Symington expects cooperation between Douglas and Legislature

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(Host) With a strengthened Democratic majority in the Statehouse, House Speaker Gaye Symington says she expects cooperation between the Legislature and Republican Governor Jim Douglas.

Both Symington and Governor Douglas say the legislature will focus on property taxes and school spending.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) You could call this the post-election glow, when the politicians smile about the results and all pledge to work together for the good of the public.

House Speaker Gaye Symington sounded that theme at a Statehouse news conference. Symington has a stronger Democratic majority in her caucus – her party picked up 10 seats. She promised to work with Republican Governor Douglas on his agenda – but with a few caveats.

(Symington) “As long as it is fiscally sound, as long as it builds to a more prosperous Vermont in the decades to come, and as long as he is flexible in how his goals can be achieved. And as long as he recognizes that we have an agenda, too.”

(Dillon) The House Speaker said she expects the Legislature to focus immediately on property taxes. She says lawmakers need to control the cost of education. But she does not support Douglas’ plan to cap school spending.

(Symington) “I don’t believe that an arbitrary cap is an effective tool. But there are other ideas that could accomplish the goal, if we could agree on the goal. And that’s a conversation to have early in the session.”

(Dillon) Governor Douglas claimed a mandate from his 16 point victory over Democrat Scudder Parker. But he did not outline any new initiatives when he met with reporters. He said property taxes – and the cost of education – are his top priority in the upcoming legislative session.

(Douglas) “It’s not a question of which tax we raise, it’s a spending problem. We have nearly the highest per pupil and per capita spending in the nation. We have the lowest student teacher ratio in the United States. We’ve got to get the spending side of the equation under control, or really it doesn’t matter what we raise in terms of taxes, all our pockets are going to be empty.”

(Dillon) Douglas will be confronting a House and Senate that have enough Democratic, Progressive and Independent votes to override his veto. But both the governor and Speaker Symington said they didn’t want to focus on the veto numbers.

In the harmony of the moment, they said they’d meet and talk about how to work together when the Legislature returns in January.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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