Putney’s own Peter Shumlin, having recently discovered that talking about global warming amidst a classic New England deep freeze might make him appear to be, well, odd, decided to pick up someone else’s inequality banner and start running down the street with it. What shiny new cause has Peter now rallied, er, “pivoted” to?
Poverty. As it turns out, poverty is an easy political sell, because it’s hard to find a politician who doesn’t want to help people by spending more money, especially when it’s not their own being spent, but yours. To combat the horrors of poverty, Peter has created (gasp!) a Council on Pathways Out of Poverty. Actually, if he already had the path, why does he need a council? But I digress. The point of the name of the initiative isn’t important; it’s the fact that he’s publicly seen “fighting” poverty that makes these councils live and exist through state funding. From the WCAX article:
The Governor’s plan calls for doubling the Vermont Rental Subsidy Program; giving $300,000 to help homeless shelters deal with federal cuts; boosting funding by $200,000 to help homeless families; increasing help to STARS rated child care providers by $800,000; and providing an extra $650,000 for mental health and substance abuse counseling for Reach Up recipients. For a total of $2.5 million.
In what might be a surprise to Peter, poverty is not diminished by anything he’s offering above, nor what the federal government has done since the 1960’s. What does diminish poverty are families and jobs, and none of what he’s offering above will do much of anything, other than some small marginal wins here and there, and a few anecdotes he’ll trot out next year around budget
The truth is, Vermont is ranked as the 44th worst state for business. The budget has a $70 million dollar hole that’s yet to be addressed. Vermont is in the next-to-worst quintile for state GDP growth. Vermont Health Care Connect was largely funded by tax dollars taken at the federal level – but will require additional funding going forward that’s now estimated to well exceed original estimates, including the awe-inspiring estimate by Hsiao that said the state would save money by implementing single-payer.
Human services is already 43% of the state’s budget (2013 numbers). If you add in Education at 33%, you’re at 76% of the budget, without having filled in a pothole yet or rebuilt the infrastructure that Peter keeps telling us the state needs to compete with other states for increases in entitlement programs, er, for jobs.
This year it’s highly unlikely that the USG will cut us another $170 million dollar check for a malfunctioning website that’s going to increase state budget costs significantly to administer, without the additional $21 million Peter’s grandstanding for here, and openly admits he doesn’t have the money for yet accounted for in his budget. But let’s let Peter speak for himself:
Where is that money going to come from? “It’s coming from our budget. To tell you exactly where the money is coming from I would have to tell you my budget and I’m going to give you that on January 15th,” Shumlin said.
In Peter’s world, it’s spend now, worry about how you’re going to pay for it later. Vermonters need jobs, affordable homes, and a desire to contribute to and stay in Vermont. Peter’s offering does nothing to help support those goals. It only supports Peter’s political prospects, and provides him some small cover when the legislative session kicks in – and the fallout from his single-payer debacle starts coming home to roost.