Values, Principles & Priorities

As you know, the Vermont construction trades are where I came from, how I came up in the world, and how I got to where I am today.

I grew up in Barre and in Elmore, blue-collar communities, then and now. As a teenager I started a lawn care business. While going to college I worked as a construction laborer, flagger and pipe layer. In my twenties I started a motorcycle shop but also pumped gas and delivered fuel for Bourne’s, in order to make a living and survive.

Now, I’m co-owner of the family construction business with my cousin. But it wasn’t something that was handed to us. When we decided to buy the business we encountered a bit of an obstacle. We weren’t wealthy investors, we were just construction workers and we didn’t have much money. So we worked out an agreement with my uncle where we paid him every single week for 20 years until we owned the business.
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When I first decided to run for the Vermont Senate, it was because I was a small business owner who had become frustrated with Montpelier. And then one day I thought, instead of complaining, I should try to be part of the solution. I knew I was a good problem solver, and I believed my business experience could add something useful. Fortunately, enough folks in Washington County agreed and they elected me to the Senate.

When I decided to run for Lt. Governor in 2010, it was for similar reasons. I saw a need for a leader who could bring people together, achieve consensus and bridge growing partisan divides. I thought I could fill that need and, once again, Vermonters supported me.

But as I look ahead and I think about Vermont. As I think about the incredible opportunities we have ahead of us – like building our economy, making Vermont more affordable, and investing in our future – I always arrive at the same conclusion. I have never been more motivated to serve you than I am today. That is why I am running for Governor in 2016!
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What I’ve observed over the last five years – as I’ve served as Lt Governor and traveled the state, going to events, working alongside many of you at your jobs, and just listening – is a disconnect between Montpelier and many Vermonters.

While so many are struggling to stretch every dollar as far as it’ll go in order to pay the bills and the taxes, too many elected officials think the solution is to raise more taxes and spend more money.

Some suggest those of us expressing concern are blowing things out of proportion. They say all of this even as our workforce is at it’s lowest point in more than a decade; mismanaged IT projects run millions of dollars over budget; and the state is millions of dollars in the red, year after year.

There’s no question, things are challenging right now. In fact, some have said that the state’s economic struggles are so complex the next Governor could easily spend their entire administration reforming state government and getting us back to the fiscal fundamentals.

If that’s the case, that’s all right with me. As the owner of an excavation business, I’ve spent the better part of my life in the trenches. I’m perfectly comfortable taking on a tough job that doesn’t offer a lot of headlines or make a good platform to run for higher office.

But no road, no bridge and no building – certainly no economy – can stand for any length of time with a weakening foundation. So let me be clear: I am running for Governor to rebuild Vermont’s economic foundation.

When we shore up our economic foundation, Vermont’s economy will once again keep and attract working age families, innovators and entrepreneurs. Current employers will stay and expand. New employers will arrive. Wages will rise. And the revenue government needs to care for the vulnerable and invest in our future will grow!
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So, how do we get there?

We get there the same way a couple saves for the down payment on their first house. The same way a small business makes it through its first years. And the same way a family gets through years of sleepless nights, sickness and sacrifice to raise their children.

We have to agree on the goal. We all have to get behind it. We all have to stay focused and disciplined. We have to lift each other up when we’re feeling down. And we need to reach out when we’re feeling low. We are all in this together.

We also have to acknowledge that no leader, no special interest group and no one political party will have all the answers. We must listen to each other. That’s why when someone says, “I think I have an idea that just might work.” I will always say, “Tell me more.”
These are the leadership principles I will bring to the Governor’s office. Because I believe Vermont needs a Governor who is humble and willing to learn from others.
But we also need a Governor who is motivated to do the tough, unglamorous work – the everyday jobs – that need to be done to get our state back on track.   And I know that, with your support, I can be that leader.
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A Scott Administration will be focused on the fundamentals.

When it comes to policy, we will be unyielding. If a proposal decreases the costs of living and doing business here, we will support it. If it increases costs, we will resist it.
We will set a steady, more predictable and less political course. We will be focused on delivering core priorities as efficiently as we can. We will empower the state workforce to think outside the department silo, and rethink systems to reduce costs and increase productivity.

And, when we budget, we will prioritize smart investments that generate a good return – like job training, higher education, and traditional as well as telecommunications infrastructure.
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We have tremendous opportunities ahead of us, but many Vermonters feel trapped by a very real crisis of affordability. We have to work together to address the factors that are driving up the costs of living in our state. Let’s look at a couple of these issues, specifically.

I think we all agree that education is one of our most important investments. But the infrastructure costs of the current system are driving property taxes, diverting resources from academic improvements and making it more difficult to meet the educational needs of our children.

