MONTPELIER, Vt. — Republican Gov. Phil Scott on Thursday urged more voter participation at Town Meeting Day as well as level-funding school budgets, streamlining state government and reducing costs.
“We have an urgent need to rethink how state government works and how we can work to solve the workforce and economic challenges we face,” Scott said during a news conference in the governor’s ceremonial office.
Scott said this was especially true for matters such as balancing the state budget, educating kids and training the workforce.
“If we take a different approach we can help support businesses, create more economic opportunity for all Vermonters and lay the groundwork for a more prosperous future,” he said. “But there’s work to be done and tough choices to be made, and I need Vermonters to get involved because change in Montpelier is sometimes difficult.”
As an example of what he considers “difficult” in Montpelier, Scott singled out the House Natural Resource, Fish and Wildlife Committee’s new proposal to raise $31 million in taxes and fees to help fund a $2 billion plan to clean up Lake Champlain. He said he opposed the proposal and added that he would “keep pushing for a balanced budget that makes important investments in economic development, education, housing, and more, without raising taxes and fees.”
Scott stopped short of urging Vermonters to vote down non-level funded school budgets at next week’s Town Meeting. However, he encouraged voters who agreed with his budget philosophy to vote.
“I would urge Vermonters to get involved in town meeting,” the governor said. “ … If we want change in Vermont we have to participate, regardless of how you feel about your budget. Get out and vote.”
When it comes to the state budget, Scott said that his approach is to better utilize K-12 education funds in areas which he believes have the best return on investment.
“As I’ve stated so many times before, we educate 20,000 less kids than we did 20 years ago. We’ve gone for 106,000 kids to 86,000 and we’re spending $1.6 billion to do it,” he said.
The governor proposes taking some of the $19,000 Vermont pays per K-12 student and putting it toward early childhood care and higher education.
Scott also refuted that his plan to level-fund school budgets, which was spurned by the Legislature, is dead.
“I would dare say most legislators would agree they don’t want to raise the property tax rates. I think we agree with that. But we need to figure out a way to get there,” said.
Lou Varricchio is the bureau chief for Vermont Watchdog. You can contact him [email protected]