Keelan: So who is really in charge of Vermont?

By Don Keelan

Several weeks ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Gov. Phil Scott on GNAT-TV, Bennington County’s local access television station. The 60-minute Q&A covered a wide range of topics, one being education.

The governor informed me that the education budget was, by far, the largest expenditure of state funds. He noted that out of a total state spending of approximately $6 billion, education absorbed about $1.7 billion, or 28 percent.

Don Keelan

He further noted that Vermont’s student population was now at approximately 73,000 students, down from 103,000 not too long ago. This equates to per-pupil spending of $23,287. All of this could have been the basis of further discussion with the governor until he mentioned to me that he has no control over the spending.

The governor was quite clear — the Vermont Agency of Education is an independent entity and is not answerable to him. (He does, however, appoint several of the board members.)

This got me thinking about other agencies and entities that are state/legislature created that the governor has no control over. It was only a few weeks ago that I discovered that there was one such agency, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation.

The governor pointed out to me there were others and, upon further research, I discovered there are boards, commissions and nonprofits that are, for the most part, created and funded by the state, but for which our elected chief executive has little or no control. On the contrary, such organizations have significant control over the lives of Vermont citizens and companies.

One such entity is The Public Utility Commission. The commission and its three-member board is backed up by the equivalent of a medium-size internal law firm and controls how we use and pay for the electric and gas systems that are in Vermont.

Another all-powerful board that was created only eight years ago is the Green Mountain Care Board. The decisions of this five-member board (interesting, not one of them has any medical credentials) have a direct impact on Vermonters when it comes to their health care and how much they pay for it. There is no hospital in Vermont that can expand its services without first obtaining approval (over $1 million) from the GMCB.

A recent decision by the GMCB, approving double-digit rate increases for Blue Cross and MVP, has drawn a great deal of controversy. No wonder, it will be costing most Vermonters and companies millions of dollars. The governor had absolutely no say in the decision.

The Vermont Housing Finance Agency is another creature of the Legislature, also operating as an independent nonprofit in control of $517 million dollars in assets (2017). When it comes to housing and the issuance of tax credits, VHFA has absolute control. And not unlike VEIC, it too uses an out-of-state audit firm, in this case, Cohn Resnick LLP, of Baltimore, Maryland. Why?

Let me be clear about one important point: All of the above independent boards, agencies, and nonprofits are governed by knowledgeable individuals. They are called upon to make decisions that have a direct and indirect impact on Vermont companies and residents. However, I don’t recall ever seeing their names on the November ballot.

When Vermonters elect their governor, they expect that he or she will be in charge — overseeing state operations through staff or by cabinet members. But something has happened in Vermont over the last 25 years. The Legislature has moved critical decision-making away from the administration and into the hands of independent boards, commissions, and nonprofit agencies that have the power to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, act in a quasi-judicial manner and report only to their boards.

Vermonters pride themselves on the fact that every two years they can exercise their vote and remove an elected member of the Legislature or administration. Try to remove a board member of the PUC or GMCB, who might just have another four years to go with his/her term.

We may think that the administration/legislature is in control of the governance of Vermont residents and companies — but it’s not really so.

Don Keelan writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington, Vermont.

Image courtesy of Public domain
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41 thoughts on “Keelan: So who is really in charge of Vermont?

  1. This has really been therapeutic, all the venting, kvetching, analyzing and complaining. We need solutions.

    I do not see any. Large enough numbers do not feel enough pain and discomfort as yet to muster the where with all to even begin the move to “vote the bastards out”. Have we at this point allowed too much power to be legislated away from the people?

    Money is power after all, money taxed out of our hands, taxed moneys used to fund unaccountable government agencies and teachers unions. Perhaps the solution is as simple (or not) as regaining control of OUR money.

  2. This has really been therapeutic, all the venting, bitching analyzing and complaining. We need solutions.

    I do not see any. Large enough numbers do not feel enough pain and discomfort as yet to muster the where with all to even begin the move to “vote the bastards out.” Have we at this point allowed too much power to be legislated away from the people?

    Money is power after all, money taxed out of our hands, taxed moneys used to fund unaccountable government agencies and teachers unions. Perhaps the solution is as simple (or not) as regaining control of OUR money.

    [EDITOR’S WARNING: Keep it civil. Comments with profane language or grave personal insults will start being flagged by the board’s spam filter.]

