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Political notes from Free Press staff writers Terri Hallenbeck, Sam Hemingway and Nancy Remsen



Who earned those stars?

The October issue of Inc. Magazine, which bills itself as the handbook of the American entrepreneur, has evaluated the 26 governors running for re-election this fall and awarded Gov. Jim Douglas a four-star ranking -- the magazine's highest score.

A four-star governor is "a true friend whose policies will benefit businesses over the short and long term, explains the magazine. Joining Douglas in this elite category are three Democratic governors: Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and Bill Richardson of New Mexico.

"We are very proud," said Douglas spokesman Jason Gibbs. "The governor has made it a priority to promote Vermont as a competitive place to live and work," Gibbs said, adding that the ranking shows his efforts are working.

The magazine evaluated only governors seeking re-election, not their challengers. Douglas faces five challengers.

In a statement accompanying the ratings for each governor, Executive Editor Mike Hofman wrote, "The thinking here is that it's smarter and fairer to assess someone on the record he or she has built in office than on campaign promises."

"What attracted us to Gov. Douglas is he is in a state with a notorious liberal tradition," Hofman said in a telephone interview. He noted that the Legislature was controlled by Democrats these past two years. "He managed to work with them and make progress."

Douglas was one of four governors to receive special recognition for the state's progress on health care. Hofman said the recently passed health reform legislation "really is ambitious."

"A lot of things they are talking about are things he did with the Legislature," said Bill Lofy, a spokesman for Scudder Parker, Douglas' Democratic rival in this election. Lofy said health care reform wouldn't have been as business friendly if Democrats hadn't prevented adoption of some provisions in the Douglas' plan. The governor had proposed a tax on health insurance premiums that would have added to the cost of the health benefits that many businesses buy for their workers.

Inc. Magazine noted that Douglas blocked a Democratic plan to pay for expanding health care to the uninsured with a payroll tax.

The magazine also praised the state for spending $11,128 per pupil in 2005.

"If Jim Douglas had his way, Vermont would not rate the best when it comes to total school spending," Lofy said. "He complains regularly that we are spending too much per pupil."

"The governor supports our strong public education system," Gibbs countered. "He wants to be sure we put our continuing investments into that system on a sustainable track."

The report wasn't posted yet on Tuesday evening, but the magazine's Web address is www.inc.com.

--Nancy Remsen

No doubt. Out of state business interests have a lot to thank Douglas for.
To claim progess on health care is just ridiculous. If you're already insured I'm sure everything is wonderful. Catamount health is not sustainable and will be proven so. But Douglas will never have to answer for it.
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