Vermont Governor Phil Scott laid out a number of priorities in his annual State of the State address Thursday. WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports reaction is generally positive although some are curious how Scott plans to pay for the proposals.
Vermont’s Republican governor emphasized unity and rejecting polarization as he outlined his administration’s aspirations for the second half of the biennium to legislators. Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Democrat Tim Ashe says he appreciated the governor’s reminder to maintain civility. But he had hoped to hear more details about Governor Scott’s priorities. “To me there are some key issues: rebuilding our small communities and revitalizing them, housing and economic activity in communities that are struggling; workforce development, getting people out of poverty. Those are issues that are the legislative priorities. I think the Governor would tell you he cares about the exact same things. Certainly would’ve liked to hear more details about environmental efforts, transportation issues, housing, economic development, work force development. But it hasn’t really been the Governor’s style to do that. He leaves a little bit more of that type of thing to the budget address. So my hope is the budget address shows that the Governor’s team is working in tandem with what we are doing.”
The Ethan Allen Institute is a conservative-leaning think tank in Vermont. President Rob Roper says the speech offered quick comments on various programs but few details. “The thing that I found most heartening was that he didn't want to do anything to increase the cost of gasoline and home heating fuel, which would indicate that he is opposed to the Transportation Climate Initiative. Something we think at the Ethan Allen Institute is not a good idea, particularly for a rural state. Starting an afterschool program sounds interesting, but you know, I worry where that money is going to come from since we're already looking at a 6 percent $70 million property tax increase this year. I'll wait to hear the details on that. Maybe he’ll say more about that in the budget.”
Governor Scott’s speech offered one new initiative for legislators to consider: "I propose to you today that we begin creating a universal afterschool network that ensures every child has access to enrichment opportunities outside of current classroom time, and to align the students’ day with the length of the workday.”
Vermont Afterschool Executive Director Holly Morehouse says there’s great potential for such a program. “We have really strong programs here in Vermont. But what the real issue is in Vermont is there isn't equity around access to those opportunities. There's two barriers that cause disparity in access. One is geographic. Where you live in Vermont affects what opportunities are in your town or in your community. And the second disparity is around income and resources. Some children and youth have all kinds of opportunities to get ahead and then other children and youth don't have those same opportunities. And that's the gap that I think his proposal is so brilliant and forward thinking about addressing.”
Governor Scott is scheduled to deliver his budget address on January 21st.