    • Euphemism is not a forte I have cultivated during my 79 years on this planet’s surface. The phrase in question has been used in more “polite” venues than this, even in daily print media, and certainly fosters a common sentiment. If you are searching for reasons to begin censorship, have at it. You’ll only be continuing the trend.

  3. Don, I saw this commentary over the weekend and have been trying to find a way to reach you but I don’t know how. I’d like to answer your question about why VHFA uses an auditor from Baltimore. If you could please give me a call at your convenience (802-652-3434) or email me at mcollins@vhfa.org hopefully we can connect. Thanks.

  4. We experienced the same type of thing when dealing with the big public education monopoly. We wanted to try a small independent school (for 1/3 the price of the public school factories recommendation) and were told there was nothing that could be done. We paid for the small independent school (AND significant property taxes) The town kept telling us there was nothing that could be done. Not surprisingly, the number two man at the Vt education board (literally, he’s number 2) Will Mathis creates education policy and rules in Vt while at the very same time he is the PAID “managing director” of the Colorado based TEACHERS UNION FUNDED, national education policy center. Here’s Will Mathis formula….
    Step 1. Create teachers union favorable policy’s and regulations in Vt,
    Step 2. Get paid by a Colorado based teachers union funded organization.
    I guess this is ok with Vermonts elected officials…..

  5. So they just put up Don’s commentary in Vermont digger, wonder if you copy and paste your comment or even somebody else’s comment, will it see the light of day? I’ve just got to try….

    • I just posted the following on the Digger commentary.

      Jay Eshelman
      Vermont’s elected officials are the errand boys and girls for a shadow oligarchy of progressive liberal elites. And yes, Vermont is and has been a testing ground for progressive policies designed to be foisted on the rest of the country – while Vermont Public Radio (VPR) and VT Digger (VD) are their ministers of propaganda, posing as non-commercial, non-profit organizations in order to qualify as large tax-deductible contributions from the progressive oligarchy.

      Read the comments on True North Reports for details.
      http://truenorthreports.com/who-is-really-in-charge-of-vermont

      Comment awaiting moderation

      00 Edit6 seconds ago

      • Not surprisingly, I’ve been ‘moderated’. Yes, this was a test intended to make a point.

        VD’s modus operandi is in its characterization of comments critical of VD’s preferred position as an ‘attack’ and, therefore, unworthy of publication. Meanwhile, vitriolic support of VD’s preferences, including Danziger’s truly repugnant cartoons portraying the administration as Nazi wanna-be’s, its supporters as back-woods ignoramuses, and haranguing from the oft published ‘former’ lobbyist, Bob Stannard, are deemed not only permissible but systemically promoted.

        And this from Bob Stannard:
        “I guess having the kid’s parents killed was a great thing for the Trumps to celebrate.“
        https://vtdigger.org/2019/08/16/bob-stannard-the-news-in-review/?is_wppwa=true&wpappninja_cache=friendly
        Here’s another Danziger zinger.
        https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0?ui=2&ik=b2e0f06413&attid=0.1&permmsgid=msg-a:r3397708460189258383&th=16cb54017e4a9927&view=fimg&sz=s0-l75-ft&attbid=ANGjdJ_gk75hIVY0o9SDzygXieFuyY7n7Do4j4A-c0Y2v75Gxor7b02G84NT8uYxxtFtH2m9ZuRob6MJ4zAIo-GZVyHCURIw_skwbS2uiZ9KYmV8Bx0isUxW8Bf232c&disp=emb&realattid=ii_jzljahxq0

        • To be fair, VD did just publish my retort to the progressive shill, Auditor Hoffer, who, yet again, disingenuosly implied that all Vermonter’s need do is elect a Governor who appoints spirits kindred to their own. When in fact:

          All committee appointments are contingent upon “… the advice and consent of the Senate.”

          Considering that Progressive Liberals have controlled 2 of Vermont’s 3 pillars of government (Governor, House and Senate) for all but two of the last 25 years should demonstrate ‘who is really in charge’.

          Surely, had I mentioned Hoffer by name, VD would have considered an ‘attack’ and unworthy of publication. And I see that one of Neil’s toned down comments also passed muster. Perhaps there’s some hope.

          • I had to make my comment void of an particular facts to get through, love your demonstration, I truly suspect they delete far more than they allow through.

            Surely they have some rather crude posts, but still it reflects the public sentiment. I knew yours was never going to make it. I have at times complimented VT Digger, which had more success on getting a controversial post up. Granted I choked on the insincerity….

            The below post was only censored….because it was truthful, not offensive.

