to be in a sorry state of affairs and people are going to wish they voted for me.”

The House and Senate reassembled in the early afternoon in joint session to hear Governor Peter Shumlin’s inaugural address. As he entered his third term, the Democrat thanked the assembly for allowing him to serve again.   “Thank you all for making it possible for me to give this speech today. I’m humbled. I’m grateful. I can’t tell you how much it means to me from the bottom of my heart.”
He proceeded to note that he would present his agenda in two parts. In next week’s budget address he plans to review policy areas including education, health care, child protection and drug addiction. For this inaugural speech he honed in on two specific areas.  “I’m going to focus on initiatives absolutely critical in two related areas: energy and the environment.”

Shumlin said the state has all it needs to position itself as the nation’s energy innovation leader and wants to enhance the green energy sector.  “Today I’m proposing an Energy Innovation Program that will drive our economy in the next decade and beyond. Our Energy Innovation Program will promote clean energy and less expensive total energy costs for Vermonters.”

Shumlin cited water quality as a pressing problem and clean-up of Lake Champlain critical.  “Protecting Lake Champlain means protecting Vermont’s economy.”
He is including funds in his capital budget for investment in water quality projects and plans to create the Vermont Clean Water Fund to raise additional money.

Vermont Public Interest Research Group Executive Director Paul Burns was pleased with the focus on Lake Champlain and clean energy.  “The governor did not talk about things like putting a price on carbon for instance, which is going to be absolutely essential if we’re ultimately to reach our goals to reduce carbon emissions in the state. So I think there’s a lot more that’s going to go into that area as well. Overall I think it’s a pretty positive theme.  As somebody who cares a lot about the environment there was a lot to like in that speech.”

Chittenden County Republican Kurt Wright said he didn’t disagree with anything in the governor’s speech but felt that he had omitted some key issues.  “I kept waiting for something about property taxes. I think the governor totally dropped the ball on that. Sure he’s going to address it in his budget address, but I think property tax payers wanted to hear now, in his inaugural address, a recognition that he heard them. While I’m certainly in favor of what he talked about with Lake Champlain, I’m very disappointed.  I think it’s important to set the tone immediately here for us. It’s that big of an issue.”

Governor Shumlin will deliver his budget address to a joint session of the Vermont legislature next week.

Video of Governor Shumlin's complete inaugural address is available here.

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