Milton, VT - Today, State Representative and candidate for Lieutenant Governor Don Turner issued the following statement:
“Throughout my entire political career, I’ve strived to work across the aisle and listen to all perspectives. As Minority Leader, I’ve had to unify a caucus with diverse opinions, and work with the Majority to get things done for Vermonters. In this increasingly partisan era, I’m running for Lieutenant Governor to restore this focus on collaboration and partnership.
"As Lieutenant Governor, I will continue to build on the relationships with my colleagues in the State House, as well as the many Vermonters I've met while traveling across our state. Hardworking Vermonters have a story to tell, and it's been an informative experience to learn from them.
“I’m proud to release the following proposals to restore Vermonters’ faith in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office; create an environment conducive to collaboration; open doors to constituent engagement; and keep the Office running as efficiently as possible.”
In Lieutenant Governor Brian Dubie’s last year (FY11), the Lieutenant Governor’s Office was budgeted $167,212. Then-Lieutenant Governor Scott took office, and his last budget was $194,487 (FY17). This represents an increase of 16.31% over 6 years, or about 2.71% annually.
However, the current Lieutenant Governor’s Office has seen its budget increase from $194,487 in Governor Scott’s last year to $254,551 in the current budget (FY19). That’s an increase of about 30% in just two years, or about 15% annually. In other words, the budget growth rate for the Office of Lieutenant Governor Zuckerman has increased by more in two years than the previous Lieutenant Governor's Office did in six years.
At a time when state government has grown by only a few percent annually for the past few years, and when state agencies and departments are expected to live within their means and operate in a frugal manner, the Lieutenant Governor’s Office should lead by example. Vermonters cannot afford budgets that grow at 15% each year.
Following Governor Scott’s lead, as your Lieutenant Governor my office budget will not grow at a rate faster than the Administration’s Growth Rate Calculation (GRC), which is based on Vermonters’ average wage growth and has been used to guide state spending over the last two years.
Potential areas for savings include overall compensation, internships, and IT functions, among others.
2. Weekly Leadership Meetings
The Lieutenant Governor’s Office cannot be a place for one particular viewpoint or one particular party to dominate. When Governor Scott was Lieutenant Governor, Democratic, Republican, and Progressive legislators would frequently visit the Lieutenant Governor’s Office. Unfortunately, some have expressed that the current Lieutenant Governor’s Office is lacking the balance it once had.
As your next Lieutenant Governor, I will hold weekly scheduled meetings with the leadership of the Democratic, Republican, and Progressive caucuses to ensure all voices are heard. We need to open up opportunities for collaboration, not shut them down. Areas where we can partner and facilitate a dialogue across party lines should be advanced.
3. Enhanced Engagement and Transparency
Ensuring the Office of Lieutenant Governor is open to the public and fully transparent is essential. I will continue the weekly coffee hours and open door policy started under then-Lieutenant Governor Scott, as well as other initiatives, but will also seek to improve the openness and transparency of the Office overall.
First, my office will provide a roadmap to state government on our website to help guide Vermonters to resources in a more efficient manner. This will include listing contact information for Senators by county, as well as highlighting those who are Committee Chairs, to improve the interaction between constituents and the Senate. Other essential resources will be listed as well, as well as tips on how to navigate state government.
One area that has been lacking transparency is the Committee on Committees process. The Committee on Committees is a three-member body (on which the Lieutenant Governor serves) to assign Senators to Committees and to select Vermonters to serve on certain statewide boards and commissions. For several years, Vermonters have not had access to the proceedings of these meetings. And while it will be unfeasible to fully open these meetings (since personnel matter are discussed), my Office will produce a summary after each meeting on our website for the public and press to view.
And the Lieutenant Governor’s office will always have an open door through which people can see, and most importantly, talk to the person in the room. While some say this is a part-time position, that’s not how I see it. Vermonters don’t stop needing help just because the Legislature has adjourned. The Office is not meant to be a museum. It’s meant to work, and I will make sure someone is always there to help.
4. Outreach to All 14 Counties
While many activists and advocates are brought in to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office to discuss important issues, there are many Vermonters in the more rural parts of our state who are often left out of the political process. Areas like the Northeast Kingdom, Southern Vermont, and our farming communities face challenges in engaging with the political process.
As Lieutenant Governor, I will launch a listening tour to will visit all of Vermont’s 14 counties--from Bennington County to Essex County, and everywhere in between--at least once each year, if not more frequently. Meetings will be live-streamed to the best of our Internet capacity to increase accessibility for those who cannot attend. We owe it to all Vermonters to ensure their voices are heard, no matter where they live in our great state.