            We are lab rats for the DNC. We are a test case for George H. W. Bush and the new world order, his little treaty signed back in the 1990’s for the game of Agenda 21. So I guess since they run the DNC, we are no longer a Republic, just United Nation Pawns. Yup, that’s it! We’re lemmings for the UN.
            Oh, if we give them all our money, they’ll save the world? What do you think? Sounds like great plan huh?..

            Put the moderators under oath in a court of law, and we’d find some bias to say the least. Most assuredly we’d find they are a lobbyist group or PAC at the very least. They are not a news organization or unbiased, they are however still searching for the truth! LOL

      • Many of us are banned all together from far left “digger”. Not particular comments but particular people who do not share the extreme left views of digger. I think digger is afraid of losing some of their liberal donors if they publish opposing views. Vt digger, just a lady of the night.

  6. Don Keelan, Lynn Edmunds, Jay Eshelman…..thank you for posting. Their is more wisdom and understanding of what is going on with Vermont than all news reporting in the entire state for an entire year, surely lost on many but truthful non the less.

    We need to keep this discussion going on a continual basis. One by one, educating those who are so inclined. Because the truth is completely overshadowed by propaganda, massive amounts put on every hour on cell phones via, democratic socialists, now this, media matters, etc. etc. Since good propaganda is all true, just skewed to tell the wrong story, it is easily believed if one isn’t inclined to ask further questions or unwilling to just follow a narrative.

    While our leaders ask, Should marijuana be legalized in Vermont, the more astute question is Who is running Vermont? Well done, well done. We need to control the narrative. We need to be asking the questions.

    • Not to be a stickler for spin, Neil, but I’m not interested in ‘controlling’ anything – other than my own destiny. I have no problem with the liberal elite expressing themselves. What concerns me is their ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ methodolgy. It’s dishonest. I’m simply expressing what I know on a forum that allows ‘free speech’. VPR and VD clearly don’t and, if anything, should be exposed for their charade. Not ‘controlled’.

      As I’ve cited before:

      “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
      Friedrich Nietzsche

      • How about lead the conversation? My choice of wording was poor. How about getting a word in? Didn’t mean control in that sense, but control our own conversation, at the moment we are only responding to a wall of one ideology, which you articulated so well.

        Control the narrative as in here is where we want to go and how we are going to do it.

    • Thanks Neil,I have enjoyed our exchange this is a story that needs to be told and Don I look forward to your articles.
      Benevolence has a negative compounding effect on the health of our states economy. However its hard to convince people that doing something perceived as good can actually be harmful, but we must try to create that awareness.

  7. Vermont’s elected officials are the errand boys and girls for a shadow oligarchy of progressive liberal elites. And yes, Vermont is and has been a testing ground for progressive policies designed to be foisted on the rest of the country – while Vermont Public Radio (VPR) and VT Digger (VD) are their ministers of propaganda, posing as non-commercial, non-profit organizations in order to qualify as large tax-deductible contributions from the progressive oligarchy.

    The venerable VPR, for example, has accumulated about $30 Million in assets with about $11 Million in annual tax free revenues, much of which qualifies as tax deductions for its wealthy contributors. VPR invests about $11 Million in U.S. Treasury notes, Corporate Bonds, Stocks, Mutual Funds and a local venture capital fund. Again, VPRs revenues aren’t taxed. VPRs past President and CEO earned more than $200,000 last year and now works for another Vermont non-profit “…to inspire and cultivate learning for a sustainable future.”

    Who are these donors? Consider the Johnson Family Foundation (JFF), a New York City based group that donated about $25 thousand to both VPR and VD in 2016. JFF also contributed $1.5 Million to the Vermont Community Foundation (VCF) between 2012-2016. VCF then contributed to the McClure Foundation which in turn contributed to VD.

    These nested non-profit organizations are tantamount to progressive money laundering schemes. And, again, Vermont Public Radio and VT Digger are their propaganda mouthpieces.

    Is Vermont’s non-profit sector a major force with which to be concerned?

    Vermont’s nonprofit sector is a $6.8 Billion Industry accounting for ¼ of Vermont’s annual total gross domestic product. Which state has the most non-profits per capita? Not counting Washington DC, “That would be none other than Vermont! With a nonprofit for every 160 people, Vermont has double the number of charities per capita as the national average (320).”

  8. Just wow, totally floored that we citizens have no real voice with spending here in our state………What are we really paying for then , anything any board wants? Very scary financial times here in Vermont, no wonder people are moving out in droves…..

