MONTPELIER, Vt. – On Friday, Governor Phil Scott delivered the traditional adjournment address to both chambers of the Vermont Legislature, commemorating the close of 2019-2020 legislative biennium.
A transcript of Governor Scott’s remarks, as delivered to the House, is included below.
Madam Speaker, Representative Krowinski, Representative McCoy, Representative Chestnut-Tangerman and members of the House.
On January 7, you returned to session with a mixture of hope and excitement, to do the work of government – to solve problems and help people. I remember that well from my years in the Legislature.
In my State of the State Address, I asked you to join me in rising above partisanship, rejecting polarization and working toward something bigger than ourselves.
At the time, our nation was in desperate need of leaders who put compromise ahead of conflict and progress ahead of partisanship. A unified commitment to civility and respect over partisan politics, knowing it is the best way to lead our nation forward and be role models for the rest of the country.
It’s hard to explain – but I know you understand – how distant that day feels from today. None of us could have ever imagined what was about to happen.
When I reflect on the incredible challenges we have faced and the way we’ve gone about our work through historic times and unprecedented circumstances, we’ve shown the nation the way forward.
No one who runs for office wants to confront a once-in-a-century, global health crisis that threatens the lives and livelihood of those they serve. But history tells us that we must be prepared. And in February, it became clear COVID-19 would require us to put our best foot forward.
By March 7, we knew the virus had reached Vermont. Less than a week later, I declared a State of Emergency and legislative leaders suspended the session. And on March 19, we lost the first two Vermonters to the pandemic. Shortly after that we also lost former Representative Bernie Juskiewicz.
These are moments we will all remember.
I spent a considerable amount of time in your shoes as a senator from Washington County. I am proud of my time in the Senate. I’m proud of the Legislature and what it means to our state. And I was very proud of the way both the House and the Senate regrouped, reorganized and found a way to conduct the work of the people, outside the walls of the State House.
Having had to navigate this new virtual world myself, I know how difficult that transition was and continues to be. And I know how much everyone missed being together. It just was not the same, working remotely.
But it was necessary to make sure our government continued to operate, to keep each other safe, and it needed to happen quickly.
I am also grateful that each of you stepped up to share information with your constituents and communities. This came at a critical time in the emergency when misinformation was just as prevalent as the real facts, and when the right information was vital to slowing the spread of the virus and saving lives.
Those first few weeks were critical in ensuring our response to COVID-19 was as strong as it could be. Your support and leadership in your districts helped set us on the right path and it helped save lives. All we have to do is look to other states, which lacked the type of cooperation needed in an emergency, to see what our fate could have been if we hadn’t worked together.
Meanwhile, we also passed a balanced budget without raising new taxes. And we funded nearly $230 million in economic recovery grants to struggling employers; over $30 million in grants to support our farmers; over $100 million to support our school system; and $300 million to stabilize our healthcare system as it mobilized to increase capacity on the front lines of the pandemic.
We also started the process to create a universal afterschool program to ensure our kids get the support they need, no matter where they live; we modernized professional licensing to make it easier for professionals to relocate to Vermont; funded the completion of important projects; expanded the work of mental health and social workers in our Vermont State Police barracks; and so much more.
And only in a small number of cases, from my perspective, did we see election year partisanship make an appearance. But, all things considered, I think we can chalk that up to bad habits being hard to break and the unnecessary influence of national politics.
The accomplishments of the 2020 legislative session stand on their own. But the reality is they are also defined by the circumstances under which they were achieved.
I’ve said, and I believe, that our nation and our state are best served by those willing to work together, guided by shared principles, to find common ground. This is one of the lessons of COVID-19.
It’s my hope the spirit of public service that’s led us through the difficult days of this emergency will remain with us long after our lives have returned to normal, and that this unity continues to fill the halls of the State House when we come together – in person – once again.
Thank you all for your work.
And remember: Wear a mask. Avoid crowds. Stay home when sick. And wash your hands a lot.
Spread the word. Not the virus.