In fact, our classrooms have been losing about 1000 students per year for the last 20 years – yet our property taxes go up each year, frequently at double-digit rates. This has to change. We have to be willing to do things differently if we want different results, more academic opportunities for our kids and property tax relief.
That’s why I believe structural reform – including the very difficult discussion of consolidation in some areas – is necessary. I also believe that flexible learning plans, better use of technology and more choices for parents can help achieve efficiencies and increase academic opportunities.
We can have the best education system in the nation at a price taxpayers can afford. But we have to acknowledge that overhead costs are keeping us from controlling property taxes and investing in educational opportunities our children need to compete, succeed and lead in the 21st Century. And we must be willing to adapt and change.
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Looking at healthcare, as I’ve been saying for two years, it’s long past time to pull the plug on Vermont Health Connect and provide Vermonters with something that works.
Just days ago the Shumlin administration declared, once again, that the exchange was “fully functional.” And, once again, we learned that many Vermonters were showing up at the pharmacy or hospital only to discover that their coverage had mysteriously been canceled. When they called for service, they were promised a speedy resolution that, as it turns out, took days to process. This was not acceptable two years ago, and it’s certainly not acceptable today.
Here’s the bottom line: We need to transition to a better model. That means allowing Vermonters to buy health insurance from the federal healthcare exchange or partnering with another State who has an exchange that is working.   This could offer Vermonters better choices and would cost taxpayers substantially less to administer.
We also need to eliminate the mandate that forces small businesses into this dysfunctional exchange – in this legislative session.
Looking beyond the exchange, we need to make sure savings from lower health care spending is getting to your bottom line. So far, after three years of historically low growth in health care spending and hospital budgets, no one has seen those savings show up in their insurance premiums. That’s a problem, and one I’ll get to the bottom of as Governor.
And, we need to change the business model in health care. Instead of paying providers based on the number of procedures, we should pay them based on the quality of the care. Our system should be outcome-based and focused as much on keeping us out of the hospital as it is on treating us when we have to go there.
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And, we’re going to get serious about the state budget.

Budgeting is about making choices. And I have no illusions about how difficult some of these choices will be. But they are necessary.

To make Vermont affordable and get our middle class growing again, state government must have the discipline to live within its means – just like families have to do.

For the last six years, our economy has been growing at about 2 percent each year. Meanwhile, state spending has been growing at a rate of about 5 percent each year. Last year alone, the Legislature passed a budget that raised over $50 million in new taxes.

Legislators need to view the state’s present fiscal challenges in the context of all of the taxes and fees they’ve raised in previous fiscal years. The total impacts of six years of new taxes, higher fees and new programs have made Vermont unaffordable for far too many. Working families cannot sustain these increases year after year.   We need to give them a break.
That is why as Governor I will not propose, or sign, a state budget that grows faster than growth in average wages or the underlying economy.
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No question, our “to-do” list is long. But I would ask each of you to think of a time when you faced a significant challenge in your life. We’ve all had them. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job, a serious illness – none of us is a stranger to adversity.
The way we move forward is by accepting reality – but never settling for it – and always looking for a way to make things better. It’s always just the right combination of pragmatism, optimism, stubbornness and innovation – that gets us through.
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Dad, as Mom alluded to, lost both of his legs during the D-Day invasion when his tank hit a land mine in France. When he returned to the states, he was lucky to recover.

After a two-year stay, he finally left Walter Reed Hospital and headed home to Vermont. As he looked down the road of the rest of his life, he knew he would see it all from a wheelchair.

Was it overwhelming at times? I can only imagine. In a country full of opportunity – but without today’s technology or the Americans with Disabilities Act – was it an enormous challenge? Absolutely.

But Dad, instead of dwelling on what he could no longer do, or why, focused on how to live the life he wanted for himself and his family. As a result, nothing seemed to stop him.
He got a job with the State Highway Department and drove himself to work. He married a young woman who was working at the Elmore Store while going to Johnson State College and, together, raised three children.

He never let adversity get in the way. He took us camping, played catch with us and even drove us to Florida so that we could experience the world. When he passed away as a result of his injuries, my mom picked up and kept going, with three rather rambunctious boys in tow.
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Mom and Dad did all of this by staying focused, working hard, and never giving up. We were fortunate to have these values instilled upon us at a very early age. It gave me the solid foundation needed to be successful as a business owner, a father and a public servant.

And – with your help – these are the values, work ethic and life experience that I will bring with me to the very tough job of serving as Vermont’s next Governor.

Thank you all, very much!
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