    • The concept of ” what has been mine, is now the State’s” is becoming more real each day.
      We either work to perpetuate that concept, or we don’t. I see no relief any time soon. It will take a couple of elections and plans that should be in the developing stage now. Hitting the ground running is a must. I do not see that happening either. Just look at the massive amount of property for sale around the state, much of it not being currently occupied. What does that tell ya ??

  9. Great information. So based upon the present tuition rate, it cost $865 more to educate a student than a person makes working a full year at minimum wage.

    We spend an extreme amount of money in this state on education. It would be one thing if the results were evident but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Perhaps we need to look at how we are doing things.

  10. It’s unthinkable that independent boards accountable to no one can have so much power. Where in heaven’s name have been the voters??? The only way to remedy this insanity is for clear minded folks to get out and VOTE!! Once we elect individuals with some common sense, we can put an end to this insanity.

  11. Until this article I did not know this! it does not seem right that we have less and less voice in how things are run around here!!
    This infuriates me! I guess the day of the Independent Vermonter is just a pipe dream..
    It used to be nice to live here, but not any more!!

  12. Neat trick – our ‘elected representatives’ create a board that’s independent and beyond their control, so they can tell their constituents there’s nothing they can do.

    Meanwhile, we keep sending these thieves back to Montpelier. We really are getting the government we deserve.

  13. We are lab rats for the DNC. We are a test case for George H. W. Bush and the new world order, his little treaty signed back in the 1990’s for the game of Agenda 21. So I guess since they run the DNC, we are no longer a Republic, just United Nation Pawns. Yup, that’s it! We’re lemmings for the UN.

    Oh, if we give them all our money, they’ll save the world? What do you think? Sounds like great plan huh?

    • Neil, you are so right, this has been going on for a long time and it is easy to spot if you believe in a Constitutional Republic and our founding principles.

      This is what I discovered and brought to the attention of our town when we were trying to understand the pressures being brought to bear on the revision of our town plan two years ago. This is also what Vermont’s regional planning commissions are all about.

      At the United Nations Earth Summit in 1992 then president George H. W. Bush signed on to Agenda 21 a non-binding action plan on the environment and development, but because it was not a legally binding treaty the United States Senate did not debate or vote on it, however the House of Representatives Resolution 353 supported its implementation. The following year an executive order known as The President’s Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) was formed and the concept of a Sustainable America was born, VCRD was an offspring of that conception having been conceived in 1992. But the ground work for this concept had been laid many years earlier around 1968 when Vermont established Regional Planning Commissions throughout the state to work with local governments.
      The United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in 2015 established 17 Sustainable Development Goals to further build on UN Agenda 21; this intensified effort was dubbed Agenda 2030 and set a time frame of 15 years for enacting these goals (SDGs) by participating member countries. That same year VCRD spun off The Vermont Climate Change Economy Council (VCCEC) which would acknowledge our commitment to UN Agenda 2030 and ensure our participation of its goals.

      • Yeah, it’s the regional planners taking control for sure. I’m part of an affordable housing commission in the Mad River Valley. I asked them early on if they were familiar with agenspda 21, and if we were going to be following that plan. They said they didn’t know,about agenda 21. We are completely enacting those ideas all under the idea the committee is coming up,to, etcwith the idea, but we aren’t. They are bringing in speakers for massive infrastructure, we just need some,affordable homes, it not difficult. They want lot tax, rental project with massive grant money. I asked the chair before the first meeting, were we open to solutions or are we going to do massive infrastructure, $500/sq ft homes, rental, lot tax, sewer system, etc, etc, so far we are completely following the United nations cook book. Were even having discussions of public transportation…..why do they want tiny homes on wheels? When you know the play book all the pieces fit perfect, it’s remarkable how well they follow,the plan, thinking it’s their own idea no less.

        • When you remove an understanding of how and why we were founded as a nation and replace it with benevolent cause, then ask people for their ideas they become vested in the pursuit of suggestion.

          Earlier this month Lawrence Zupan stated the following in in another post on True North Reports, “quote”.
          “I like what congressman Davy Crockett did in the 1830s. A destitute widow petitioned Congress for financial aid. Crockett voted it down based on his inability, as James Madison famously said: “To lay my finger on that Article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.””

          Most people today can only see benevolence as doing good not damaging.

