Legislators React to Dean’s State of the State Address

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(Host) Within the halls of the State House, the reaction to Governor Dean’s speech was divided. Many lawmakers praised the governor’s tribute to Vermonters who volunteered after the September 11 attacks. But others felt Dean’s speech was a warm-up for a possible run for president. House Speaker Walter Freed, a Republican, says the governor’s speech wasn’t really about the state of the state:

(Freed) “I’d cut him a little slack in this is his last State of the State speech. It really was nothing about the state of Vermont. This was a kick off speech for a nationwide campaign¿. The governor did not address in his speech issues of economic development and what is it going to take to get us out of this recession. And traditionally, Vermont is one of the last states to get out of a national recession and I think we have to change that. I think it’s important to understand the things that affect the economy in this state.”

(Host) House Minority Leader John Tracy, a Burlington Democrat, says the speech hit some of the highlights of Dean’s tenure as governor.

(Tracy) “I think it wrapped up his career as it pertains to Vermont and his position as governor. I certainly think we’ll see much more of Howard Dean and I think you can tell by talks he’s had that he’s talking on a national scale and a world scale. And I actually think he brings a good voice to that dialog. So I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of Governor Dean.”

(Host) After the speech, state Senator John Bloomer of Rutland gave the Republican response. Bloomer says the Legislature will try to protect many of the governor’s health care initiatives. Bloomer also was receptive to the governor’s proposal to expand the Vermont Health Access Plan, which provides health insurance to the uninsured:

(Bloomer) “On health care, I think that generally speaking the whole legislature in a bipartisan manner has been supportive of some of his initiatives on health care for children… I think if I understand completely his presentation, some of the expansions he’s looking for – allowing employers and employees to buy into our VHAP program – I would think we should explore that. It may have a very positive impact for helping our uninsureds.”

(Host) There are three political parties at work under the golden dome. David Zuckerman, a Burlington Progressive, says Dean’s speech hit the right tone on the events of September 11. But Zuckerman says he wanted to hear more from the governor on how to spare budget cuts.

(Zuckerman) “We’ve said it before, we’ll say it today. The current year fiscal year situation can be addressed with the rainy day fund. And future revenue shortfalls – we need to really look at that. As opposed to more and more cuts on working class Vermonters’ shoulders, whether it’s health care or education funding. All these things are going to move to local property taxes. And frankly, we think there’s a more appropriate form of revenue than local property taxes and that’s a tiered income tax approach.

(Host) Lawmakers also say it’s unlikely the Legislature will agree to Dean’s request to approve changes to the current budget by the end of the month.

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