(Host) Governor Jim Douglas is accusing Vermont’s Democratic legislative leaders of ignoring issues important to a majority of Vermonters.
Senate President Peter Shumlin says Douglas’s comments are a clear example of the governor choosing politics over policy.
VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.
(Kinzel) In many respects, the governor’s comments are a prelude to what’s likely to be a highly partisan legislative session and the basic outline of the 2008 gubernatorial election campaign.
For several months, Douglas has been holding listening sessions throughout the state because he says he wanted to learn more about the top priorities of members of the public.
The governor says the clear conclusion from these meetings is that many Vermonters are frustrated that the Democratically controlled Legislature isn’t dealing with their major concerns.
Douglas says Vermonters want action to reduce tax burdens, health care costs and housing costs instead of focusing on climate change and same sex marriage. The governor says he heard one question over and over at these meetings.
(Douglas) "What are they doing there? Many Vermonters are asking and wondering about why there’s a such a tremendous disconnect between members of the General Assembly, in the majority in particular, and the people they represent. They’re spending a lot of time in the legislature dealing with issues that are important, but not the most important matters that concern the working families of our state.”
(Kinzel) Senate President Peter Shumlin says he’s disappointed and surprised by the governor’s comments.
(Shumlin)"This is a governor that has shown little leadership. … This is a governor that has presided for almost six years and Vermont‘s quality of life is getting worse, not better. And at the same time he’s a governor that constantly says, `No,’ to any new ideas. The state, in a sense, is in park under his leadership and he chooses, instead of addressing the tough issues that we’re facing, to pick on legislative leadership. It just absolutely baffles me."
(Kinzel) But Douglas says Democrats need to understand the reality facing many families in the state.
(Douglas) "I’d urge them not to shoot the messenger. I’ve talked to hundreds and thousands of Vermonters over the last few weeks, over the course of the summer and fall. And I have to tell you, these are the things that are most important to the people of our state."
(Kinzel) Douglas says he’ll have specific proposals to deal with many of these issues by the end of the year.
For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.