Three Fiscal Facts You Haven’t Heard

An editorial written by Dave Sunderland, Chair of the Vermont Republican Party

In a disjointed and frequently contradictory budget address, Governor Shumlin was quick to promote new tax hikes with a “I don’t want to, but it’s for your own good” tone intended to deflect attention from the real reasons our state has a growing $94-million budget deficit, a crisis of affordability and a stagnant, perhaps worsening, economy.

He’s a sly politician — we have to give him that — and gave an impassioned speech that deftly avoided accepting any responsibility for the fiscal mess he and the Legislature have created. Here are three facts every Vermonter should know about the state’s budget crisis:

1. THIS IS THE DEMOCRAT’S DEFICIT — The difference between the last budget proposed by Governor Jim Douglas and the budget Speaker Shap Smith and then-Senate President Peter Shumlin imposed over Governor Douglas’ strenuous veto was $94 million — exactly — in combined general and federal stimulus funds. At the time, Governor Douglas insisted that the Democrats were setting Vermont on an unsustainable path. They chose not to listen.

2. DEMOCRATS KNOWINGLY IGNORED ECONOMIC REALITY FOR YEARS –– The portion of the state budget funded by state dollars has grown at about 5.5% every year for the last 4 fiscal years, when the Legislature and Governor knew that state revenues were only growing at about 3% each year and underlying growth was only about 2%. They had all of the data and many voices, starting with Governor Douglas, noting that a growth rate of more than about 3-3.5% was totally unsustainable. 5% was far more than the increases Vermonters were seeing in their paychecks and budget increases of that size would be reckless, many Vermonters noted. Yet, again, they chose not to listen.

3. SUSTAINABLE SPENDING WOULD HAVE CREATED A SURPLUS — Over the same period, if the Democrats had simply adhered to the principle of sustainable spending (not growing spending faster than revenue) and grown state government at a rate of 3%, Vermont would have a surplus today of about $150 million. In the previous two years, House Minority Leader Don Turner and his caucus repeatedly suggested that spending increases in the 3% range would be far more responsible. Again, the Democrats chose not to listen.

For five years, Democrats have refused to listen to the fiscally responsible voices of Vermont, and they have refused to listen to their constituents.

But, let’s put these fiscal facts into further context. These irresponsible increases in spending haven’t enhanced the efficiency or effectiveness of state government at any level. As taxpayers, government is taking more and more of our hard earned money to prop up outdated systems and unaccountable programs — we’re not getting better results. There’s a credible case to be made that the day-to-day management of state government by this administration — beginning at the very top — is just as reckless as their fiscal management and their spending has only covered up programs and systems that are chronically underperforming or simply failing to achieve the intended outcomes. Worst of all, Vermont’s crisis of affordability deepens by the day and many families are falling further behind.

The solution to the Democrat Deficit is the fiscal leadership and discipline of Vermont’s elected Republicans. Their focus on policies that stimulate real economic growth, create new and better paying jobs, increase wages for working Vermonters across all sectors and alleviate the crisis of affordability that years of Democrat policies have piled upon the middle class are needed now more than ever.

If you are ready to support pro-growth, fiscally responsible leaders in Montpelier again — please join us.

It’s time for a change.