Douglas criticizes lawmakers for not moving on agenda

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(Host) Governor Douglas says lawmakers aren’t moving fast enough on his agenda so he plans to go on the road to drum up public support.

But the governor’s renewed criticism of the Legislature has angered Democratic leaders.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) It’s become a weekly ritual in the Statehouse. The governor uses his news conference to criticize the Democratically controlled Legislature. And then leading Democrats line up before the microphones and fire back.

In this corner, Governor Jim Douglas:

(Douglas) “We need to get something done. We need the Legislature to respond to these needs if we’re going to continue to lead and be competitive.”

(Dillon) Douglas says the Legislature has failed to work quickly enough on his proposal to bring broadband internet service statewide. He accuses lawmakers on dallying on property tax reform. And he’s upset that his plan for college scholarships has stalled.

So the governor wants the public to weigh in. He’s holding a half-dozen meetings around the state to win support for his legislative agenda. He’s dubbed the meeting “accountability forums” and it’s clear he wants people to hold lawmakers accountable.

(Douglas) “I look forward to these meetings. More importantly, I look forward to helping the Legislature focus on those issues that are important to the future prosperity of the people of our state.”

(Dillon) But the governor’s criticism of the Legislature irritates Democratic leaders. They say they had a truce with the administration not to criticize each other on property taxes as the two sides tried to make progress on education funding.

(Symington) “He’s simply saying we’re not doing anything. That’s not criticism?”

(Dillon) And in this corner, House Speaker Gaye Symington.

Symington says she governor’s road trip around the state should give the public a chance to hold the administration accountable.

(Symington) “For example, the accountability of raiding the Ed Fund in order to balance the General Fund. And now we learn raiding the Catamount Fund to balance the General Fund. How affordable is to compromise the work we are doing to make health care more affordable for all Vermonters?”

(Dillon) Symington was talking about the administration’s use of money that was supposed to go into the Catamount health insurance plan.

Douglas says it’s a legitimate use of the funds, since the money will cover health care related programs.

But behind that particular dispute is an administration and a legislature that seem to be locked in conflict.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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