Public Assets Institute > Blog > Statement on Gov. Phil Scott’s Jan. 21, 2020 Budget Address

Statement on Gov. Phil Scott’s Jan. 21, 2020 Budget Address

Gov. Phil Scott used his Budget Address today to lay out a clear vision of the role state government can play to improve the lives of Vermonters. Child care, transportation infrastructure, affordable housing, climate change, job creation, mental health care and suicide prevention, small town revitalization, and refugee resettlement were just some of the items on his long list of worthy targets for public investment.

He rightly identified the challenges Vermont faces and even seemed eager to the take on the task, as the head of state government, to solve these problems.

But the speech also contained a major contradiction. In the governor’s view, taxes—the means for making these critical investments in the state’s future—make the state unaffordable. So while much of his address outlined modest additional funding for programs and services that the governor said had shown proven results, he said it all could be done without raising taxes. In fact, he makes several proposals to cut taxes.

Vermont does face many new challenges, and it’s going to take additional effort if we’re going to address them in time to make a difference—especially for the youngest Vermonters. As we note in State of Working Vermont 2019, state and local taxes in Vermont, as a share of the economy, haven’t changed in 25 years. Today’s problems won’t be solved without major new public investments. Major investments were nowhere to be found in the governor’s address.

Posted by Jack Hoffman on January 21, 2020 at 4:41 pm

One Response to “Statement on Gov. Phil Scott’s Jan. 21, 2020 Budget Address”

  1. John Cook says:

    I had much the same feeling about the governor’s address when I read it in the Addison Independent. He essentially recognizes many things that are urgently needed, but then effectively says “But sorry, we can’t raise the revenue to pay for them, so we will forge ahead leaving the problems unsolved.”
    The anti-tax framework/narrative has regrettably been very effectively used by the Republican party since the days of Ronald Reagan, and pretty thoroughly internalized by American culture. Unfortunately the fact that it is a fiction doesn’t outweigh it’s cognitive power.
    In many ways Vermont is like a lusciously ripe fruit, waiting to be picked, and corporate investors will pick it, as more dairy farms go belly-up, and land values decline relatively, and as the climate emergency makes other places less habitable. And that will be the death knell for the Vermont that most of its residents idealize today.
    I am certainly no fan of Milton Friedman, but he made a valid point with his “There are no free lunches” quip. And there is very real truth in the many variations on the quote attributed to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society”.
    So a relevant question is whether Vermonters are willing to break free from the compelling “no new taxes” fiction and pay for a civilized society? Governor Scott is betting that they are not. But I think he’s wrong about that too.
    John Cook
    Children’s HealthWatch
    Boston Medical Center