The inaugural address by newly-installed Vermont Governor Phil Scott on Thursday emphasized fiscal stability and enhancing the economy with no new taxes or fees. Reaction was mixed and followed partisan lines.
Republican Governor Phil Scott must convince a Democratically-controlled legislature to pass the policies he outlined in his inaugural speech.
Chittenden County State Representative Republican Kurt Wright believes Vermonters will feel refreshed with what he calls a straight-talking governor focused on affordability. “I am really glad that the governor focused like a laser on that issue. And we need to hear more of the details of course as we go forward. But I'm really excited that he is focusing on that problem unlike any other.”
Although Republicans are in the minority, Wright is optimistic Scott’s policies will be adopted by lawmakers. “We also have 7 Independents, 6 or 7 Progressives and a number of Democrats who I think are centrist type Democrats. And I hope everybody wants to work together across party lines to get these things done that he outlined, the broad outline, and I think that it can be done. But I think that we are going to have to all be serious about the problem and about what needs to be done. You know Band-Aids aren’t going to work anymore.”
Former Vermont Governor Jim Douglas, a Republican who now teaches political science at Middlebury College, notes that many of the issues that Scott outlined have not changed in over a decade. “We began to see the challenges of opiate addiction 14 years ago. We were coming out of a mild recession and saw some real economic stress at that point. We saw environmental challenges before us and demographics were beginning to become more serious as well. So those challenges remain. The difference is that they are more acute today and it's going to require strong bipartisan support in order to make some real progress. It's very easy as he noted to go into our partisan corners but that's not going to get Vermont where it needs to be.”
House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski says the House Democratic Caucus is focused on policies to help Vermonters. She is glad the governor discussed items they have been working on for several years. “Combating the opiate epidemic, working on affordable housing, those are things that we all want to tackle and work on together. You know there were a couple of things missing in terms of growing our economy that I think we do need to focus on though. We need to talk about how we expand broadband to every corner of the state. We need to talk about issues that are really affecting hardworking Vermont families like raising the minimum wage and affordable child care. We're looking forward to hearing more about his proposals and what he lays out in his budget address.”
The 150 seats in the Vermont House are composed of 83 Democrats, 53 Republicans, 7 Progressives and 7 Independents. In the Senate 21 Democrats, 7 Republicans and 2 Progressives occupy the 30 seats in that chamber.