(Host) Democrats say they’re ready to work with Governor Douglas to carry out the goals of his new administration. But in their official response to the new governor’s speech, Democrats warned that they may break with Douglas on school funding issues.
VPR’s John Dillon has more:
(Dillon) Just minutes after Douglas finished his inaugural speech, House Democratic Leader Gaye Symington delivered her party’s response. The Jericho representative says Democrats are committed to many of the same goals that Douglas set out as his priorities. She says Democrats want a balanced, responsible budget. And Symington says her party will work with Republicans to reform the permit process without sacrificing the environment.
Symington notes that the Senate is under Democratic control and that the House is almost evenly divided between the two major parties. She says that political mixture will require bipartisan cooperation:
(Symington) “We’re all talking about the need to work together. That’s not surprising, since even within just the House we don’t have any party that has a majority. We aren’t going to pass bills without either have a few people stay or finding folks who wear a different label to join in on a bill. So I think his reference to the Vermont civic virtue and the commitment to work together will hold true for all of us who want to get something done.”
(Dillon) But Symington made it clear that Democrats will closely examine Douglas’ proposal to overhaul the Act 60 school funding law. In his speech, the new governor also reiterated his support for school choice. Symington says she wants to see the details:
(Symington) “I think the Democrats want to understand what the impact of school choice really is in our rural state and find a way that, to look at school choice in a way that’s really thoughtful and answer some of the really big questions about transportation. And make sure that school choice is school choice for all kids and not stratify our school system by who can move around and whose parents can drive them from one place to another and who can’t.”
(Dillon) Republican leaders say Douglas is very aware that he’ll have to work with work closely with Democrats.
Cambridge Republican Representative Richard Westman is the House Appropriations chairman, who comes from a family of dairy farmers. He says he appreciates Douglas’s commitment to improve the state’s depressed farm economy. Douglas’ statement in support of dairy farms drew a standing ovation:
(Westman) “Clearly he’s got a commitment to that. And for people that are from families like mine where we have struggling family farms in there, we understand that and I think he does understand that. I think that there’s a lot of tradition that’s all tied up in our view of ourselves and what the farm needs. And I think to bring that up in a speech is something isn’t the norm and I think that was important.”
(Dillon) The biggest fights in the Legislature are usually over money. The Democrats say they’ll withhold judgment on some of Douglas’s agenda until they see the new governor’s budget proposals.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.