Douglas criticizes Democrats for lack of action

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he’s disappointed that lawmakers have made little progress on the key issues facing the state during the first two months of the session. Democratic leaders disputed the governor’s claim and they found an unlikely ally in House Republican leader Steve Adams.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Several weeks ago, Governor Douglas and Democratic leaders pledged to work together on ways to reduce property tax burdens but now there are serious cracks in this bipartisan approach. Douglas told reporters that he’s disappointed lawmakers aren’t moving fast enough on this and several other key issues:

(Douglas) “As we head into the Town Meeting break Vermonters have every right to ask what the Legislature has been doing that’s going to make Vermont more affordable, to make our economy stronger and our families more prosperous. The answer unfortunately is very little action.”

(Kinzel) Senate President Peter Shumlin says he’s puzzled by Douglas’ comments because he says it’s been the Legislature leading the governor on most critical issues this winter:

(Shumlin) “We were talking about the importance of climate change. The governor’s reaction was, it’s not an issue. We brought him along. He went out and said that the dairy farmers were in good shape. We said that’s not what we’re hearing from our dairy farmers. He came along. We went out to the Bennington office building and said this is a disaster, it’s not being managed, there’s no leadership from the governor. He came along. So we welcome his participation. We’re doing policy, we would wish he would do less politics and join us.”

(Kinzel) House Speaker Gaye Symington was stunned by the governor’s criticism because she says she’s been briefing Douglas on a weekly basis about the work of House committees:

(Symington) “I know that property taxes and school costs is a particular topic where we can resort to going back to our individual corners and throwing stones. We’re not going to make progress on behalf of Vermonters without working on this together and I’m very disappointed that he would include property taxes in particular in his tirade today.”

(Kinzel) The Democrats got some unexpected support from House Republican leader Steve Adams. He said he was encouraged by the work of the House Education committee to find ways to help reduce school costs:

(Adams) “I’m just trying to get across that we recognize that the Legislature is trying to address our constituents’ concerns. I worked on, as committee chair, on a stormwater bill several years ago. We didn’t do that in two weeks – that took two months to do, it was a big complex bill. So I understand that things take time.”

(Kinzel) Some members of the House Republican caucus are very unhappy that Adams didn’t criticize the Democrats. Adams apparently was persuaded not to take a negative approach by several Republican members of the Education Committee who felt the bipartisan work of their panel would be undermined if Adams issued a stinging criticism at this time.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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