Bartlett proposes alternative scholarship program

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(Host) A leading Democratic senator has offered an alternative to the governor’s multi-million dollar college scholarship program.

The proposal comes as political tensions grow in the Statehouse over the governor’s plan.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Senator Susan Bartlett admits up front that her proposal is far more modest than the governor’s 15-year, $175 million scholarship program.

Her plan is to use $1 million from the higher education trust fun to help repay student loans if the student goes into a profession that the state needs. Bartlett says these professions could be in health care or technical fields, such as engineering.

(Bartlett) “And its’ really designed to meet the needs that have been identified and the concerns from Vermonters and the business community about our work force and how we compete.”

(Dillon) Bartlett chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee. She’s strongly opposed to Governor Douglas’s plan to use money from a tobacco lawsuit settlement to fund scholarship.

Bartlett says the tobacco money is needed instead to pay down huge deficits in the Medicaid health care program. So she calls the governor’s idea DOA, or dead-on-arrival.

Governor Douglas is fighting back.

(Douglas) “When a legislator uses a phrase like dead on arrival, I’m going to respond very forcefully. She decided to politicize this entire discussion for reasons that escape me.”

(Dillon) Bartlett says she’s not playing politics. She says she’s simply trying to design a plan the state can afford.

(Bartlett) “I’m really sorry it’s being made political. What I’m finding is that if you don’t agree with him, you’re political.”

(Dillon) The Lamoille County Democrat says she’d be against using the tobacco funds for education, even if her own party leaders proposed it.

But the governor calls her more modest plan “mouse meat.” He’s going around the state to urge people to lobby lawmakers about his Vermont scholarship program.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon

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