Douglas inaugural address to focus on future

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas will focus his third inaugural address on new, technology-based initiatives to boost the Vermont economy.

But the governor says he will not use the speech to unveil a new proposal on property tax reform.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Douglas plans to talk about the future in his inaugural address. And he says one way to improve the lives of everyday Vermonters is to get them a high-speed computer connection to the world at large.

(Douglas) “We have to be competitive in this global marketplace and telecommunications infrastructure is a key part of what we need to have.”

(Dillon) Douglas didn’t want to provide details of his proposals. But it’s clear he’ll focus on Internet access and ways to improve Vermont’s competitive edge in energy technology and environmental engineering.

On these points, the governor and the legislature’s Democratic leadership are reading from the same script.

Both House Speaker Gaye Symington and Senate President Peter Shumlin say the state needs to do more to provide broadband access to under-served pockets of the state. Shumlin also says that meeting the challenge of climate change could be an economic opportunity for the state.

Douglas says the bi-partisan agreement is a good sign for a productive Legislature.

(Douglas) “I think that bodes well for the session. Those are the issues I think are important to the people of our state. We’ve begun to see some tremendous commitments all across Vermont to alternative energy, to bio-diesel to renewable options for our energy future. I think it’s very, very encouraging that legislative leaders are focused on that as well.”

(Dillon) But Douglas won’t use his speech to unveil new initiatives on school funding or property taxes, an issue that has troubled numerous governors and legislatures.

Douglas previous proposals on school funding included a cap on local education spending. The legislature rejected that idea last year. But the governor says he’ll try again.

(Douglas) “I accept in presenting that plan, I accept that there are a number in the Legislature who don’t like some elements. So I think it’s the time early in the session to get all ideas on the table, mine, theirs, ideas from everywhere across the state and see what we can d o in finding some common ground.”

(Dillon) Douglas says his tax commissioner is working a comprehensive reform effort that includes the spending cap and a change in income eligibility for property tax rebates.

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

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