Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today issued the following statement:
“In my Inaugural Address, I asked legislators to join me to make the most of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we have as a result of historic federal funds and state surpluses. I believe we do that by revitalizing our county economic centers and their surrounding communities that have been left behind for far too long.
“Because the fact is, the real majority in the Legislature is not about political parties. It comes from the more than 100 lawmakers who represent small communities that need our help.
“Unfortunately, despite the efforts of my team and many legislators from these small towns, initiatives that would help communities and families are being sidelined and sacrificed in order to satisfy political agendas and appease special interest groups. This includes an unwillingness to modernize Act 250 so we can increase housing in rural communities; removing funding I’d proposed for much-need community infrastructure like roads, bridges and stormwater; not considering tax relief for working families; and eliminating initiatives that would create jobs in the counties that need them most.
“It seems like a good time to share the conclusion of my Inaugural Address and once again ask for legislators to work with me to put our communities and people first.
“I appreciate those legislators who are stepping up to advocate for policies that will help their constituents, like members of the tri-partisan Rural Caucus. But as the legislative session comes to an end, they – and I – need Vermonters’ help to make sure all voices are heard.”
If you agree Vermonters can’t afford higher taxes, fees and penalties, and that we should use historic federal funds and state surpluses to address the basic fundamental needs to revitalize communities, share your story and perspective by writing the Governor’s Office and contacting your legislators.
I’d like to wrap up by going back to the 14-county tour.
We stopped in Island Pond and there was a guy putting up Christmas lights at the American Legion. He stopped what he was doing and came over to talk. As he came closer, it became clear he wasn’t happy, in fact I’d say he was pretty angry, and he had a lot to say.
He went on to tell me that we – all of us here – are crushing him. That Montpelier could care less about what they did to folks like him, in places like Island Pond.
Now, I tried not to argue with him. He’s a Vermonter. I’m the Governor. And this is America. He has every right to give me a piece of his mind, and it’s my job to listen.
But what struck me – and stuck with me – is that the problems he described, and the pain they caused, are the same things I see. In a lot of ways, he was right. Despite our best intentions, his community has fallen behind.
The distance between regions, the gap in opportunity, has been growing for decades.
Springfield is a good example. Only 40 or so years ago, it was a worldwide leader in manufacturing with thousands of great jobs and the highest per capita income in the state. It’s a similar story for Barre, Bellows Falls, Bennington, St. Johnsbury, Rutland and Newport.
There are many places that – not that long ago – were economic engines for their region. But as the economy has changed and evolved, we haven’t done enough to help them adapt.
This work takes more than a bumper sticker and good intentions. Because governing is never as simple as a slogan, or the headline tries to make it.
The good news is, we can help turn these places around.
But we have to remember the decisions we make in this building have real-life consequences on people who don’t show up at fundraisers. Who don’t have the time to call, write, tweet or testify in the State House – because they are too busy working, trying to make ends meet, and raise their family.
But they still expect us to look out for them. And when we don’t, they lose faith and trust in government.
What we learned through Irene and COVID, is that when we put politics aside, when we focus on the people who need our help most, when we work together to solve problems – we can get the results that make a difference.
And I’m telling you, the challenges that people face in all these struggling communities are just as urgent as any pandemic or any flood.
If you don’t think so, talk to the members of the Rural Caucus.
Or let’s go visit the American Legion in Island Pond or the Village School in Irasburg. Or other places like Athens, Corinth, Danby, Isle La Motte, Roxbury, Sheffield, Westmore or Woodford – and many more like them, who need us to hear what they’re saying and work together to make real change.
My fellow Vermonters: these are big challenges.
But we find ourselves at a rare moment in history, with one-time money that those who came before us could only dream of, to tackle issues we have faced for decades.
This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And the only thing that could stand in its way is us.
So, let’s not squander it.
This year, we can shorten the distance between reality and opportunity; give every community the chance to catch up; to act on a vision for their future and help them see it through; to attract new people and new jobs; put more kids in their schools; restore their downtowns; reclaim their character; and renew their identity.
In this moment, we have a chance to transform what is into what can be; and the only way we can do it is together.