Peter Shumlin, seen in past years touting Vermont’s strength in being able to recovery from natural disasters (although no mention is made of man-made disasters that are being ignored, like the state’s unfunded liabilities – but I’m sure a new license plate campaign is being readied by Peter as I write this, possibly titled “Picking Up The Tab”), recently admitted that instead of Vermont being strong, Vermont is incredibly weak:
Seven days into a partial shutdown of the federal government, Gov. Peter Shumlin summoned top cabinet officials to the headquarters of the Vermont National Guard to bemoan what he called “a manufactured crisis.”
“I continue to be extraordinarily concerned with the senseless shutdown of the federal government that is going to have a huge impact on Vermont,” the governor told a crowd of reporters and Guardsmen at Colchester’s Camp Johnson Monday afternoon.
Peter’s right: A shutdown will have a disproportionate impact on the state of Vermont. Why? Because Vermont is disproportionately reliant on federal monies to fund its operations – over 30% of the state’s annual revenues falls under the “Operating Grants and Contributions” category, and has been for at least the last 5 years. This category is described in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports as being “primarily federal grant revenues”.
In other words, Vermont isn’t strong – it is weak. It is reliant upon others – and not for a little bit of help, once in a blue moon. Instead we are consistently relying on federal funds to support what amounts to a 3-legged stool of revenue sources. The 5-year avg for revenue sources, broken out in the 9 categories of the CAFR, in descending order:
Operating Grants and Contributions: 31.39%
Statewide Education Tax: 17.73%
Income Taxes: 13.25%
Charges for Services: 12.10%
Other Taxes: 10.07%
Sales and Use Taxes: 6.78%
Meals/Rooms Tax: 2.51%
Capital Grants and Contributions: 4.72%
We’re basically hanging the budget on a federal thread. If it breaks, we break.
There is no such thing as being “strong” when you rely on someone or something else for your very existence. It comes as little surprise that anything that threatens the federal umbilical gets Peter moving faster than a potentially lucrative land deal in a property adjacent to his own. Peter knows where Vermont’s state revenues come from, and that the entire budget collapses without the annual handout from the federal government.
I know that Putney and Plymouth Notch aren’t all that far apart geographically, but Peter is probably some distance apart philosophically from another famous Vermonter, one who once broke a Boston police strike as governor of Massachusetts. Since Peter is in DC right now meeting with “labor leaders” one wonders how Peter might react to this quote from Calvin Coolidge, especially considering Peter’s predilection in talking about being “Vermont Strong” :
Calvin: Don’t expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong.
Peter’s looking to do exactly that, by making Vermonters more and more reliant on someone else’s money to cover the shortfalls in spending that is Vermont’s perennial problem, a problem created by design. There is no business in Vermont bigger than the State – the State of Vermont is Vermont’s largest employer. Which seems at odds with one final quote from Coolidge:
Calvin: The business of America is business.
Not in Peter Shumlin’s Vermont, it isn’t.