Tag Archives: Governor Phil Scott

Phil Scott Races Away from ‘Moderate’ Govs’ Bipartisan Healthcare Effort

Back in January  VPR reported  Phil Scott made some public noises about working with what he calls moderate GOP Governors to help maintain health care in the face of Trump and the Republican efforts to repeal (gut) the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka ObamaCare) and Medicaid. He was reported to have joined in conversations with Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts about ways to work with the Trump administration.ACAkeepit

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) legislation that would gut the ACA was passed in the House; now it is being negotiated in secret talks in the Senate  — and Trump’s budget proposal is threatening Medicaid.  But Gov. Scott’s name was inexplicably missing from a recent letter sent to Senate leaders this week by governors expressing concerns about affordable health coverage.

A group of Democratic and Republican governors wrote Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urging that efforts to improve the health care system be bipartisan in nature while reiterating their concerns with the House Obamacare repeal legislation, the American Health Care Act.

Democratic Governors John Bel Edwards (LA), John Hickenlooper (CO) Steve Bullock (MT) and Tom Wolf (PA) signed the letter along with three Republicans: Govs John Kasich (OH), Charlie Baker (MA) and Brian Sandoval (NV).

The Hill.com reports  the letter to Majority Leader McConnell in part says: While we certainly agree that reforms need to be made to our nation’s health care system, as Governors from both sides of the political aisle, we feel that true and lasting reforms are best approached by finding common ground in a bipartisan fashion,” the governors said.

The governors are particularly concerned about the bill’s Medicaid provisions. All of governors who signed the letter are from states that expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare, but the Republican bill in both chambers is set to end the federal funding for that expansion.

This seems like just the kind of act a simple bi-partisan effort he might have signed on to. Neighboring Massachusetts GOP Gov. Baker joined in, and Gov. Kasich, whom Scott supported for President, also signed the letter to Senator McConnell.

Maybe signing on to the multi-state Climate Change Alliance (under pressure) fulfilled his monthly quota for bi-partisanship. But he’s a busy man meeting a host of challenges  facing a possible state government shutdown with down-to-the-wire state budget veto negotiations  and, of course, he’s somehow finding time to race his car.

Job preservation at work in Vermont

Country Home Products named one of Vermont’s best places to work in 2017 has announced it is laying off dozens of Vermont workers. There’s a major layoff announcement in Winooski. Country Home Products informed employees this week that dozens will soon be out of a job.[…]selffeeding layoff The Vermont-born maker of outdoor power tools gave 67 employees a letter or reached out by phone, telling workers they are out of a job and when their last day will be.

In 2009 the longtime Vermont business Country HomeProducts/DR Power raised $12 million from 24 foreign investors through the EB-5 investment-for-visas program. The $12 million was used to fund product development and market expansion. As a designated “troubled business,” the company escaped the normal EB-5 requirement to create 10 jobs and only had to preserve existing jobs.

Six years passed, and in 2015 Country Home Products, now with a market value of $2.1 billion, was sold to Generac Holdings Inc., a larger publicly traded business. Generac is headquartered in Waukesha, WI, the CEO is Aaron Jagdfeld, and the company employs 4,202 people. Jagdfeld’s overall compensation in 2016 was $3.9 million, while all executive compensation was up 6.51% the same year.

And so now the layoffs start. Country Home Products president Matt Bieber says the full-time, part-time and seasonal layoffs are in addition to the complete closure of their Winooski assembly plant. [Emphasis added.]

Kind of raises a few questions about what “job preservation” in Vermont actually means. And whose job and for how long was it supposed to be preserved?

I am sure we will be told there isn’t much the State can do other than speedily provide unemployment benefits and perhaps job counseling.  Although Governor Scott offers this: “Any job loss in the state of Vermont is concerning,” His suggestion that, “It reinforces that we have to watch every dollar. We have to make Vermont more affordable,” might ring kind of hollow to those now out a good job. No prescriptions available for this malady from the Gov., just take two ‘affordables’ and call me in the morning.

The budget is bigger than one political sparring point

No sooner have we cautiously congratulated Gov.Phil Scott for stepping up to the plate on Climate Change, than we have to call him out on the budget veto.

