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Douglas Inaugural: Bold or Boldest Speech Ever?

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Yesterday was a busy day for this reporter, starting the morning pre-8 a.m. in Burlington for the mayor's debate hosted by the Burlington Business Association and Burlington Free Press. I had to skip out before it was over, but I'll have more to say on this in next week's "Fair Game."

It was then off to Plattsburgh to tape an episode of Mountain Lake Journal. It's a weekly public affairs program that includes a reporter's roundtable — usually one scribe from Vermont and the other from New York. I was on with Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio - a real pro and helluva guy. You'll catch his stuff on NPR from time to time, and he wrote a fantastic book about the Red State/Blue State divide called Welcome to the Homeland.

After that, I headed off to the big show — Gov. Jim Douglas' fourth inaugural address under the Golden Dome. (You can download the speech as a PDF by going to his official state website here).

The first days of the Legislature are always full of pomp and circumstance. And yesterday there was plenty of pomp. The circumstances are, perhaps, known.

Before speechifying, Douglas took time to swear in the other statewide officers — Treasurer Jeb Spaulding, Secretary of State Deb Markowitz and Attorney General Bill Sorrell. Auditor Tom Salmon was sworn in earlier in a separate ceremony. He called in from Iraq.

As I listened to the gov swear in the other elected officials, I had to chuckle — at least two of them are seriously considering challenging the gov in 2010 (Spaulding and Markowitz). Sen. Doug Racine announced earlier this week he is definitely a candidate.

Gov. Douglas promised that his inaugural would offer "bold" proposals. So, what were these bold proposals? A public works program a la Dick Snelling circa 1983? Nope. That was Speaker Shap Smith yesterday.

Douglas reverted to his tried-and-true hot-button issues: high taxes, the need for permit reform, and bloated school budgets.

The most dramatic was a call for a freeze on education funding, eliminating income sensitivity for people who earn more than $75,000 (it's now $90,000), and an open-ended call to reconsider how to fund education — i.e. toss out Act 60 and Act 68 and start again. He offered no details on how we could replace the current system. This is typical Douglas — offer the political poetry, but none of the prose.

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