Shumlin newser: IBM, Energizer, and the fiscal cliff

The main event at today’s nooner was the post-election shuffle detailed in my previous diary. When the discussion turned to other topics, the first was the announced closing of the Energizer plant in St. Albans. “This is a big deal,” said Shumlin. “We will go up there and meet with the employees, and work with each individual to help match them with a new job.” He noted that some of the Energizer workers may well catch on with Mylan Technologies, the St. Albans firm that’s undergoing an expansion.

Talk of employment and offshoring led to IBM, and a discussion inspired by yesterday’s GMD post about the company’s reputed plans to slash its domestic headcount in the next three years, as reported by tech journalist Robert X. Cringely.  “IBM is hugely important to Vermont,” he said. “My assessment of that piece was, I don’t know exactly what IBM’s national or international plans are, but what we have going for us in Vermont is that in Essex, they make product. They make chips that are critical to almost every iPhone and every piece of computerized equipment.”

That revealed a close reading of the source material for my IBM post, which focused on the continuing movement of IBM’s service operations overseas. “The difference between IBM’s plans for Vermont and the rest of the nation is, we don’t have service jobs, we have manufacturing jobs.”

When asked if those manufacturing jobs couldn’t also be shipped overseas, he said “I think if it were transferable, it would have happened a long time ago.” But he reiterated that he doesn’t have any insight into IBM’s plans. Good cheerleading, and he does have a point, but it doesn’t contradict anything reported by Cringely.

After the jump: Shumlin and the DGA, and the pluses and minuses of the “fiscal cliff.”

The DGA gig. His position as DGA chair, assuming he gets it (nudge nudge, wink wink) would benefit Vermont by putting the state in an influential position. “I find that my relationships with other governors around the country are critically important,” he said. “I get huge policy help and personal connections working with my fellow governors. And if I can be chair of an organization that sets the agenda for those discussions, it’s helpful to our state.”

When asked by a certain alternative journalist in Carhartts if he was concerned about the fundraising dimension of the DGA and having to beg for cash from large corporations and the wealthy, Shumlin said his role would be in policy, not fundraising.

The “fiscal cliff.” He expressed “trepidation” about the so-called “fiscal cliff” and its across-the-board spending cuts, which would include every program that funnels money to Vermont. If the President can’t convince the Republican House to take action, “it would be tremendously crippling to our fragile economic recovery, and tremendously crippling to our state budget.”

It was pointed out that only yesterday, Congressman Welch and Senator Sanders had expressed doubt that a deal will be made by the end of the year, and that we might be better off that way. “They make a good policy point,” Shumlin responded. There would be short-term damage, but it might set the stage for a better long-term resolution: if there’s no deal, “all of the Bush tax cuts go down the drain, and we can go back to a more rational federal tax policy for wealthy Americans. Congress could then turn around and give middle-class Americans the tax cut they deserve and leave the wealthiest one percent, two percent of Americans, who have never had a lower tax rate in the history of American, to pay their fair share to get us out of this mess.”  

Sounds to me like there’s a split in his thinking on the fiscal cliff. (Which, as many have pointed out, is more like a fiscal curb than a cliff — at first, it’s only a brief step-down that gradually gets worse.) As a Governor, he’d like to see continuity in federal funding for state programs. But as a Democrat, he wouldn’t mind waiting to strike a new deal until the slate is wiped clean on January 1.

All in all, it was an interesting occasion. But c’mon, man: An entire gubernatorial news conference, and not one reporter brought up Bill and Lou. Where are your priorities, people???

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