As Lauren Hierl of Vermont Conservation Voters points out that the budget is not all about teachers’ health insurance:

“The Vermont budget funds numerous programs that support safe drinking water, clean air, healthy communities, a thriving outdoor tourism economy, and so much more. We can’t afford to play political games with funding for these vital programs, and that’s why we’re calling on Governor Scott to sign the budget,” said Lauren Hierl, political director for Vermont Conservation Voters.

With environmental protection so jeopardized under the Trump administration, any delay by the state in continued support for its many responsible initiatives threatens our future.

Despite all the squabbling over teachers’ healthcare, the Legislature has met its obligation to put forth a budget for the entire basket of statewide operating costs. It is now up to the Governor to set politics aside and sign it.

As John Walters notes in Seven Days, even though Governor Scott went ahead and vetoed both the budget bill and the property tax bill in a single sweep, the state Constitution requires that each bill be addressed separately.

The upshot is that Governor Scott has a chance to reconsider the political heavy-handedness of his veto; so we ask him to reconsider the greater good of the state as a whole and sign the budget.

Updated: Climate change and a couple of the GOP’s “muted barbs”

[Update:  Good! After it became evident there would be some nudging in the Vermont Legislature by State Sen. Chris Pearson (P/D-Chittenden) Governor Scott has agreed to join a group formed by  New York, California and Washington, calling itself  the U.S. Climate Alliance. This effort is meant to achieve the Paris agreement’s goals of reducing carbon emissions despite of President Trump’s exit from the international accord.]

Now that President Trump has decided the U.S.A. should join Syria and Nicaragua as the only other countries not supporting the Paris agreement setting goals to slow climate change, a significantly heavier burden now falls on state governments to address climate change. Believe it or not at Trump’s festive Rose Garden announcement “ceremony” a jazz band played ‘Summertime.’

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Should we worry here in Vermont? Well, less than year ago Governor Scott’s beliefs on climate change were vague enough that they reportedly might still be “evolving,” and his resistance to wind power is well known.

However, nice man that he is, he makes an occasional symbolic gesture in support of addressing climate change. This May, in response to fears that Trump might exit the Paris agreement, Scott and Massachusetts fellow Republican  Governor Charlie Baker sent a letter to Trump’s Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry. Their letter made no specific demands and only called for the federal government to “continue national leadership” in its efforts to address climate change by meeting goals in reducing greenhouse gases. No doubt the former governor from the oil state of Texas was deeply impressed by the effort, and  if he remembered  might have even passed it along to the President.

In practical terms Governor Scott announced yesterday that Attorney Anthony Roisman was his pick for leading the Public Service Board. The PSB sets public utility rates, oversees service quality, and decides on siting Vermont’s energy infrastructure including wind and solar power. Roisman shares Scott’s aversion to wind power. Seven Days reports he represented plaintiffs opposed to wind power here in Vermont. He has also litigated against nuclear power plant operators, and in the 1980’s he represented a group of families harmed by toxic industrial waste. Most recently he was instrumental in killing a proposed  60-megawatt solar array power project in Maryland.

Yesterday, after Trump’s announcement, Scientific American reported some reaction at the state level in the wake of Trump’s decision. Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington reiterated his support of a carbon tax in his state. And Gov. Jerry Brown (D) of California is headed to China next week to take part in high level meetings on climate change and clean energy. The California legislature recently voted to receive all its energy from renewable and zero-carbon sources by 2045.

Republicans, Scientific American notes, “were far more muted in their barbs.” Scott’s Massachusetts letter-writing partner Gov. Baker said Trump’s action was “disappointing and counterproductive.” And what do we hear from the Green Mountain State?   A spokeswoman for Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R), who recently penned a letter with Baker calling on Trump to stay in the Paris accord, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Now, that’s about as “muted barb” as you can find.

To say the least, it seems “moderate” GOP governors like Baker and Scott are unlikely to join the likes of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) or Gov. Jerry Brown (D) of California. But, hey, they write letters to Rick Perry.

