Douglas sets priorities for 2009 session

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he’ll ask the Legislature to quickly pass some economic development initiatives as soon as lawmakers convene in Montpelier in January.

Douglas says the steps are needed to help pull Vermont out of its current economic downturn.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) A day after he was easily re-elected to a fourth term in office, Douglas was already thinking ahead to the 2009 Legislative session.

Douglas says his top priority is to work with Democratic leaders on efforts to revitalize the state economy.

The governor thinks this effort can be successful, in part, because he says he received strong support from a number of voters who also backed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

According to preliminary numbers, roughly half of Douglas’s votes came from people who also cast their ballots for Obama:

(Douglas) "I think it’s an indication of the independence of Vermont voters we always see voters split their tickets vote for individuals of different political parties or no political party at all if those are the candidates that they believe we best serve the interests of the state. Vermonters really don’t regard party affiliation as important as they do in other places."

Douglas says Vermont faces some difficult fiscal problems in the short term and he says it’s likely that more cuts will be needed in this year’s budget because of falling revenues:

(Douglas) "Our unemployment rate has risen and frankly might rise further before it begins to subside this is going to be a rough year too fiscally because job growth has not been what we like we don’t have the capital gains revenue on which we rely a great deal so it’s going to be a challenging time."

Douglas wants lawmakers to adopt legislation to stimulate the economy by offering tax credits to businesses that either move into downtown areas or develop innovative renewable energy projects:

(Douglas) "Vermonters realize that we don’t come out of these difficult times quickly but what we have to do is position the state for success by creating an environment in which entrepreneurship can succeed and we can create good paying jobs…we have to put that infrastructure in place if we’re going to succeed and I want to do it quickly because it will still take time for the implementation of that plan to bear results."

Douglas says he hopes to build bi-partisan support for his proposal before the new session starts in January.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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