(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says the legislative session that’s just ending was one of the most productive in recent years. The governor says lawmakers worked in a bi-partisan fashion to advance most of his legislative agenda.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) Governor Douglas gives himself and the Legislature high marks for their accomplishments this year. He says his top priorities were aimed at making Vermont more business friendly.
(Douglas) “A number of initiatives such as the permit reform bill, the stormwater bill, the workers’ compensation reform measure will move us toward encouraging more employers to come to our state to remain here, to create more jobs for the people of our state. I feel the General Assembly has done a great job; the spirit of bi-partisanship has prevailed.”
(Dillon) The governor says he’s disappointed that he failed to win approval of a school choice measure. His plan to create more competition in the health insurance market also died.
But Douglas praised the legislative session as historic. He said that many people predicted legislative gridlock with a new Republican governor, a Democratic Senate and a Republican controlled House.
(Douglas) “But I think as we saw at the signing ceremony on the permit [reform] bill last week, when the president pro tempore offered some gracious bi-partisan remarks that this General Assembly has been able to work together extremely well to pass a broad array of bills to the betterment of our state.”
(Dillon) President Pro Tempore Peter Welch, the Democratic leader in the Senate, says it was the Democratically controlled Senate that made sure the rights of citizens were protected in the permit reform bills.
Welch also rates the legislative session as a success, but he says the governor didn’t aim very high. He says Douglas’s remarks sound like campaign rhetoric. According to Welch, the governor failed to put real health care reform and other critical issues on the legislative agenda.
(Welch) “And it’s up to the governor to provide that inspiration, to take on things like health care, which are punishing in the costs they’re imposing on our businesses and the insecurity on our families; and an energy policy that combines improving our environment with building our economy. So if you aim just a little bit over the horizon, yeah we did fine. But if you’re trying to address the very difficult problems that Vermont faces, I think the Legislature stopped short.”
(Dillon) While lawmakers passed major spending bills just before the end of the session, both the governor and key lawmakers acknowledge that there are still some huge unmet needs. In transportation projects, there’s a $100 million annual shortfall in the money needed for road and bridge projects and the funds that are available.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.