Gov. Scott picks former ALEC chair for Green Mountain Care Board head

The Governor’s veto of the marijuana bill on Wednesday today may suck all the air out of Vermont newsrooms for the next day or so but he quietly made a couple appointments that will likely have as big an impact on the state.Scottkevinalec 2

Scott appointed state Senator Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland) to chair the Green Mountain Care Board and Maureen Usifer to the board. The legislature created  the independent GMCB in 2011. Its responsibilities include health insurance rates, hospital budgets, and major capital expenditures.

“Healthcare makes up approximately 20 percent of our economy, so it is critical to have strong, experienced leaders on this Board. Kevin is a proven leader with decades of business, management and public service experience, which he will bring to bear in this important leadership role. And, as an experienced chief financial officer and board director for respected companies, Maureen’s expertise in finance, management and oversight will be incredibly valuable to the Board and Vermonters,” said Scott in a press release [added emphasis]

So who is Senator Mullin, Scott’s choice to chair the Green Mountain Care Board? What kind of Republican is he? And what do we know about his view on the role of government in say, healthcare? Well, Mullin does have a long resume at the State House. He served as State Rep. from Rutland for four years, was appointed to the Senate in 2003, and won re-election to the seat ever since. He is currently chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs and sits on the Senate Committee on Education.

Senator Mullin served two separate times as Vermont state chair of one of the Koch Brothers’ many organizations, The American Legislative Exchange Council. A national franchise, ALEC supports right-wing state legislators with model legislation favorable to its corporate members. According to sourcewatch.org: ALEC’s agenda extends into almost all areas of law. Its bills undermine environmental regulations and deny climate change; support school privatization; undercut health care reform; defund unions and limit their political influence; restrain legislatures’ abilities to raise revenue through taxes; mandate strict election laws that disenfranchise voters; increase incarceration to benefit the private prison industry, among many other issues.

Mullin did not support Trump in last year’s GOP presidential primary. He sort of sat on his hands preferring John Kasich but when rumors that speaker Paul Ryan might jump in the race Mullin said he’d support him. Paul Ryan never ran but he is now champion of the GOP’s despicable American Health Care Act, which the CBO says would leave 23 million Americans uninsured by 2026 if it replaces the ACA (Obamacare) in its current form.

Ryan favors making millions of Americans uninsured, and ALEC wants to undermine regulations. I wonder which part of Mullin’s two favorite leadership models Governor Scott wants him to bring to bear on the Green Mountain Care Board Speaker Ryan’s health care lies, the Koch Brothers’ anti-government corporate-fueled juggernaut or both.

Either way, stock up on Band-Aids, since that’s all the healthcare many of us will be able to afford under Mullin and TrumpDon’tCare.

 

GOP governors fit that image

As you can see from the actual Google news screen shot (not photo-shopped) it’s  easy to confuse one Republican governor’s image and policy for another.

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Now, former Vermont Governor Jim Douglas never had to decide whether to sign marijuana legislation. But he did wield threats of a budget veto similar to what Governor Phil Scott is now doing attempting to bend the Democratic majority legislature to his agenda. Some key people now members of Scott’s staff were part of Douglas’ administration eight years ago

In June 2009, Republican Governor Jim Douglas carried out his threat and issued an historic  2,000-word veto message, becoming the first Vermont governor to veto the state budget. He had hoped to draw a line in the sand, but although the move made history it was quickly blown away when the solid Democratic House and Senate majorities overrode his veto.

Fast forward to now. Like Douglas, Governor Scott has threatened a budget veto. He has targeted any budget the legislature sends him not including a requirement for teachers to pay 20% of their health care premiums. Since the Democratic majorities are not as large as in 2009, an override is not guaranteeddriving them into negotiations on Scott’s key demand. Where Douglas’ veto leverage failed, Scott may succeed getting part of his agenda implemented.

As talks on a negotiated deal began and details took form, the teachers’ union begged to differ: Martha Allen, the Vermont NEA president and a librarian at a school in Canaan, said the Scott administration’s “assault on collective bargaining is straight out of the Donald Trump and Scott Walker anti-union playbook.”

Over-stated? Well, the threats are real. It is worth recalling the $3 million in campaign support Phil Scott enjoyed getting from the Republican Governors Association. The union-busting Koch Brothers were the largest contributors to the RGA in 2016. according to opensecrets.org. And in the last election cycle as in the one beforethe Republican State Leadership Council (another Koch Brother project) helped the Vermont GOP by targeting a half-dozen Democratic legislators for defeat.

