Governor Shumlin Continues Economic Denial as Working Families Struggle to Make Ends Meet

Montpelier, VT – Vermont’s working families, young people, senior citizens and small businesses are feeling the pinch of Vermont’s stagnant economy.  

State budgets that increase at twice the rate of Vermonters’ paychecks, out-of-balance energy policies that cause household electricity costs to increase and property taxes that are out of control all add to the difficulty working Vermonters have just making ends meet.

Making things worse, over the past several months we have seen hundreds of good jobs evaporate or move out of state – Plasan Composites in Bennington County, Kennemetal in Caledonia County, Energizer Battery in Franklin County, and hundreds more at IBM in Chittenden County.  Add to that a state workforce that has declined by over 8,000 workers in the four years that Governor Shumlin has been in office and it is obvious that our economy is struggling.

The slowdown in our economic engine was further evidenced last week when state economists revised downward our state’s projected revenue for the current fiscal year by $31 million dollars.  Revenues from personal income taxes and sales and use taxes saw the biggest shortfalls.  These are ominous signs that Vermont’s economic engine is misfiring, yet there is still no plan for economic improvement from Governor Shumlin or the lopsided Democrat supermajority in the legislature.

According to Governor Shumlin there is no problem with the economy.  In a videotaped interview by FOX44 on Thursday, Governor Shumlin — reacting to the revenue shortfall — continued his denial of any economic trouble, saying “Cheer up, we’re growing, our economy is in good shape.” (David Hodges, Vermont Tax Revenues Down from Projections, Cuts Needed - minute 1:04, myChamplainValley.com, July 24, 2014).

The hundreds of thousands of Vermonters who have seen their cost of living go up and their standard of living go down, the thousands who are now underemployed and working multiple part time jobs to make ends meet, the hundreds more who have lost their good jobs completely, and all working families who are having to work harder and keep less of their own pay would disagree with Governor Shumlin that all is well.

Vermont Republicans are listening to Vermonters and we hear their deep concerns for our state’s economic future.  

An objective review of the data proves their concerns are real — jobs are being lost, our workforce is shrinking, our cost of living is rising — and the Shumlin administration and the Democrat Legislature are failing to address the needs of working families.

With the support of Vermont voters in November, Vermont Republicans will make growing the economy, creating jobs and making Vermont more affordable the top priorities in Montpelier.  We will lead the effort to identify and remove the hurdles that prevent the growth of good jobs in our state.  We will promote policies that reduce the tax burden  – including the property tax burden — on working families.  And we will work alongside existing employers to assure they are able to thrive, not just survive.

The impetus to change comes first from the realization that there is a problem to solve.  Denial of our state’s fiscal crisis by the political elite in Montpelier — including Governor Shumlin and the Democrat supermajority in the legislature — assures that struggling Vermonters will continue to be trapped in the same crisis of affordability that has engulfed them over the past four years.  

Vermont Republicans are listening and we are ready to lead our state in a new, more hopeful and more prosperous direction.

It’s time for a change.

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By Bruce Parker | Vermont Watchdog

Last week’s Netroots Nation gathering was billed as a “giant family reunion for the left.” The familial atmosphere generated by the progressive activists included one state network leader’s directive to “take down” conservative state policy networks nationwide.

Arshad Hasan, who moderated a break-out session called “Stink Tanks in Your State: Inside the State Policy Network,” called on attendees to attack state policy groups from Michigan’s Mackinac Center to Vermont’s own Ethan Allen Institute.

“The next step for us is to take down this network of institutions that are state-based in each and every one of our states,” Hasan said.

“Your Heartland Institute, your Mackinac Institute and my state’s Ethan Allen Institute, although they are ultra-conservative and lead us to a set of policies that would not be passed in a state as liberal as Vermont, pitch themselves as third-party validators — ‘Hey, we’re just here for research, and we want to help you figure out the best public policy.’”

Hasan, whose ProgressNow organization oversees left wing state advocacy groups in 22 states, seeks a network of policy groups that promote progressive ideas and causes. While Hasan railed against the money donated to conservative groups, the combined annual contributions to ProgressNow’s 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) units in 2012 totaled a remarkable $3,660,155.

The cardinal sin of state policy groups like Mackinac Center and the Ethan Allen Institute, as gleaned from Hasan’s comments, appears to be that they are effective. Hasan, an activist living in Vermont, was especially impressed with the Ethan Allen Institute.

“It’s two-to-one Democratic in (Vermont’s) state Legislature … yet because we have to deal with the Ethan Allen Institute — a member of SPN (State Policy Network) — we can’t achieve our policy objectives as progressives, because they do an excellent job,” he said.

“So the state that elects a socialist for U.S. senator cannot get paid sick leave passed. The state that believes ‘Hey, we all have an obligation to each other, including in our health care, can’t pass a tax on soda.”

Hasan leveled a similar charge of effectiveness against Michigan’s Mackinac Center.

“The Mackinac Institute is not some small group of kooks who’ve come up with this right-wing set of theories. They are a powerful, unfortunately well-respected group of policy writers and lobbyists who’ve radically changed this formerly bright blue, formerly very wealthy, formerly Democratic state into this sci-fi dystopia.”

Dan Armstrong, marketing and communications team leader at the Mackinac Center, told Vermont Watchdog he was pleased by his group’s notoriety at this year’s Netroots Nation.

“We’re flattered that we were so prominent in a presentation where they see defenders of liberty as a threat to their objectives. It speaks to our effectiveness of being able to influence public policy toward freedom rather than toward force or compulsion,” he said.

When asked which Mackinac-endorsed policies rankle Hasan and other progressives, Armstrong cited school choice, an increasingly popular system in many states that allows parents to choose their kids’ schools, whether a public school, a charter school, a private school or a home school.

