Gov. Peter Shumlin, in a rare about-face regarding IBM’s future in Vermont, unlimbered the state’s creaky wallet and found $4.5 million sitting in a dusty corner somewhere, and decided that hey, maybe we can throw some coin at the state’s largest private employer and they’ll decide that yes, now, of all times, Vermont is serious about trying to keep IBM in Vermont. From VT Digger:
“I’m going to do whatever I have to do,” Shumlin said. “Whatever I can do, to keep IBM — or, if it’s sold, as I’ve read conjectured in the press, whatever entity owns it — growing and thriving in Vermont.”
I guess that doing “whatever I have to do” includes calling an IBM spokesperson a liar. Granted, that was way back in the day when Shumlin was just running for governor, but how much of an incentive is it for a company to stay in a state that continually kicks the largest employer in the shins – or kicks even higher than that?
Shumlin’s work in both demonizing Vermont Yankee (the loss of which will result in higher electricity costs, a key component of costs in the manufacturing environment) and his casual back-handing away of the concerns of the state’s largest employer speak more to Shumlin’s real interests, rather than this limp and so-small-as-to-be-almost-comical $4.5MM economic incentive.
The $4.5 million is political cover, something he can point to later as being a governor who’s so concerned about jobs he carves out .08% of the 2015 budget in order to incentivize business to “grow and thrive” in Vermont. To keep this in perspective, the governor’s 2015 budget calls for $28 million to be spent on the Housing and Conservation Trust. This seems to me to be clear evidence of the governor’s priorities about business in Vermont. Shumlin’s telling you everything you need to know about his priorities by what he wants to spend Vermont’s tax dollars on.
What else could Peter have done? He could have fought for Vermont Yankee’s relicensure, so as to keep electricity costs low and power availability consistent, which won’t be the case when VY goes offline. He could have pushed for
infrastructure improvements that have never, ever been forthcoming, and all businesses, not just IBM, need right now and could have used 20 years ago when something once described as a “circumferential highway” was being discussed as a critical piece of Vermont’s infrastructure. He could also have failed to publicly insult a company representative, but even being polite is a challenge to Putney’s favorite son.
The reality is that Shumlin has done much more to create the conditions that make it more likely that IBM will leave the state, even if the company itself hadn’t long ago decided to move out of the hardware business itself (albeit slowly). Considering how small the IBM workforce is now, and even if there’s a buyer for the existing fab, the fab’s technology and manufacturing infrastructure is outdated and not built for high volume, which makes a return to the days of thousands more Vermonters being employed in Essex extremely unlikely.
If you add Shumlin’s historical actions and statements together, it almost seems like he’s purposefully tried to take IBM out of Vermont. $4.5 million of Vermonters’ tax dollars cannot erase Shumlin’s history, no matter how much he might want that to happen.
Which only leaves one question: Why do Vermonters continue to vote for someone who is so clearly anti-business?