Flood Funding Turns Partisan

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(Host) Vermont Republican leaders are urging on Governor Peter Shumlin to call a special legislative session to deal with the recovery issues associated with tropical storm Irene. They also want him to pledge not to raise any taxes to help rebuild Vermont.

As VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, some political observers think the GOP statement is a signal that the bi-partisan nature of the recovery effort is coming to an end.

(Kinzel) In the month since tropical storm Irene hit Vermont there’s been truce among the state’s political parties to focus on relief and recovery efforts but that could be changing.

Pat McDonald is the chairwoman of the Vermont Republican Party. She’s calling on the Governor to propose a comprehensive recovery plan to a special session of the Legislature next month.

She also wants him to pledge not to increase any taxes for recovery programs and to begin to implement Republican plans to reform education financing in the state.

(McDonald) "We’ve got to make some really tough decisions going forward to get people back on their feet to get businesses open and people back to work."

(Kinzel) Legislation allocating more money for FEMA is being held up in Washington because House Republican leaders are insisting that these extra funds be financed by making additional budget cuts.  McDonald says Vermonters definitely deserve the assistance but she also thinks the GOP leaders are raising a valid point. 

(McDonald) "I also think there are legitimate discussions to be had about ‘where does this money come from’?"

(Kinzel) Shumlin says it’s premature to hold a special session because the costs are still being tallied. He also says Vermont has made great progress in its recovery effort because these programs have been non partisan.

(Shumlin) "That’s been the spirit of our recovery and I do think that the criticisms from the leadership of the Republican Party are out of spirit with that spirit."

(Kinzel) And Shumlin says the GOP decision in Washington to hold up the FEMA funds is unfair.

(Shumlin) "Suddenly it’s off limits. We have to find offsets, we have to gore other people’s oxes to take care of Vermont and the American people when they’re down on their knees. They’ve got it totally backwards in Washington. I just don’t get it."

(Kinzel) Retired Middelbury College political science professor Eric Davis thinks Vermont Republicans could be hurting themselves with this new approach.

(Davis) "If the Vermont Republican Party’s leadership is seen in any way as supportive of what the House Republicans are doing in Washington, that could be very damaging for the Republican Party brand in Vermont in the next cycle."

(Kinzel) Democratic Legislative leaders also agree with the governor that it’s a mistake to hold a special session until the state’s overall recovery needs become clearer.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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