Sure Google algorithims mix up their images one GOP governor is pretty much just like another, eh? and with great gobs of funds from Koch Brothers organizations behind them all, is it any wonder the playbook and goals are similar? After all, Wisconsinonce progressive, “blue” and heavily unionized and the birthplace of public sector unionsis now in the bottom third of states for unionized workforce.

Given time and small steps and removing teachers’ health care from the collective bargaining process is exactly one of those “small” steps I am not so sure that Trump/Walker anti-worker laws could never happen here in blue Vermont.

Gov. Scott: Calling FairPoint for Department of Human Resources Commissioner

It is fair to say Governor Phil Scott often makes the point that state government should be managed like a business. So it’s hardly surprising Scott announced that FairPoint Communication executive Beth Fastiggi will be his Department of Human Resources Commissioner.  Fastiggi held a number of posts at FairPoint Communications in her 30-year career there.philsonaphone4

I wonder though — considering some of FairPoint’s history in Vermont  Scott might have been tempted to make this announcement on a Friday — late in the day Friday.

FairPoint, which took over Verizon’s land line business in Vermont, has reached out and touched most Vermonters over the years and not in a good way. Here, and for that matter in all of New England, the company has a long history of poor quality service, bankruptcy, and troubled labor relations. At certain key moments it seems Vermont has been there with helping hand$.

In recent years a variety hefty fines for consistently poor quality of service were imposed by the State of Vermont Public Service on FairPoint. And then, the VPSB waived millions of dollars in accumulated poor service related penalties for the company. The agreement, part of a restructuring plan, allowed $7 million in assessed unpaid penalties to be redirected by FairPoint for statewide broadband build-out.

The relationship between FairPoint and its union employees has been marked by mistrust. For 131 days from October 2014 to February 2015 almost 2,000 FairPoint union employees were on strike over newly imposed rounds of wage and benefit cuts.

Shortly after the strike began, and despite ongoing issues surrounding quality of service, Vermont awarded FairPoint a lucrative contract to manage Vermont’s 911 emergency communications service. Who ever would have guessed that outages and problems would now be plaguing the emergency 911 system?

In the DHS appointment press release Governor Scott says: “Beth is a highly respected business leader who will be a great asset and public servant for the state.”

So let’s see then, FairPoint Comunications squeezed concessions out of union members, provided poor service, got concessions on state-imposed fines and landed a valuable state 911 contract while in bankruptcy  in the middle of a labor strike .

So how does that management skill set connect to the Department of Human Resources Phil? Not too results oriented, eh?

Gov. Sununu carries water for EPA’s Scott Pruitt

Vermont better keep an eye on this if only because we “share” the Connecticut River and for that matter a planet, with New Hampshire. It appears that state’s new Republican Governor Chris Sununu wants a little jump start on polluting his state waterways and may want to take a time out from his ongoing voter suppression campaign.waterdownhill

To those ends Sununu sent a letter inviting to New England Scott “big oil BFF” Pruitt, the new head of the US Environmental Protection Agency,  to explore loosening “burdensome” regulations governing storm water rules. His letter references a program that requires towns that collect and dispose of storm water to get a special permit. Such disposal can pass pollutants into water systems.  Do you suppose Sununu cc’d his invite on this one to his fellow New England Republican Governors, his  buddies Phil Scott and Charlie Baker?

Pruitt, the new head of the US EPA might enjoy a diversion after he came under fire last week for comments openly questioning accepted facts about climate change science. By the end of week the EPA’s telephone voice messaging system was overwhelmed with a massive number of calls.

Governor Sununu will always enjoy discussing tearing up a few clean water regulations and Pruitt will get a nice friendly regional platform to spew Trump’s anti-regulation initiatives.

But no worries: Sununu claims that, as if by magic “if these federal mandates disappeared tomorrow, New Hampshire would not cease to keep our waters clean.”  He may starkly figure ‘so what’ about a polluted NH or planet: after all, we ‘live free and die.’  Besides, it all runs downhill (out of New Hampshire) doesn’t it, Governor?