Scott offers hints at policy direction in second inaugural address

Michael Bielawski/TNR

SECOND TIME AROUND: Vermont Gov. Phil Scott shakes hands in the House chamber as he prepares to give his second inaugural address.

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott on Thursday delivered his second inaugural address, calling for bipartisan cooperation and listing priorities ranging from clean water funding and a reform of Act 250 to statewide testing of lead in schools.

The atmosphere of this year’s inaugural address differed from previous speeches at the open of the prior two sessions. The new reality is that the governor no longer has dependable veto power, as liberals hold supermajorities in both the House and Senate.

At the start of his speech, Scott addressed the hostile tone of political discourse taking place across the nation and in Vermont.

“Each time [we begin a session], we’ve gone about our work against the backdrop of a national political environment that brought out the worst in the public process. Unfortunately, this still exists today, as too many value political points over policy solutions,” he said.

As in past years, he reiterated his well-known theme of making Vermont an affordable place to live.

House lawmakers listen intently as Gov. Phil Scott lays out his priorities for Vermont.

“An affordable Vermont, with opportunity and economic growth, with great schools in every corner of the state and policies that benefit all Vermonters — this can be our legacy,” Scott said.

But to make the state more affordable, the government must come to grips with continued fiscal challenges, including its massive pension debts for state workers and teachers.

“The debt we owe today is over $4 billion and the annual payments to catch up continues to grow by tens of millions each year,” he said. “But let’s be clear: A deal’s a deal. Each of these commitments are important, but our stagnant population is threatening every service we deliver, every program we administer and every investment we hope to make.”

So far, the state is estimated to pay $129.5 million for the teachers, which is $23.8 million more than last year. Also, $79 million is expected to go to the state workers program.

On the topic of education spending, in years past Scott has mentioned mandating student-to-staff ratios and putting caps on school spending. On Thursday, however, he laid out a vision for equal educational opportunities from school to school.

“Let’s not resort to scare tactics,” he said. “Let’s roll up our sleeves and make change that gives all our kids an equal shot at success, that puts their interests above special interests, and builds them – hands down – the best cradle-to-career education system in the country.”

Presently, the state is in a prolonged battle with communities over Act 46 school district mergers. While he acknowledged widespread frustration with Act 46, he encouraged lawmakers to focus on what’s good for students.

“Many of us here today have heard countless debates about education, but far too often it’s been about something other than the kids themselves — from taxpayers to teachers, the fate of buildings and debt, old districts and new districts and rates and rebates,” he said.

When it comes to attracting people to come to Vermont, the governor said health care could be an advantage.

“Vermont has one of the lowest uninsured rates in the nation,” he said. “We rank among the top states for the health of our women and children, the number of mental health providers and physical activity. … I’ll propose health insurance reforms on increasing affordability for Vermonters and, specifically, young people, as we work to retain and attract more of them.”

Other issues Scott put on the table as priorities were the clean up of Lake Champlain, which will cost about $1 billion over 20 years, and paid family leave, which he wants to be “opt-in.” The priorities reflect his continued goal of pursuing government objectives without raising new taxes.

On Act 250 reform, Scott said the state can “encourage more compact development while preserving our working lands and rural character.”

On the green energy front, Scott indicated that state money would be used to subsidize electric vehicles, which have been slow to break into the market when compared against their gasoline counterparts.

“We rank high when it comes to air quality, but we can do more to lower emissions in our state. So, I’ll propose using [Volkswagen] settlement funds to help more Vermonters purchase electric vehicles,” he said.

Scott also addressed the controversial move to do an incentive program for remote workers to move to the state. While the move drew much criticism, Scott indicated such policies might continue.

“Just passing this law gained international media attention, and as a result, nearly 3,000 people inquired about the program.”

Other agenda priorities included expanding high-speed broadband access, tackling the high cost of health insurance and growing the housing supply by revitalizing properties and investing in existing neighborhoods.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Image courtesy of Michael Bielawski/TNR

8 thoughts on “Scott offers hints at policy direction in second inaugural address

  1. The Gov. Is right on about the need to move forward on important issues such as providing an excellent education for all and maintaining the rural character of Vermont. Questions: How does one break the strangle hold the NEA has on the system to meet these worthy educational goals and reduce the ever increasing costs with shrinking enrollments, and how can the rural character of Vermont be maintained with the proliferation of state subsidized solar farms and wind mills spoiling the landscape and ridge lines????

