Peter Shumlin, not-so-recently humbled in an election that he barely won against a (very) late-comer Republican with no dollars in his campaign warchest, outlined just prior to his State of the State address his new “Agenda for Progress“. Essentially this Agenda, acting as a primer for his speech, outlines his future priorities, reflecting his new humble approach to governing.
But it seems that everything in his Agenda is more of the same – exactly the same as he’s been “delivering” for the past two terms. As an example, he talks up jobs, making a fairly bizarre correlation between the birth of the ski industry in Vermont and renewable energy:
That starts with jobs. In the 1930s, Vermonters with a vision cut the first ski trails, forging an industry that today accounts for over 30,000 jobs and over a billion dollars in annual economic activity. I believe that today we are at a similar point with renewable energy innovation in our state. Through innovation, expertise, collaboration, and strong, supportive public policy and regulation, we can power Vermont forward and give our state the tools needed to become the nation’s energy innovation leader.
In case the governor missed it, he’s managed to jack electrical rates up for that same ski industry that is so heavily reliant on cheap and consistent energy supplies by actively working to shut down Vermont Yankee. You don’t create jobs by increasing the costs of an industry, or any industry. That destroys jobs. Creating a more expensive and less reliable energy source – a critical piece of infrastructure – dis-incentivizes new businesses from siting in Vermont, and discourages the expansion of existing businesses, because a primary cost driver is going to increase so much that already-thin margins shift to red.
The gubernatorial fantasy continues, however, since he’s claiming that we have a foundation of some kind to build upon:
“We have the foundation to achieve this success. The clean energy sector has created over 15,000 good-paying jobs for Vermonters and, at a time when other neighboring states have seen energy prices spike, our largest utility Green Mountain Power was able to lower rates by 2.46 percent.”
Well. The “clean energy” sector is hugely driven by subsidies, which means, in case the governor lacks this understanding, that either tax dollars or tax breaks are given to these corporations in order to achieve a political outcome, not an economic one. “Clean” energy (an oxymoron only a politician can love) isn’t clean, nor is it cheap, nor free from disasters non-financial.
Secondly, the energy that is “clean” can also be described as expensive, sporadic, and foreign-owned – since Gaz Metro drives so much of the utility bus now for Vermonters. This means that rates will have the unhappy effect of being less regulated by state entities and more regulated by terms of a contract – a contract with huge advantages to Gaz Metro because we had fewer local and regional options for energy supply with Vermont Yankee gone, a shutdown Vermont Yankee that Shumlin now proudly boasts as one of his “accomplishments”.
Peter also lays claim a 2.46% rate reduction, as if this magically occurred when the cheapest energy source in the state was shut down. That lower rate is temporary, and he knows it, because he designed it that way to coincide with his election schedule: That 2.46% represents the extortion, er, payout that Vermont Yankee was forced to cough up as part of their closing deal. That reduced rate will kick right back up to its historical levels – and beyond! – in 2017. It is a temporary rate decrease, funded by Entergy, an entity whose revenues were paid by electrical consumers. In other words, the rate decrease is in part funded by dollars we already paid in our prior electrical bills. This decrease in rates seems as temporary as Peter’s recent claims to have been humbled at the ballot booth.
Ah, but Peter has more, doesn’t he? He is an endless font of unsustainable speaking:
I am proposing to build on this progress with a new Energy Innovation Program that will spur community-based renewable energy development, create more than a 1,000 new jobs, put money in Vermonters’ pockets with a net savings of hundreds of millions of dollars on energy bills, and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
Anytime the governor states that he’s going to create a new program invovling energy in the state, it really means that he’s going to increase taxes or fees, and then subsidize otherwise non-viable corporations to build and install more expensive, unreliable, and inconsistent energy sources – all on your dime. He creates these things not out of thin air, but out of the thinning wallets of Vermonters.
He’s actually claiming that energy prices will go down as our reliance upon much more expensive solar and wind, and out-of-state spot market purchases for energy will increase dramatically. The only money being put into pockets is the tax dollars being redistributed to corporate cronies and lobbyists for the “sustainable” energy industries – which means dollars will not wind up in the average Vermonter’s pocket. Peter also manages to avoid stating how many hundreds of millions Vermonters did not have to spend by buying on the spot market, instead of from Vermont Yankee.
Peter wraps up his looming Agenda thusly:
We owe it to Vermonters to bring spiraling health care costs under control, to begin to address the pressure of property tax increases, to continue the work on job growth, and on education and training from pre-K through college and beyond. We should continue bolstering our mental health system, investing in our downtowns, and turning the tide of opiate addiction to keep families healthier and communities safer.
Health care costs “spiral” because the existing versions of single-payer, Medicare and Medicaid, do not reimburse at cost. Peter talks a lot lately about addressing the “cost shift” but neglects to note that the federal gov’t controls the strings regarding Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements, he does not – so while he’ll loudly applaud federal dollars that are garnered to prop up a collapsing budget, he’ll simultaneously complain that the federal government’s version of single-payer is an abject failure. Reducing mandated hospital margins won’t cut dimes from an organization that’s serving an increasing population of Medicare enrollees – even while the governor makes claims that the number of uninsured have decreased in Vermont, simply due to their enrolling for Medicare coverage that they were already qualified for well before Vermont’s single-payer came into being last year.
I firmly believe that our best days are ahead of us and that Vermont continues to be the best place in America to live, work and raise a family. Over the next two years, I will work hard every day to ensure that is a reality for every single Vermonter.
The governor seems to be the only one believes this these days, since Vermont’s demographic death spiral, its consistent ranking as being one of the worst states to do business in, and the fact that Vermonters are having fewer children in the state that Shumlin claims to be the “best place” to raise a family in, well, it
indicates to anyone with eyes and ears that Peter does not live in the same Vermont that the rest of us live in.
Maybe if Peter spent less time out of Vermont, and more time living in it, he’d understand the realities of living in Vermont as Vermonters do, not as a wanna-be Health and Human Services Secretary in a Clinton administration might casually ignore the mess we’re living in – a mess he’s worked very hard to help create.