Most of us can’t imagine any place we’d rather live than Vermont. As a life-long Vermonter, father, husband, fire chief/emergency medical responder, businessman, Vermont State representative and Republican leader for the Vermont House, I believe Vermont can once again be affordable for every family.
For five years, Governor Shumlin and his Democrat majority have controlled all of state government. This single party rule has made our fiscal challenges far greater.
The Democrat’s new and expanded entitlement programs have caused state spending to grow by hundreds of millions of dollars and far faster than growth in your paycheck. They’ve raised an average of more than $50 million in new taxes and fees every year for the last six fiscal years. Current heath care policies and failed experiments are costing families and businesses more and covering less. Vermont’s energy policy is an increasingly expensive free for all dominated by one large monopoly. All of this contributes to a business climate that is not predictable and discourages investment.
In education, we’re not yet improving quality, expanding opportunities or lowering costs – which should be our top education policy priorities. Centralizing more control in Montpelier will not produce better student outcomes or bend the curve on school spending. Vermont Schools need to gain more independence from Montpelier, not lose it.
Democrats have also chosen to spend almost all of the state reserves to fill the gaps and disguise structural deficits in their unsustainable budgets. Every household in Vermont knows this does not work. You can’t run a household, a business or a state government by consistently spending more than you are taking in.
With these budget challenges in mind, it’s clearly time for a more transparent and rigorous budget process. The Speaker of the House should include the entire legislative body in the budgeting process and order every House committee to spend the first several weeks of the session – prior to considering any other new legislation — scrutinizing every dollar under its jurisdiction and looking for areas to reduce costs, improve efficiency and enhance productivity.
As the session moves forward, Vermont’s elected Republicans will continue fighting for working families and already overburdened taxpayers. There is a path to sustainable state spending, a stronger economy, higher wages and a more affordable state. But Montpelier has to be willing to change direction. We can no longer count on the policies of the past to be the solutions for our future.
The way to balance the state budget and invest in our future is to grow the economy, not raise taxes. If we make change and prioritize pro-growth policies, there is a prosperous future ahead of us. You can help pave the way by communicating regularly with your Representative, holding them accountable and by voting for pro-growth candidates in November. Together we can succeed in making Vermont a better place to live, work and raise a family.
Don Turner (R-Milton) is the Republican leader in the Vermont House of Representatives.