(Host) Since his inauguration, Governor Shumlin has been crisscrossing the state to sound out Vermonters and explain his agenda.
This week’s stops include Rutland.
As VPR’s Nina Keck reports, the governor ticks off the same top issues in every talk: business, single payer health care and budget deficits.
(Keck) More than a few people at the event, including Putney resident Peter Shumlin, remarked at the novelty of having a governor from southern Vermont.
(Shumlin) "I don’t think it’s insignificant that it’s been almost 40 years that we’ve had a governor south of Route 4. I remember that the south counts too and we’re going to grow jobs in Rutland county and I’m going to work on that seven days a week for the next two years."
(Keck) Despite the applause, the majority of the people in Rutland County voted for Republican Brian Dubie last November.
Shumlin took pains to point out that he understands the need for fiscal discipline – especially since he’s trying to balance a budget with a $176 million.
(Shumlin) "We’re going the old fashioned way, by making some tough choices and tough cuts, and putting Vermont on a sustainable spending path to the future."
(Keck) The governor says one of the areas where spending is most out of control is health care, which is why he is pushing so hard for a single payer system. He says getting rising health care costs off the backs of businesses will promote job growth and boost the economy.
This is similar to the message Shumlin has been delivering since he took office two-and-a-half weeks ago. He’s visited civic and business groups in at least a half-dozen counties.
Shumlin says he tries to visit at least six Vermont businesses a week.
(Shumlin) "I ask them this question: ‘As governor, what can I do to help you flourish?’ When GE Rutland says, ‘Workforce training,’ I say, ‘I’ll have my team here.’"
(Keck) Tom Donahue, executive director of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce, says that’s what people in Rutland want to hear. He says the governor’s commitment to upgrading Route 7 and rebuilding the state’s western rail corridor from Bennington to Montreal also scored points in the region.
(Donahue) "Because that will not only impact our freight businesses up and down the corridor – but passenger rail which could bring tens of thousands of people to our businesses on a daily basis."
(Keck) But with the current economic climate, those long awaited upgrades will likely remain long awaited. Still, Jamie Stewart, executive director of the Rutland Economic Development Corporation, remains optimistic.
(Stewart) "We all recognize that there are hard problems and he openly is stating that those are the problems that he’s going to address first. So I think that there is a fiscal responsibility that Peter is talking about that resonates well in this region."
(Keck) And just how those problems get worked out won’t be known until the governor and state lawmakers begin work on the coming budget.
For VPR News, I’m Nina Keck in Rutland.