Republicans Give Thumbs Down To Legislative Session

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Republican Statehouse leaders have offered their review of the recently completed legislative session, and it’s not very good. They say the budget has been balanced using tax increases and they’re skeptical about the new health care bill. And, as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, the GOP response may signal a new role for Republican Lt. Governor Phil Scott.

(Kinzel) For much of the 2011 session, it was rare for Republican Lt. Governor Phil Scott to criticize the agenda of Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin.

Scott says he didn’t go public with some of his disagreements with the Governor because, as a member of the Governor’s cabinet, Scott raised his concerns at cabinet meetings.

But he says his role outside of the session is different than his role inside the session.

Last week, Democratic leaders indicated that they would consider raising taxes next year if there are dramatic cuts in federal spending to the state. Scott says that’s the wrong approach:

(Scott) "When I hear about the possible increase in the income tax or the sugar tax or other consumption taxes I think that it’s a dangerous path to go down."

(Kinzel) Scott says he’s working with other GOP officials to recruit strong candidates for legislative and statewide races in 2012 because he thinks there needs to be a balance of power at the Statehouse:

(Scott) "It’s not healthy and I’ll put my Republican hat on now it’s not healthy to have a House and the Senate and the Governor all be of the same party and that would be the same whether you were a Republican or Democrat or Progressive or Independent. I don’t think it’s healthy at all so it’s our job at this point to try and encourage people to run."

(Kinzel) Republican leaders say they’re planning to tour the state this summer to listen to the concerns of Vermonters and it’s likely that the budget will be an issue. House GOP leader Don Turner says he’s disappointed that Democrats raised a variety of taxes to balance the budget.

He says a better alternative would have been capping benefits for Medicaid recipients, cutting money for land conservation efforts and reducing payments for the Current Use program:

(Turner) "So if we would have taken a more direct approach that we proposed and making some of those cuts we wouldn’t have had to use as much as that one time money that would put us in the position next year to be in a bigger hole."

(Kinzel) Turner says the GOP summer tour will focus on efforts to create more jobs and to strengthen the state’s small business community. The details of the tour are still being worked out.

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

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