Editor’s note: This commentary is by Deb Billado, chairwoman of the Vermont GOP.
There was a time in Vermont history when all state offices as well as the Legislature and judiciary were controlled by Republicans. Not that things were perfect then, but with a steadfast attitude that they were answerable to the people, these dedicated public servants kept government big enough to do the important things that only government can and should do, while keeping it small enough not to get in the way of the citizens exercising their God-given rights to live in a free society to raise families and build communities. To maintain the trust of the people, government stayed close and accountable to its citizens in an atmosphere of transparency.
Since the Democrats and Progressives have captured control over the direction government goes, they have imprinted on its actions their misguided belief that only they know what was right for its citizens. They created many boards or commissions, which in an ideal world would provide for a closer tie to the voters, allowing citizens to have input into their government. But in fact, they have created a huge bureaucracy, unaccountable to the people and lacking in transparency. The monster has gotten so big that the state of Vermont was unable to keep accurate count of all the boards or commissions that have been created. Not only that, even when some of them ceased to be needed, the legislature, much like a hoarder, did nothing to get rid of even those that cluttered the government, unnecessarily creating cost and inefficiency.
There is no question that some commissions serve a good purpose and allow some citizens to participate in their government. Even so, there are too many of them that don’t do much, are redundant, or have outlived their purpose. Even on the other side of the coin, some of these do too much, are abusive, and cause harm to the citizens they are supposed to be helping.
The Legislature has created a new board to be known as the Sunset Advisory Board to evaluate the other boards and to make recommendations regarding their continuation. I think I know what you’re thinking, but it’s the bureaucratic way. While providing some hope, I would not get too eager to see the numbers reduced dramatically since some of the board’s members are the ones who created many of these boards in the first place. We can always hope that they will do the right thing for Vermonters and will recommend decommissioning the unneeded boards and those that have done more harm than good.
One such undeserving board being considered by the Sunset Advisory Board for elimination is Vermont’s State Board of Education (SBE), and rightfully so. The SBE has used its large budget to assault local control of towns over their schools by using unreasonable mandates for independent schools, undermining the 150-year-old school choice system, and closing school districts in their attempt to shore up a failing public school system that is losing students, and which for many no longer provides the quality education these people want for their children. The state can do quite well without such wrongful interference, thank you!
Republicans know there is more work to do. Any new boards created should have expiration dates and some others, for example, Gov. Peter Shumlin’s Green Mountain Care Board, should get scrutiny for possible elimination. This will be a long process to dismantle the massive, expensive bureaucracy constructed by the Democrats and Progressives, but we can in earnest start the process by electing more Republicans to state and local offices in 2020, enlarge the presence of Republicans in the House and Senate, and support those who advocate for smaller more responsive government — one that is once again transparent and accountable to the people.