(Host) This afternoon Governor Jim Douglas was sworn into a second term in office.
Douglas challenged lawmakers to send him a health care reform proposal during the first year of the new session.
The governor also made it clear that he’ll oppose any effort to raise taxes to help solve the state’s budget problems.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:
“I solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States, so help me God.”
(Kinzel) Standing at the podium at the front of a very crowded House chamber, Vermont Chief Justice Paul Reiber gave the oath of office to governor Jim Douglas.
Douglas used his speech to remind the Legislature that he feels there are limits to the role of government in solving the problems facing the state. The governor says one of the biggest issues this year is a projected $70 million deficit in the Medicaid program.
Douglas urged lawmakers to take steps this winter to reduce the growth of this program because he says the projected $70 million deficit will mushroom to $270 million in just one year if no action is taken.
(Douglas) “That’s an amount equal to 25% of our entire general fund budget. This deficit would be the largest in Vermont’s history. It threatens our fiscal stability, basic economic and health protections, and the already over-taxed Vermonter.”
(Kinzel) Douglas said few state programs will get budget increases in the coming year, and he urged lawmakers to resist pressure to boost spending.
(Douglas) “The stakes are high and the pressure exerted on us will be intense as we work together for the benefit of all Vermont. Special interests will fight fiercely. They will speak loudly, stage protests, and make dire predictions, but if we fail to stand firm, the eye of history will stare far more sternly on us than any special interest.”
(Kinzel) The governor says steps must be taken to reduce health care costs, and he called on the Legislature to send him a proposal by the end of this year’s session. Douglas says any plan must lower costs for all Vermonters, be patient centered, offer options for service, be affordable, lower drug costs and not require any new tax revenues.
(Douglas) “Vermonters cannot wait for another study, another year, where premiums continue to rise and care moves out of reach. I ask this legislature to act thoughtfully but to act quickly and deliver me a comprehensive and fiscally responsible health care reform package by adjournment this year.”
(Kinzel) Douglas says he’s confident that solutions can be found to many of the state’s problems as long as lawmakers and his Administration approach these challenges on a bi-partisan basis.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.