“(Progressives) like the protection of keeping people in the same cookie-cutter system that doesn’t thrive on choice and options and freedom. We believe the dollars should follow the students,” he said.

Armstrong cited right to work as another policy that upsets progressives.

“All right to work does is make sure you cannot be fired for not financially supporting a labor union. …Before right to work (was law in Michigan), probably the fastest way to be fired as a public school teacher or other person represented by a union was to not pay union dues.”

“Nowadays it’s not a requirement to pay dues as a condition of employment. (But) people who don’t like freedom go after that because they enjoyed that monopoly privilege — that they could force people to pay them.”

Hasan’s call to take down state policy groups nationwide is no idle threat. Netroots attracts and thousands of activists each year and spawns dozens of nonprofit advocacy groups. Moreover, left-wing activists have demonstrated their organizing muscle in targeting the king of the state policy groups, the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

Rob Roper, president of the Ethan Allen Institute, told Vermont Watchdog that his group is taking note of Hasan’s agenda.

“If you listen to the presentation, the way they (presently) go after ALEC is the model that they want to use against the State Policy Network,” he said.

“They don’t want to engage on the issues, and they don’t want to have an honest dialogue. It’s pretty infantile to have a temper tantrum that basically says if we can’t beat you we’re going to take you down.”

When asked if the Ethan Allen Institute had been a target of coordinated political attacks in the past, he replied, “We’ve had people call us our share of names, but I’ve never seen anybody be this hostile to say that you don’t have a right to exist.”

Armstrong said Hasan’s organization is bent on censorship.

“They want to silence us. They do not want to take us on in a debate of reasonable arguments. So the technique is to simply try to silence and discredit, and to try to get other people to not listen to our message or research and analysis.”

Asked if Hasan’s goal to take down state policy groups implied legal threats or intimidation, Armstrong replied, “I don’t know how they would come against us legally, but I don’t think they would rule it out.”

Contact Bruce Parker at bparker@watchdog.org

Bruce Parker is a reporter for Watchdog.org. Prior to joining the organization he was a writer for a leading business publisher. His articles and case studies have appeared in books and publications by Thomson, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Civic Leadership Center. His work has also been featured at The Daily Caller, FoxNews.com, WND, CitySearch, Human Events, The Daily Signal and Catholic Exchange.

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Vermont GOP STATEMENT REGARDING CONTINUED VERMONT HEALTH CONNECT LEADERSHIP SHORTCOMINGS

July 27, 2014

Press Release Shumlin Administration’s Solution to Failed Exchange: Spend More Taxpayer Dollars Montpelier, VT – Vermont Republicans believe in a health care system that makes affordable insurance and care available to every Vermonter, improves quality and keeps health care decisions in the hands of patients and their doctors. Other the other hand, the Shumlin administration […]

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Vermont forced to make surprise budget cuts after revenue downgrade

July 27, 2014

By Bruce Parker | Vermont Watchdog MONTPELIER, Vt. — Gov. Peter Shumlin and Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding on Thursday said they have begun recommending emergency cuts to Vermont’s 2015 budget after sagging fiscal year 2014 revenue forced a downgrade in the state’s financial outlook. “As you know, it’s up to the administration and governor […]

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Doctors: Health care monopoly driving them out of business

July 24, 2014

By Bruce Parker | Vermont Watchdog Single-payer advocates promise high-quality low-cost health care for all. But physicians in Vermont say the state’s move towards a single-payer health care system is driving independent doctors out of business and eliminating patient choice. “The health systems have caused it to be nearly impossible from a financial standpoint to […]

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Vermont GOP STATEMENT REGARDING JUNE 2014 UNEMPLOYMENT DATA

July 22, 2014

Press Release Vermont’s Economy Remains Stagnant; More Vermonters Become Unemployed; Many Underemployed Montpelier, VT – The state unemployment and labor force data for June 2014 was released by the Vermont Department of Labor Monday. These latest measurements of our state’s economy, job opportunities and workforce once again show that Vermont’s economy remains stagnant, the prospects […]

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MoveOn.org doubles VT’s anti-GMO legal defense fund

July 17, 2014

By Bruce Parker | Vermont Watchdog A legal defense fund created to defend Vermont’s anti-GMO labeling law got a boost this week after liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org made a massive deposit, more than doubling the fund’s account balance. “It’s a $53,000 donation that we got from an organization called MoveOn.org,” Sarah Clark, deputy commissioner of […]

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Former VT deputy secretary of administration: State’s economy ‘stagnant’

July 15, 2014

By Bruce Parker | Vermont Watchdog MONTPELIER, Vt. — While leaders of the Gov. Peter Shumlin administration continue to talk of economic recovery, Vermont’s former deputy secretary of administration says 2014 annual revenue shows the state’s economy has become “stagnant.” “They’re slapping a smiley face on near stagnant year-over-year revenue growth,” Tom Pelham said of […]

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VERMONT REPUBLICANS RESPOND TO DEMOCRATS’ DENIAL OF STATE’S ECONOMIC CRISIS

July 10, 2014

Press Release Vermont’s Political Elite Ignore the Struggles of Working Vermonters Montpelier, VT – In a statement released on Tuesday, Vermont Republicans pledged that with the support of voters in November, they would propose and pass legislation that “… focused on supporting small businesses, creating more and better paying Vermont jobs, making Vermont more affordable, […]

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City-owned telecom drains VT taxpayers of millions, bails on access pledge

July 10, 2014

By Bruce Parker | Vermont Watchdog BURLINGTON, Vt. —  A city-owned telecommunications provider sounded like a good idea a decade ago. But as Burlington Telecom seeks to settle a $33 million debt with Citibank, the taxpayers of Burlington are wondering where the city’s money went. Some are wondering if they’ll ever get service. “Our biggest […]

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