Legislative Leadership Need to Act
Op-Ed By Don Turner
How many Vermonters are unemployed? How many have shut the doors to their businesses, and may have to shutter them permanently? How many are struggling just to put food on the table for their family?
Those questions keep me up at night. And I know they keep Governor Scott up as well. That's why the Governor proposed a comprehensive economic recovery package--using federal money that won't raise Vermonters' state taxes--to stimulate the economy, stabilize housing, support small businesses, help farmers, protect struggling Vermonters, and more.
But now, the Legislature is delaying action on this plan. In fact, they're looking to hold back more than $300 million from Vermonters in need of immediate relief. Why? Well, it's their *hope* that a dysfunctional Congress will come together and allow legislators to use these federal funds for other purposes, like plugging budget holes that existed long before COVID-19. This is wishful thinking at best, and blatantly irresponsible at worst. Holding one's breath for Congress to act is not a winning strategy in any context.
Indeed, the Legislature also started from scratch--building separate recovery plans from over a dozen of committees--rather than negotiating with the Governor on the framework and plan he already put forth. Montpelier is already marred by delays caused by remote-lawmaking. Further delays by refusing to negotiate with the Governor on his plan is the opposite of progress.
Every day that leadership in the Legislature fails to act with a sense of urgency and pass the full recovery package, more Vermonters will go hungry. More will face housing instability. More will remain unemployed, or close their businesses. This is an unacceptable outcome.
Now is the worst possible time for the majority party in Montpelier to play political games by holding up these funds. Millions are being withheld from unemployed workers, struggling families, farmers, and small business owners.
The Legislature should get its act together, and work with the Governor to pass the full amount of relief building off of his plan that he presented weeks ago. Let's stop the politics, and start the relief.
This commentary is by Don Turner, a former Republican state representative from Milton, former House minority leader, current Milton town manager and longtime member of the Milton Fire and Rescue departments. He was a candidate for lieutenant governor in 2018.