by Peter Freyne
Republican Gov. Jim Douglas says “affordability” is the No. 1 issue facing the state as the legislature returns to the Statehouse in January. But the new senate president pro tem Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, says "global warming" is the No. 1 issue. Are we heading for a collision?
Gov Jim Douglas told reporters Tuesday at his 11 a.m. presser in the Fifth Floor conference room that global warming is a very important issue and Vermont has done a lot to address it. Douglas noted he was "the first governor" to sign onto the regional greenhouse gas initiative and just this week lobbied the newly elected governor of Massachusetts to sign on to it as well. But on the campaign trail, Douglas said he heard more from voters about another subject. Said the Guv:
"I have to tell you that over the last six months or so of the campaign, what I hear Vermonters talk most about is property taxes and the other burdens of the cost of living in Vermont. We're always consistent with out strict environmental ethic and will continue to provide leadership on matters like global warming, but what really pinched Vermonters is the property tax bill that comes every year and the high cost of housing, health care and a college education."
Just our luck - Senate president-pro-tem-elect Peter Shumlin was at the Statehouse Tuesday for a meeting with House Speaker Gaye Symington. They posed for our lens like tourists!
Informed of the Guv’s remarks, Shummy said there’s "no question affordability’s an issue." But he did not back off the bold statement he made here in Freyne Land two days ago that, in his view, "Everything’s related to global warming and the fact public officials are not directly addressing it." Said Putney Pete at the Statehouse today:
In fact, our ability to live and let Vermont remain the great place that it is - it all depends upon our making a serious committment to changing the way we lead our lives and reducing the greenhouse gas emissions. So affordability and global warming, frankly, are part of the same agenda."
We asked Democrat Shummy if he thinks he and Jimbo the Republican have much in common?
"I think we have a lot in common. We were all sent here by Vermonters. I can’t remember the public policy challenges that we’re facing in Vermont right now being as difficult and severe as they are, and I know we all want to solve those problems together.
"Take property tax - we’re going to need the governor. We’re going to need the House and the Senate working in a bipartisan effort to try to come up with creative solutions to that problem because there is no undiscovered pot of money to throw out there , no rabbit to suddenly pull out of the hat and say, hey, we can solve your problem, Vermonters, no more property tax heartache. So we’re going to have to work together. It’s going to be a team effort and we’re going to need a lot of help and a lot of gubernatorial leadership."
The governor and the incoming senate president pro tem have their first face-to-face meeting scheduled for next Monday. To be the fly on the wall...
P.S. We hopped in the fossil-fuel burner about 9:20 this morning to head for Montpeculiar. Pleasantly surprised to find Shummy was the in-studio guest on "The Mark Johnson Show" on WDEV. Wished I tuned in earlier because it sounded like he had opened with the global warming issue.
In fact, who is one of the callers?
None other than Gov. Douglas' press secretary Jason Gibbs. He was pleasant and the gist was something about how Gov. Douglas had indeed done stuff on global warming, but the signal in the car was crappy.
Nice to know he's listening, eh?