The Circular Firing Squad Highway

Peter Shumlin, just a few years removed from deciding, unanimously (by the one person in the room at the time the decision was made: himself) that the Circ Highway project should be cancelled in its entirety, now wants to spend $99 million on not building it. This despite $97 million having already been spent on the Circ’s construction, and decades of legal obfuscations surrounding the dire threat of additional roads that might actually allow Vermonters to get to work on time at a company that might decide to stay in Vermont due to the road improvements making easier access to highways, and a political/public policy climate that screamed “NEW JERSEY!” every time a new store opened somewhere, in districts already zoned for commercial enterprises.

Bonus:  Doubles as an extra-wide bike path.

Bonus: Doubles as an extra-wide bike path.

Well.  We can’t have that, can we?

With the Circ project’s completion costs at $200 million, which is fairly close to what Vermont received in federal assistance/crutchwork to create Vermont’s Own Very Special Failed Health Care website, after contracting with a Canadian company (which didn’t do much to put Vermonters to work in shovel-ready projects) that had an established record of failure in implementing health care websites, what, might a Vermonter ask, could we have done with the $200 million instead?

Instead of a completed highway project – which, as Shumlin has said again and again, is an infrastructure requirement if we’re going to create jobs in Vermont – we get a big giant nothing-burger.  A zero.  A failure to launch.  Vermonters have nothing to show for Peter’s efforts, when we could have had something, an actual highway, were it not for Peter killing that project outright two years ago.

Here’s Peter letting all Vermonters know how much he cares about infrastructure in 2011:

“A strong economy requires a 21st Century infrastructure,” the Governor said. “Transportation spending helps create jobs and is critical to growing Vermont’s economy.”

Unless it’s the Circ, of course.  Then the spending does not help create jobs and is not critical to growing Vermont’s economy.

“A sound transportation system also supports economic growth by enabling companies to expand and locate in Vermont,” Gov. Shumlin said.

That would be true, if we had a sound transportation system and an easy, fast, and capacity-base highway system that allowed direct access to Burlington’s commercial enterprises, and every other manufacturing enterprise’s facilities in Chittenden County. Instead, we will get neither a sound transportation system (we’ll get more potholes filled in and more studies completed with hopefully non-Canadian public-sector contractors, but we won’t get more roads) nor will we get job growth, according to the man who decided we don’t need the Circ, and therefore don’t need job growth.  Which is an argument that seems somewhat…circular.

Circular And Proud Of It

Circular And Proud Of It

But Peter has long been selling his “investments” in infrastructure to whoever happens to be passing by:

“The contrast has never been more clear, in terms of what Democratic governors are offering versus what Republican governors are offering,” Shumlin said. “They are imposing policies that will cut taxes for their millionaires and billionaires at the expense of creating jobs and prosperity. … We are investing in infrastructure, roads, bridges [and] education.”

Every state invests in infrastructure, roads, bridges, and education.  However, few governors of states come into office and single-handedly cancel the largest infrastructure spend in the state’s history, then go on to tout, repeatedly, how pro-infrastructure-spending they are.

Progressive action really means Progressive stifling of economic growth. Private job sector growth in Vermont has been stuck at or just slightly above 0% for over a decade. The state of Vermont is the largest employer in the state. Large private companies move out of the Burlington area, or Vermont entirely, and won’t expand existing footprints, because of the type of obstructionism to growth that Shumlin is responsible for, and campaigns on. Education and Transportation account for over 40% of the state’s budget, historically, so for Shumlin to tout that $99 million in spending (out of a $5 billion-plus budget) will somehow be the panacea for its aging infrastructure challenges is laughable on the surface.  It is window-dressing that pushes real responsibilities down the road, again.

The fix isn’t in the roads. The fix is in the policies that have created an anti-business climate, resulting in declining tax revenues, and an increasing reliance on federal revenue sources to keep the budget “balanced”. In the long run, a dependency state is being created, not an independent state – and that’s the way Shumlin seems to want it, 1st Republic be damned.


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