Peter Shumlin of Putney returns to the Golden Dome in January after a four-year absence. Shummy will be the president pro tem of the Vermont Senate once again. Yes, he got his old job back. Yours truly spoke with him on the phone on Friday and, boy, oh boy, did we ever get a surprise.
When asked what’s the top issue facing Vermont, just about every pol we’ve spoken to this fall has answered “high property taxes.”
Not Peter Shumlin. Ready for a surprise?
Q: What’s it like coming back as president pro tem? No one’s ever done this before?
Shumlin: Well, you’re right about that and there are probably good reasons for it. You feel like you have a lot of catching up to do. I’m a little out of the loop, but I’m going to give it my best and I’m really excited about coming back. We have the biggest challenges policy-wise that Vermont’s faced in my memory and we’ve got to get on the job and get it done."
Q: What’s the #1 issue?
Shumlin: Let’s put it his way - I think #1 is global warming and keeping this planet from destroying itself and keeping us from destroying this planet in front of our own eyes. So everything is related to that. Obviously property taxes and health care are big, but I think we make a big mistake if we don’t acknowledge that energy policy, environmental policy where Vermont was once a leader, we’re now laggards. Look at the temperature today. It’s a warm 65 degrees in Central Vermont. We’ve got problems."
Q. So the focus at the Statehouse this winter has to be on global warming?
Shumlin: “Here’s the bottom line. We all have a responsibility to ensure that we’re doing our part in not only conservation, but going to renewable energy sources and reducing emissions. And I think there’s a problem when you’ve got someone like ‘The Terminator’ Arnold Swarzenegger leading the country. The most bold initiatives in the country are coming from a governor we know doesn’t tend to be too bold on environmental policy. I applaud his efforts, but when I went into politics 15-20 years ago in Vermont we were a leader on environmental policy. That’s no longer the case.
"And I think that everything that we do is related to the biggest question which is: what do we do to preserve this planet for our children and our grandchildren? This is serious stuff. The polar ice cap is melting. The climate is changing. Our entire survival is on the line: farms, the ski industry, jobs. Everything relates to this really important question and someone’s got to raise their voice about it.
"I remain baffled as to how anyone - Democrat, Republican, Progressive - can look at the evidence that’s before our eyes, look at the scientific data and not have this be the top priority of everything that we do, not only in government, but in our own personal and private lives.
We’ve got to come out of the cave on this one.”
"Out of the cave," eh?
Nice to hear someone say it.
What do you think?
Is Senator Shumlin on the right track?