  2. Wyoming’s looking better and better all the time. I could actually be going there within the next couple of years. Depends on how horrible things go between now and the end of 2020.

    • Wyoming is a beautiful state, been there in all the seasons. Have a brother that lives in Rock Springs. There’s so much to see and experience that vast land. So much history. If you can come onto the WY state map you’ll see many historical notes, the Oregon trail, South Pass City, Boars Tusk (ancient volcano throat), The Flaming Gorge (largest Brown Trout caught (2 year old about 50 Lbs), the Firehole and the buttes access on Rt 191 south, The Jackson Hole area is very touristy and expensive. Casper is nice, a huge Buffalo Ranch nearby. Indian artifacts 2500 years old laying around, Great hunting and fishing wow, The Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody is vast, a huge Winchester Gun collection, Cody is just east of Yellowstone. It’ss take you 2-3 three days to see it all. Thn there’s Bear Tooth Pass a road at over 11,000 ft, closed quickly in bad weather and that road goes to Montana, Red Cloud area. There’s also the Chief Joseph Trail.

      You wouldn’t be sorry, but have to get use to the altitude. Rock Springs is about 6200 ft. South Pass over 7,000 ft. It’ll leave you huffing and puffing until you get use to it. N ot much in population, so you’ll feel a freedom, and the taxes are low. Get the map for starters.

  3. We should realize UN enhanced changes to Act 250 if put in place this year could possibly remove any authority we currently have as individuals for safeguarding our property rights.

    We must understand UN Agenda 2030 desires are poised to be imposed on us just as the original Act 250 was 50 years ago. However then we were being asked only to plan and were more unsuspecting as well as without benefit or realization of a 50 year track record. Now I fear the enhanced revision if passed by our legislature will have entered us into the enforcement phase of our transformation, thus leaving us with little or no authority to do anything other than comply as our standard of living declines even more along with the use of our own property.

    When we freely allow our property rights to be confiscated we are killing the engine of incentive that enables our Capitalist system to produce its own prosperity. This comes after it has already been weakened by 50 years of incremental program creation claiming to revitalize the damage these very programs have inflicted.

    Capitalism has not failed us, we have failed to see what is killing it and I am as guilty as anyone for not paying attention sooner. How could our governor focus on affordability, then embrace the very things like subsidizing electric cars and enhancing act 250 to a higher standard of compliance without understanding that will only raise the rate of our livable wage ?

    These ideas came to us from special interest and their lobbyist, not the people of Vermont who must pay the price as it climbs higher.

    If we really wanted to gain control of our affordability problem maybe we should have a five year moratorium on lobbyists!

    • Well said, very few people will understand what you know. More need to know, what is happening in our country is so off the charts bad and wrong, yet nobody even knows the true story. Thanks for bringing some light.

    • The introduction of the Climate Control Laws / Regulations will also affect what Vt’ers can do, if they can financially survive.It’s a double whammy / curse, a downward death spiral. Have to change the per county legislators for a most even representation, not one or two counties controlling the state.

      Taking the movement of the Yellow Jackets as an example:
      Title- Statehouse session starts with yellow-vested carbon tax protest
      Wherein they confronted the Montpelier Legislators Groups like this should also attend all the various town hall meetings at voting time to confront the locals and indoctrinate them into the problems that their reps are forcing on all. Perhaps a balance of reps can be achieved as I mention above. Grassroots movement is the only way out of this mess as I see it. It’s like the Boston Tea Party revolt.

  4. Scott offers hints at policy direction, good luck with that, The Progressive DemocRATs
    already have an agenda and believe me he’s not part of it, watch and See !!

    Scott stated, ” An affordable Vermont ” sounds good but it’s a dream !! I’ve been here
    my entire life ………….. Those days are gone !!

    • Yep, They’re gone thanks to the progressives. Sit and go down with the ship or jump. The choice is yours, and yours alone. It’s your future, no one else’s.

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