This commentary is by Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont GOP.
There are three things that I see fundamentally separate Vermont Republicans from the Progressive Democrat alliance that currently controls the Legislature: affordability, accountability and flexibility. Progressive Democrats have a lot of different priorities, even some that come into conflict with each other, but at the heart of every Republican I know are these three simple rules that government ought to live by.
Every bill that Republican legislators look at, one of the first questions they are asking themselves, and those who propose it is, “What does it cost?” or “Can we afford it?” Since many of our Republican legislators work in the private sector, or even own their own business, their daily life outside the “Golden Bubble” is often characterized by a frequent denial of things they would like — to ensure that they have everything they need. We have to make the best of the limited resources we have in our daily lives, and as Republicans we bring that through process to our work in the Legislature as well. The question is never truly whether or not the State’s Government can afford it — the question is always whether or not the taxpayers can afford it. The government doesn’t have its own money — it can only take from the taxpayers. At the end of the day, they are always the ones who pay, sometimes by paying higher taxes, and sometimes by paying higher costs for the policies the government has implemented. Affordability doesn’t always mean being cheap. Sometimes affordability means having some insurance — because a catastrophe is even more unaffordable than a modest premium to share the risk. In 10 years I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Democrat-sponsored piece of legislation come out of Montpelier that demonstrated they have shared this concern.
The second question that usually comes up is “Who will be responsible?” As I mentioned in an earlier Monday Message, we have had a pandemic of outsourcing legislative decision-making. I cannot stress how dangerous this is. I understand that Progressive Democrats in Montpelier want to advance policies that would not otherwise be popular, so they resort to creating untouchable boards who are insulted from democracy and who make policy that very few see or know of, and almost no one will change. While they intend to “protect” themselves from political or partisan influence, what they also do is shield themselves from accountability. Ironically enough, former Democratic Governor Howard Dean recently retweeted a video of Justice Souter talking about the fundamental breakdowns in society when problems are not addressed and people don’t know who is responsible. And yet it is his own party that continues to add new layers of government that make it harder and harder to find the person who is responsible. Both parties have done this in Washington as well, constantly delegating their power and decision making to unknown administrators. Republicans want to see decisions made by the people who elected them. So if they don’t work out, they know who is responsible and can demand more of them.
The third question that Republicans usually ask is, “Will this work for everybody?” While Democrats claim to care about diversity, many of their policies are one-size-fits-all over-simplifications that seem to shoehorn the entire population into one way of thinking, one way of acting, one acceptable way of being. Republicans overwhelmingly want to give people the freedom and the flexibility to do what is right for them and their family. That means creating opportunities for Vermonters who don’t fit the mold (and seriously, how many Vermonters fit ANY mold?) Not every Vermonter wants to improve the environment by committing to live in an urban apartment and take public transportation while restricting their diet and mandating certain health care choices. Some just want to grow more trees, and drive a Dodge Ram down their road to clean up the neighborhood on Green Up Day. Vermonters all need something different in their family life, in their education, in their community involvement, in their job opportunities. While Democrats seems to intentionally pit one group against another (poor against the rich) Republicans want policies that everybody (not just Democrats) can agree on.
Republicans are all going to apply those principles a little differently, depending on where they are from and who they represent. But at our core we want our state’s government to better care for the people. We need it to become more affordable for the people, more accountable to the people, and more flexible with the people who are here, and may come to our great state in the years ahead.