          • Asked this same question to Jim Condos in the cafeteria, how can our towns be giving away 100″s of thousand of dollars on a yearly basis to non-profits? It’s an epidemic in every town. His answer was people voted for it. I asked, How is that in the constitution? How can they foreclose my property for failing to pay property taxes that go to non-profits, regardless of how good they are? Things were pretty quiet after that. I’ve spoken up at town meetings, needless to say they think I’m a leper because of it.

        • Neil,

          Regarding your comment about below about Towns voting large amounts to support non-profits –

          Our Town cut them back significantly because one person showed up to Town Meeting with all the pertinent IRS 990 forms and detailed how much each organization paid their Directors, how much each one had in investments, grants, donations, etc. Our ‘donation’ was compared to prior ‘donations’ from each Town in our County – hard to argue with cold, hard facts.

          Then we convinced the Selectboard to adopt the Vermont League of Cities and Towns ‘Model Social Service Appropriation Policy’, which requires new requests, as well as those requesting an increase from the previous year, to submit a petition signed by five percent of the registered voters.
          https://www.vlct.org/resource/model-social-service-appropriation-policy

          Start attending meetings and presenting facts so your governing body can’t ignore you. We did it, and so can you.

    • The above comment of mine was moderated off the planet at Vt Digger. No more awaiting moderation,,,,,,just deletion.

  14. This was a great and informative commentary. The Vermont Legislature created the Green Mountain Care Board with five unelected members to control Vermont’s health care system. The GMCB gave it’s power to One Care Vermont. The GMCB and One Care Vermont are duping the public into believing an experimental program called The All Payer model will at some time in the distant future reduce health care costs. The All Payer experiment will fail . The hospitals that tried to reduce fee for services are now in financial trouble. There is enough evidence to prove that our health care system is in deep trouble along with all the Vermonters who can no longer afford health insurance or health care. The GMCB should be abolished but does our legislature have the power to do that. No. The Vermont legislature will have to defund the GMCB. Vermonters will have to stop buying unaffordable health insurance.

    • It would seem our legislators are farming out their responsibilities and even worse placing it out of their control in the process! This sounds like an impeachable form of malpractice but I’m sure the excuse is its complicated.

      Good luck defunding any acronym group, there are so many of them entangled in our governance these days how could we possibly know where their funds are coming from to say nothing about their real agendas.

      • Add to the fact they call us a democracy and don’t defend the constitution, yeah they need a boot out the door.

  15. For the most part our government institutions have remained in place and give the illusion they are functioning of for and by the people. However when you look closely there is a parallel universe controlling us and we the people in fact have very little control over agendas or the decisions made to further them.

    Regional planning commissions are the conduit that feeds agendas created by boards, commissions, non profits and alike to our local municipalities. This is where the commandments are handed down to the people.

    The perception of state mandate is often implied and most of the time goes unchallenged so the peoples will is never measured by their vote nor is a distinction made to determine the need to comply with a particular edict.

    We are suspended in a parallel universe of governance, controlled by the Wizards behind the curtain, the so called left is merely the enabler.

    Who are the Wizards?

    They are the special interests that lobby us to give them our freedom and right to choose!

    • Yes, yes,yes,yes, wel spoken and well said. We also have administrators writing policy that carry the weight of law.

      When people eventually get under the hood of Montpelier and see how and who is running this state they will find the most corrupt and self serving groups on the planet. It’s in some ways too big to grasp at first, because how could it be so bad and so massive. Cronyism is the first cousin to socialism. Vermont has been sleeping with their first cousin for way to long. The press has been covering up or asleep for decades.

  16. Don
    Thank you for pointing out the issue of the Gov has no say in some of the most important issues in Vermont and the people in control of those issues were not elected by Vermont residents. In essence we the people see Vermont headed down the tubes with no one at the helm of a sinking ship.

  17. Don…to your question…..the LEFT is in charge, has been in charge, and will be in charge until the people of Vermont change course. The pendulum must swing back to the middle in order for us to secure reasonable solutions that would and do now favor only the utilities (read: electricity).

    Single party rule as it is today excludes anyone not in sync with the Left’s agenda from the dialogue. Energy is a great example of this imbalanced agenda.

    As a “bone”….Maybe the Left ..with all the control they now wield…..ought to get with the program and start with deregulation of the utility industry here in the state to allow competition on both electric and natural gas choice for consumers

    If the left wants to do something how about deregulating the natural gas and electric industry in bromont like they did in New York State 30 years ago…that would be a good start

    The other question, of course, is why haven’t they pursued this for us yet?

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