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Governor Phil Scott’s briefing reviews budget progress and overdose data

Vermont Statehouse  (file photo)
Pat Bradley/WAMC
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Vermont Statehouse (file)

Vermont Governor Phil Scott’s weekly briefing Tuesday focused on what he would like the legislature’s budget focus to be and the state’s rise in opioid deaths.

With about a month left in the session, the Republican used part of his weekly briefing to call on the Democratically controlled Legislature to draft a budget that meets what he proposed in January.

“At the beginning of the year I proposed to the Legislature a budget that included major tax relief and historic investments in housing, combatting climate change, broadband, cell service, water and sewer, infrastructure, economic development and more," Scott said. "Lawmakers have basically agreed conceptually but we have a lot of details to work through. Now, I know I’m never going to get everything I ask for. But there are some significant differences in the House budget that, as I have said, need to be addressed before I can support the bill.”

The Vermont Health Department issued preliminary data last week indicating there was a 33% increase in opioid related overdose deaths in 2021, rising to 210 from 158 in 2020. Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine finds the increased involvement of fentanyl in the opioid-related deaths in 2021 from 88% to 93% alarming.

“We’re incredibly saddened to see this increase especially because it comes on the heels of a significant decrease in deaths pre-pandemic in 2019," Levine said. "We encourage people who are using any substance, as well as their loved ones, to have Narcan, know how to use it and know the signs of opioid overdose. Even when Narcan is used it’s become even more important to call 911 as we continue to see other substances such as Xylazine, which is an animal anesthetic agent involved in opioid overdose related deaths.”

In his latest newsletter, Vermont GOP Chair Paul Dame blasts state House Democrats for “eroding the rights of parents” with bill H.659 which, according to the proposal, would “allow a minor who identifies as transgender to consent to receiving hormone blockers and other nonsurgical, gender-affirming care and treatment without requiring parental consent.”

According to VTDigger, Burlington GOP Chair Christopher Aaron-Felker is tweeting pictures of the bill’s sponsors and hash-tagging them “groomers,” echoing a line from the national fringe culture war.

Governor Scott was asked about the actions of his fellow Republicans.

“I saw that, actually a tweet, and if you look at the story that it’s attached to I did condemn them," Scott said. "So I don’t understand it myself. I was bewildered. I’m sure if you read the story you’ll see that I condemn those remarks.”

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