By Don Turner, House Republican Leader
Last November, Vermonters sent a clear message that the status quo no longer worked for them. Vermonters told us that we needed to get to work to return Vermont to a sound and sustainable fiscal path, work to make Vermont a more affordable place to live and work to grow our economy so that the next generation of Vermonters will have more opportunities than we have had.
The 2015 Legislative session is over. As Republican Minority leader I was very proud of the efforts and hard work that our Representatives put forward this session. Our newly elected Representatives rolled up their sleeves and worked hard to make a difference. However, with a large majority of the House being made up of Democrats and Progressives, we were unable to accomplish many things we believe Vermonters asked for loud and clear. So even with the best efforts, Vermonters will pay and the setbacks for a fiscal responsible state will continue. The added costs to everyday living are significant and next year the budget mess will be worse than ever.
It’s a math problem and perhaps a policy outlook problem. The Democrat controlled House has enjoyed not only a majority of voting members, but also a continued policy vision to spend more than the state takes in. Vermont Democrats seemingly ignore the basic fact that many Vermonters are struggling dearly and can’t afford to live in the state that they love so much. Vermont Democrats also have a policy of making Vermont a disproportionally large employer while not encouraging the private business sector to succeed. Doing business in Vermont is expensive and trying to grow a business in Vermont can be mission impossible.
Vermont has a history of being a caring state. It is imperative that we protect our most vulnerable. However, we must provide a responsible path to let Vermonters grow into self-sufficiency. It is degrading to not offer Vermonters the prospects to work and raise the quality of their lives by providing jobs and opportunities.
Entering the State House in January, our caucus held a press conference outlining our priorities for this session. Our goal was to put Vermont on a sound and sustainable path, grow our economy, address rising property taxes, and ensure clean water for the next generation of Vermonters.
We are disappointed a budget passed that that grew state spending by more than economic growth. This budget was more of the same and leaves us staring at a budget gap of nearly $70 million next year.
And our fight for Vermonters was not for the lack of effort. Led by our Lt. Governor Phil Scott we listened to Vermonters about what we could do to grow our economy and worked many of those efforts into the economic development bill only to watch them be taken out in the Senate.
We offered a way to clean the waters of Vermont that would have re-prioritized existing dollars and not raise taxes on Vermonters. In the end, that alternative did not pass.
We have been working hard to keep our word to you, the people of Vermont. Even with the odds against us, we will continue to work to make sure you are heard. And about this math problem? The only way we are going to change Montpelier is to change the Representative make up of the Legislature. Business as usual has not worked and current majority leadership has failed to address the basic economic challenges that most Vermonters face each day. Vermont Republican Legislators offered many solutions. Instead, under Speaker Shap Smith’s leadership the Democrat majority solved their problem by raising taxes and not addressing spending. It does not work and Vermonters will pay.
So about that math problem; we can mostly look to 2016 to make a change. The future of Vermont can be better and affordable. It will only happen in the voting booth. Business as usual in Montpelier isn’t working and unless we change who is running state government, Vermonters will get more of the same and that harsh reality is just not acceptable. We can do better. Vermonters deserve it!