Governor Douglas’ first 100 days

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says his first 100 days in office have been marked by rapid progress on school financing and economic development issues.

Politicians of both parties give Douglas generally high marks for his work in the last three months. But some lawmakers say the governor needs to do a better job in communicating with the Legislature.

VPR’s John Dillon reports.

(Dillon) As a candidate, Douglas promised big changes in the first 100 days of his administration. He vowed to improve the culture of state government, to submit a balanced budget, and to begin to reform the environmental permit process.

As the 100th day arrived, Douglas appeared before an enthusiastic crowd of supporters to show that he’s on track and on message.

(Douglas) I don’t remember a time when we’ve come so far on so many issues of such great importance to Vermont. I’m very pleased that despite the many contentious issues on our docket, we’ve been able to perform our duties in the spirit of bi-partisanship, pleading our cases vigorously but cordially, consistent values of civic virtue that I discussed during my inaugural message.

(Dillon) The governor ticked off a list of accomplishments, and thanked both Democratic and Republican lawmakers for their help.

He says the legislature is close to passing a jobs bill that will stimulate the economy. He says his proposal to raise the minimum wage will help low income Vermonters. And he’s close to a compromise on the thorny issue of education funding.

The governor has had less success in pushing an environmental permit reform plan through the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats.

Windsor Democratic Senator Peter Welch, the Senate president pro tem, says Douglas says Douglas has a mixed record so far in dealing with the Legislature.

(Welch) Number one, it remains to be seen whether he’ll be the forceful presence in Montpelier that Governor Dean was and Governor Snelling was. Secondly, on his most important agenda item, permit reform, he really has carried over the political rhetoric from the campaign as opposed to developing a legislative strategy and I think that’s been detrimental to his success.

(Dillon) Welch also faulted the new administration for not coming up with a plan to tackle the rising cost of health care. He says this a key economic issue that needs the governor’s leadership.

Every new administration has a honeymoon with lawmakers. But there are signs that the post election glow is fading inside the Statehouse.

Some Republican lawmakers grumble that Douglas hasn’t done a great job consulting with them on appointments and political strategy.

Senator Julius Canns of Caledonia County says Douglas does stay in touch very well with Vermonters all over the state. The Republican Senator says the governor’s communications skills inside the building are not as strong.

(Canns) I don’t give him A plus for communications, between his own delegation even. And maybe there are reasons, but I don’t give him too good marks on that.

(Dillon) As an example, Canns was shocked to find out on Friday that the governor had made a key legislative appointment without consulting a senator in his own party. Douglas named Bernier Mayo, the former headmaster of St. Johnsbury Academy to fill the term of Rob Ide, who took a job with the administration.

(Canns) I saw in the paper this morning that Bernie Mayo, the former academy headmaster, had been appointed already. I wasn’t aware of that. That’s what I mean by lack of communication. I wasn’t aware of it. It’s been in the paper already. Yet it’s my seatmate. So there’s lot to be said about communication.

(Dillon) Others in Douglas’s party credit him with a solid record of accomplishment since January. House Speaker Walter Freed says the successes of the first month often get overlooked by the news media.

Freed says there are a number of key bills – such as the jobs package – that have come out of committee with unanimous votes. He says that reflects the bipartisan cooperation that Douglas has helped achieve.

The true test of Douglas’s first months in office will come as the Legislature finishes its work next month. Douglas and lawmakers on both sides say they’re committed to working well together in the weeks ahead.

For Vermont Public radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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