Douglas outlines priorities in inaugural address

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(Host) The power of the executive branch of state government was formally transferred Thursday afternoon. Governor Jim Douglas was officially sworn into office and Howard Dean departed from the Statehouse for the first time in more than 11 years as a private citizen.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) At roughly 2:35 p.m. on a crisp, blue sky afternoon in Montpelier, the chief justice of the Vermont Supreme Court, Jeffery Amestoy, administered the oath of office to the state’s new governor, Jim Douglas:

(Amestoy and Douglas) “I do solemnly swear – I do solemnly swear; that I will uphold the Constitution of the United States – that I will uphold the Constitution of the United States; so help me God – so help me God. Congratulations Governor.” (Sound of applause from the chamber.)

(Kinzel) In an inaugural address that lasted about a half hour, Douglas presented an overview of the key priorities of his new administration. Douglas said the state was “confronted with challenges of great proportions,” but he pledged to seek common sense, long term solutions to the economic problems facing Vermont:

(Douglas) “And so my message to the people of Vermont is, change begins today. Not change for the sake of change, but change for the sake of progress.” (Sound of applause from the chamber). “The change I have called for, and which the people have affirmed, will not come overnight. My vision for Vermont’s economic future is not one of quick fixes or government gimmicks. It is one of careful consideration, common sense planning and prioritizing, and a new role for government that puts power back in the hands of people.”

(Kinzel) Douglas made it very clear that he believes that some state programs will have to be scaled back if the state’s fiscal health is going to improve:

(Douglas) “In two weeks, I will propose a budget that will avert a deficit that would delay recovery and threaten future prosperity. It will also begin to slow the planned growth of government in future years which, left unrestrained, would endanger programs critical to the most vulnerable among us. The greatest threat to these important programs is not from those who would restrain their growth but from those who would allow them to grow so big that they collapse under the burden of their own weight.”

(Kinzel) Douglas says taking steps to strengthen the state economy is clearly the top priority for his administration and he rejects the idea that Vermont’s environment will suffer if these proposals are successful:

(Douglas) “There are some sincere but misguided people who would have us believe that jobs exist at the expense of the environment. There are others, equally sincere and equally misguided, who believe that environmental protection comes at the expense of economic progress. However the choice we face today is not a choice between jobs and the environment. It is a choice between both or neither.” (Sound of applause from the chamber.)

(Kinzel) Douglas urged lawmakers to make key changes to Act 60 to insure that all children receive the education that their parents are paying for, and he threw his strong support to a plan to allow full school choice for all students throughout the state.

The new governor pledged to develop a multifaceted approach in dealing with the state’s heroin problem – an approach that will include stronger drug education, treatment and law enforcement programs.

Douglas will outline his specific budget proposals in a speech to lawmakers in two weeks.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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