Joe Gervais: Reps. Seth Bongartz and Kathleen James simply didn’t care

This commentary is by Joe Gervais, of Arlington.

In the lead up to the votes on S.5, the misleadingly named “Affordable Heat Act,” thousands of Vermonters called and wrote their senators and representatives urging them to vote “no” on a bill that will increase our costs to heat our homes. By all accounts, citizen opposition to the bill was overwhelming, and support for it minimal. Nobody wants, and many simply cannot afford, to pay taxes, fees or whatever euphemism you want to call it on top of the already high price of oil, propane, and kerosene.

Sadly, our two Manchester representatives, Kathleen James and Seth Bongartz, both Democrats, were among the 103 Democrat, Progressive and independent legislators who didn’t listen to their constituents. Despite the repeated public appeals to vote no, they voted yes. First to pass the bill, and then to override Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of the bill.

state of Vermont

Reps. Seth Bongartz, D-Manchester, and Kathleen James, D-Manchester

This is not how representative democracy should work. We elect representatives to, as the title suggests, to “represent” us, not to disregard us. Yes, there are times when controversial issues split constituencies down the middle and there are good arguments on both sides, and here we expect our representatives to apply their best judgement about which path to take. But this was not one of those times. Opposition to S.5 was nearly universal. James and Bongartz simply didn’t care.

Adding insult to injury, their justifications for thwarting the will of their constituents are based on misleading half-truths and flat-out falsehoods about the policy they put into law.

At a recent public forum and in email responses to me, Rep. James kept insisting that S.5 is “just a study.” It is not. While the bill does include a study of the impacts of the program, it also “stands up” the Clean Heat Standard program. They are not studying the program to determine if we want it or if it is even feasible or affordable. They are establishing the program – it is now fixed in law – and the “study” is being employed as a tool build the program, not to evaluate it.

The so-called “check back” provision in the law does not require a vote to determine whether or not Vermonters will have a Clean Heat Standard or not. We have it. The PUC is already advertising to fill positions authorized by the legislation. The “check back” is only a review and vote on the final rules that will govern the program. All elements of the program – the bureaucracy, the IT system, and hiring a non-governmental agency (likely Efficiency Vermont) to run the program to as much as a 12-year contract – are put in place before the check back vote occurs in 2025.

The only cost estimates for the Clean Heat Standard indicate it will add 70¢ to $4.00 to a gallon of home heating fuel. Reps. James and Bongartz insist these estimates are high, yet they offer no cost analysis of their own to refute these numbers. At the Arlington Town meeting, Rep. James said it could cost as little as 10 cents, based on an Oregon motor vehicle program, and repeated that assertion in subsequent communications. At the Arlington Town meeting, Rep Bongartz reported that the 70¢ per gallon estimate had been “widely debunked”, but he “did not know the answer” to the true cost.

In fact, Rep. Bongartz, who sits on the Energy and Environment Committee that vetted the bill never even asked a single question about how much it might cost his constituents during weeks of testimony. Not only did he not know the answer, it appears he did not want to know the answer. This is something he and all of his colleagues should have insisted upon before voting for the bill. But it is telling that both Bongartz and James voted against an amendment that would have capped the per-gallon impact at 20¢.

In an appeal to Reps. James and Bongartz for upholding the veto, I provided an analysis of why her 10¢ assertion was more likely around $2.70 a gallon. Rep. James responded: “Your calculations from Oregon are interesting! I have indeed quoted that state a few times as an example of a similar program, but S.5 has evolved in ways since Town Meeting that, at this point, make the example of other states moot.”

Not knowing the cost impacts of before voting for the bill is an act of willful negligence. Not listening to the people who elected them is an act of supreme arrogance. Responsible representation means doing the homework, being transparent with people regarding the facts, and ultimately listening to the people who elect you. This is not how James and Bongartz operate. The voters of Manchester, Arlington, Sandgate and Sunderland deserve better than this.

Image courtesy of state of Vermont

14 thoughts on “Joe Gervais: Reps. Seth Bongartz and Kathleen James simply didn’t care

  1. We will all pay the price of this bill, which I feel is ridiculous. Great way to push people out of state

  2. But the leftist commies know so much better then you peon voters what you NEED. I’m sure the voters for the socialist party of Hitler in Germany were the same mindset as the ignorant voters in Vt who keep voting these new age nazis in. Just quit your whining their saving you money after you spend all you have.

  3. Please do not forget our Chapeau wearing Senator too! He also heard from hundreds of constituents and still voted to override the governor’s veto

  4. WAKE-UP Manchester and surrounding communities, if these 2 people fail to represent the people’s wishes ? It’s TIME FOR THEM TO GO !!! WAKE UP !!!!

  5. It is time for a clean sweep of all elected officials. What happened to the voice of the people? Totally ignored. Do these reprentatives even know that Vermont is among the less desireable places to live? Lets face it one needs a hefty income to afford to live here. High cost of living, high taxes. Why was the governor proposal to eliminate taxing our Social Security ignored? Would mean a lot to those who have a difficult time in their “Golden” years . Do these representatives know what diminishing return means. That’s what many people are experiencing. Do these politicians care how their constiuents survive. Too many give away programs in this State. The recipients should earn whatever they are given. That is clearly not the case.
    I believe in helping, but there seems to be an attitude among some that “they are entitled.” Sorry when some thing is given for “Free” that’s the valuue that’s atached to it.
    Where is the pride that the older generation taught us?
    I never believe in term limits, but today I see the need for it more than ever.
    “Power tends to corrrupt and absolute power tends to correct absolutely”

  6. I will make this simple, none of those who overrode the veto listened to their constituents. Let’s hope the voters remember this next election and when they can’t afford their heating bills.

  7. A direct result of electing Marxist’s,think before you cast your ballot or pay the price.

  8. Here is another fine example of your representatives, that have no respect for their
    constituent’s wishes or concerns, all they care about is their agenda !!

    Wake up people they just don’t care, so you need to vote these inept clowns out, we
    can save the state from these cancerous politicians.

  9. One thing no one ponders….A lot of VT heating oil firms are smaller ones…Mom & Pop’s….local…small. Places like BTV have larger outfits. Mom & Pops will face a very complicated financial & regulatory squeeze. What if a big number of the local Mom & Pop dealers decide it isn’t worth it to be in the heating oil DELIVERY business (they could still stay in the oil burner maintenance side). And they quit. I would. They’ll have no problem selling their fuel oil delivery trucks, most likely to dealers in neighboring NON REGULATED States…they can also sell their fuel storage tanks…easily transported out of state on a large flatbed.. So WHO will deliver needed (mandatory in winter) heating fuel to the VT residents that are far out & rural…if the small local Mom and Pops are forced out of business by insane regulations…because it will no longer be a profitable enterprise.

    • Also, many VT poor residents depend on the STATE & FEDERAL funded LIHEAP heating oil program. Many users of it are served by local small Mom & Pops. if the smaller firms get OUT of the fuel delivery business….WHO will deliver needed (mandatory) subsidized (if not free) heating oil to LOW income, poor, Vermonters? Humm? Only solution is that the STATE could be forced to expand & set up a STATE run fuel oil DELIVERY business to deliver LIHEAP oil to the rural poor? But then the STATE will have to pay & comply for the insane regulations – that THEY mandate & put on themselves?

  10. Vermont voters on the liberal end of the spectrum seem to enjoy being treated like children and told by their elected “parents” what is good for them…yet another example of how liberalism is a mental disorder.

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