(Host) Democrats say the governor’s budget emphasizes the right issues but there will likely be disagreement over how to address those issues.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports.
(Zind) Responding to the governor’s budget address, Democratic Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Welch said he generally agrees with the administration’s priorities, including jobs, health care and the environment. But Welch says he’s concerned about Douglas’ approach.
(Welch) “I have significant concerns as to whether his health care approach is essentially going to be based on market competition. That’s an approach that has failed everywhere it’s been tried. On economic development, the major question is going to focus on out-of-state recruiting, hiring more people, tax breaks and regulatory relaxation as opposed to growing our economy from within.”
(Zind) Welch says one area overlooked in the governor’s budget address was what to do about Vermont’s increasing prison population. The state recently opened a new prison in Springfield, but many inmates are still housed in out of state facilities.
(Welch) “We’re spending $87 million a year on corrections. We only spend $76 million on higher education. It just doesn’t make sense to have a state policy where we’re literally spending more money on kids in jail than we are on educating kids to go on to their arrears.”
(Zind) The governor has said that in the long term he wants to reduce the number of people in Vermont’s prison system by expanding social services and substance abuse recovery centers in Vermont.
University of Vermont Political Science professor Frank Bryan says Douglas’ emphasis on issues traditionally identified with Democrats, like health care and the environment, is not out of character for a Vermont governor of either party.
(Bryan) “I don’t think he’s far out of line in some things with Howard Dean, and he’s certainly in the Snelling tradition.”
(Zind) Bryan says Douglas’ policies as governor are consistent with the positions he’s taken through his political career.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Montpelier.