An editorial penned by Sen. Joe Benning
One hundred eighty lawmakers are soon going to decide Vermont’s path forward when they vote for governor. This is an important vote that should not be taken lightly. Other legislators may feel differently, but this legislator feels a responsibility to explain his intended vote to his constituents.
In one of the lowest attended and closest elections in Vermont history, Peter Shumlin won a statewide plurality of less than half of those voting by 1 percentage point over Scott Milne. Some claim I should therefore vote for Shumlin because this is in keeping with “tradition.” But my senatorial district has 23 towns, 17 of which voted for Milne. Furthermore, my district-wide plurality shows 6,134 votes for Milne to 4,230 for Shumlin. So others claim Milne should get my vote because “tradition” requires me to represent my constituents.
Our Constitution does not require legislators to rubber stamp either “tradition,” although either could be deemed a respectable choice. Instead, it demands a ballot, interpreted as being secret, which suggests each of us should vote according to something altogether different. As English political writer Edmund Burke noted: “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” And John F. Kennedy, in his book “Profiles In Courage,” further urged lawmakers to override tradition or perceived popular will when thoughtful deliberation and best judgment so demanded.
In my judgment, the business of Vermont is in serious trouble. In each year of Mr. Shumlin’s administration we have cobbled together a budget with one-time monies, while continuing to add unsustainable new programs and employees. Our most recent budget required a $31 million rescission in August and, as a result of continuing revenue shortfalls, we are likely about to have another of around $14 million come January. At current spending levels we enter the new legislative session with a shortfall of approximately $100 million. One bond rating company has just downgraded Vermont’s status. Millions were lost with CGI during a catastrophic health care exchange roll-out. The financial details of a $2 billion health initiative remain mysteriously hidden from public scrutiny, in blatant violation of a law requiring production almost two years ago. Gruber-gate and DCF mismanagement now dominate the news. And Jeb Spaulding, arguably this administration’s best remaining adviser, is leaving.
For me, my vote is focused on the financial stability and proper management of the state moving forward. For those reasons my conscience, happily with my constituents’ blessing, will be voting to take Vermont in a new direction with Scott Milne.