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



Douglas and the Dems – is cooperation in their future?

Can Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Jim Douglas make up and move on following last week’s veto override? Not many positive signs yet.

Douglas provided a window into his state of mind at noon Tuesday when he fielded questions on Vermont Public Radio. (Actually he was a bit late for the show as he was fishing – one of those gubernatorial appearances at a fishing derby).

Douglas repeated his now familiar complaint that the budget that lawmakers enacted over his veto set the state on a track that would be unsustainable.

He declared the just-ended session one of the “sloppiest” in his years watching Statehouse goings-on.

Further, he charged that legislative leaders walked away from the negotiating table – three times.

Not exactly the kind of comments that would bring people together.

Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin, D-Windham, and House Speaker Shap Smith, D-Morristown, held a press event later in the day where they repeated their mantra of cooperation. “The speaker and I want to work together with the governor to put together the 2011 budget,” Shumlin said. “We are committed to working together with the governor.”

Still, they answered the accusation about the sloppiness of the session. It was not, Shumlin said. And they rebutted governor’s assertion that they walked away from negotiations on a compromise budget. “Nobody ever walked away,” Shumlin said. “I don’t know what motivates the governor at this time to say something that is untrue.”

Smith said the talks with the governor’s staff – the governor didn’t attend most of the negotiations – were cordial. “I’m disappointed the governor would characterize them any other way.”

How exactly will they work with the governor?

Smith and Shumlin sent Douglas a letter Tuesday suggesting areas of common concern. In the area of proposed structural changes in government, the letter suggests, “We are very interested in regular meetings with you to ensure we move forward to achieve what savings that can be made.” In other areas, the letter notes legislative studies that will soon get underway that could provide valuable information to the budget process.

Douglas, for his part, has begun calling on legislators to provide him with a “plan” showing how they would close the financial gap that will occur in fiscal 2011 based on current spending and revenue trends. Given that during the session, lawmakers drummed on Douglas to give them his budget alternative in writing, expect Douglas to demand the same.

When asked about producing a plan for Douglas, Shumlin reminded that it is the executive’s duty to propose a budget and the Legislature’s responsibility to review (and rewrite) it.

Smith suggested the governor and his staff might want to try to win some support for budget proposals earlier rather than surprise lawmakers and the public in January.
Douglas has said airing ideas early sometimes gives opponents more time to organize.

So on this one-week anniversary of the budget veto, does anyone see signs that Douglas and Democratic legislative leaders can and will enter a new era of cooperation -- or are they steering into politically choppy waters?

-- Nancy Remsen

It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Could it be they all just hope people get bored with it and stop paying attention. I think we could all use a break from the drama. Act like adults. Please.
Gov Douglas is clearly acting like the child who didn't get his way and is throwing a tantrum - He wants to take his ball and go home!

Jim Douglas is not used to having someone stand up to him -he shows the signs of a classic bully!
What else did the voters expect?
They elect an adult for Governor and then turn around and elect a collection of far-left mediocrities to play at legislating.
Legislators who, for the most part, have no experience with or knowledge of finance or management.
I certainly hope that the Governor holds the line.
This mess is veto dooglione's fault from start to finish.

Once again, he refused to bargain in good faith with the legislature all year long and did nothing but make threats and spew his asinine anecdotes with nothing to back them up.

Fortunately, Vermont finally has a legislature who won't be intimidated and a Speaker willing to call his bluff.

Now we just need us a competent Governor who actually gives a damn about the State of Vermont.
Jim's new "wow em" thing is to go on every interview and say that someone said something to him that really made sense.

Of course, he chooses individual comments that are like his and throws them out there like these people are speaking for the masses.

Nope. They are just massaging your giant ego.
Jim Douglas' proposed budget would have given Vermonters the largest property tax increase in Vt's history by simply moving the teachers retirement from the General Fund to the Ed Fund - without a way to pay for the shift.

The reason the legislature - back in 1947 - moved the retirement to the General Fund was to have equality between school districts and to keep property taxes lower.

That's not to say we shouldn't have the discussion - but you do have to figure a way to pay for it or else it's just a shift from the state to the locals.
Jim Douglas' attitude is "my way or the highway".

Douglas will compromise with the legislature as long as the legislature gives in to him.

Douglas finally has to face legislative leaders who will stand up to him and not just give in.
This is one big exercise in getting Shumlin elected Governor!!!
I'm sorry but am I only the one that thinks this statement is not getting its proper attention..

Smith said the talks with the governor’s staff – the governor didn’t attend most of the negotiations – were cordial. “I’m disappointed the governor would characterize them any other way.”

WTF??? The governor wasn't at MOST of the negotiations. How can he with a straight face complain about the Dems walking away from a table he wasn't even at???

I've voted for Douglas in the past but of he can take the time to be directly involved with the negotiations for the state budget I see no reason to have him continue to serve as the governor of our state.
To Anonymous 1:03p

You are so right!
The governor is far too busy pretending to be a fisherman. Who baited his hooks this year?
Douglas fishing looked ridiculous on that CH 3 news clip!
The governor took up the offer of the Auditor and would have sat thru real negotiations but the house and senate said absolutely not.
Nice try. No sale.

Of course doogie took him up on it, little fella - after he'd lost.

The Legislature mustered the votes to override his sorry, simple, incompetent, don't give a damn about Vermont butt.

The time to go to mediation or arbitration is before the veto and the override vote, but veto dooglione wanted no part of mediation or arbitration then.

Veto gambled and lost. Shap whacked his incompetent butt on the State House steps fair and square in spite of doogie's veto and the 48 dimwitted dittoheads in the house.

With all due respect, the gov is slippin'.

He picked a fight with the wrong Speaker, went to the veto well a time or two too often and got his head handed to him for his trouble.

If doogie was the only victim of doogie's incompetence, that'd be one thing, but he's not.

Vermont has born the brunt of doogie's cluelessness and incompetence for the better part of seven years now.

He's been running Vermont into the ground since the day he got there.

Doogie made this mess. Doogie created this chaos.

Like Vermont, Doogie's got nobody to blame but Doogie.
Both sides had a chance to work it out - they are both to blame.
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