Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deb Billado, chairwoman of the Vermont GOP.
The Cares Act established the $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund and made payments from that fund — some of which, based on population, went to the states, of which Vermont received $1.2 billion. The law requires the funds “only be used to cover expenses that are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).”
Gov. Phil Scott put forth a proposal to help businesses and farms continue to operate until they could recover from the shutdown effects of the virus. He said that “if we don’t protect the businesses now and protect those jobs that are associated with those businesses, then a year or two from now we’ll be suffering.”
Yet, while there is no authority for Vermont to use the funds for other purposes, the Democrat leadership of the House wishes to hold up appropriating some of the sorely needed funds in the hope that the federal government might change the rules and will allow Vermont to use some of those federal funds to deal with the fiscal year 2021 budget impact that as of June 8 was expected to be a $332 million shortfall. Democrat Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson said “she doesn’t want to spend all of the Covid-19 dollars at once,” and said she “wants to have the flexibility to set hundreds of millions of the federal funds aside in the event that the federal government gives states the ability to use the money to fill holes in the state budget.”
This self-centered approach by the Democrat/Progressives is in stark contrast to the VTGOP, whichsays “Vermonters, this Money is for you, not legislators.”
Simply put, the Grand Old Party really cares for you, but the liberal left, not so much. And how they use the “Cares” funds clearly shows that for all to see. These funds are intended to help businesses and farmers survive, but Democrats are willing to ignore that and to use the money instead to fix a state financial system that these unaccountable lawmakers broke with their out-of-control spending habits of the past and their desire to continue with more of the same in the future. Vermont farmers are hurting even more now than before Covid-19, and in May alone, 14 dairy farmers went out of business. The Democrats, so they can pursue their misguided folly, want a watered-down relief package that cuts the aid to farmers by 40 percent, or $20 million of relief help that was expected and so needed.
There is even talk that the Legislature wants to recess in July and come back in August to deal with other of their priorities that will hurt Vermont taxpayers even more. How can they have such nerve to even suggest that Vermont pass climate control legislation that will have little or no positive effect on the environment but will only impoverish many more rural Vermonters? Being so strapped for money, how can they even think of funding the establishment of a cannabis control board to the tune of $2 million to $3 million over a three-year period with no expectation of revenue from sales to pay for it? Even Speaker Johnson has concerns “about setting up a new regulated marketplace at a time when the government is already extended because of Covid-19.”
She went onto say that the new body, the Cannabis Control Board, that would be formed to regulate the market would cost “about $1 million per year,” and noted that “setting up a legal pot market would require temporary deficit spending at a time when the state is already facing wide budget gaps.”
Shame on them then for even considering this at this time of tremendous health and economic stress.
The Democrats have no problem with the thought of robbing the survival fund presented to Vermont so they can pay for the pension funding crisis they created and other failed policies. They must get their house in order by cutting spending and governing from a fiscally responsible posture.
A message must be sent loud and clear to the liberal left: Stop your reckless spending and do what is right to help the people. There are many ways to let them know you are watching them. Call or email them, and better yet, vote Republican in November and eliminate the problem once and for all. We have suffered a lot at their hands, but the very reputation Vermont is famous for, its healthy wholesome products, is in danger of extinction if we do not act soon and responsibly.