The political grandstanding and staking out of the imaginary political high ground in Montpelier is growing tedious.
The Legislature is now in its second week of a special session called by the governor after he vetoed the budget bill and several other spending bills.
Legislators returned to the State House last week to spend four days at loggerheads with the governor on the budget and spending -- at a cost of $50,000 to $60,000 a day according to the Legislature’s joint fiscal office.
Governor Phil Scott, normally a fairly reasonable politician, is obstreperous in his insistence that the Legislature use $20 million of a $43 million surplus to backfill a $20 million gap in the education fund.
The Legislature proposed using the surplus funds to backfill monies owed to the teachers’ retirement fund, to save taxpayers from paying interest and penalties on that debt.
These goals make sense economically and politically which is why the governor’s refusal to budge a single inch is baffling, but ultimately melodramatic and reminiscent of former President George Herbert Walker Bush’s “read my lips, no new taxes,” pledge from 1988.
Politics is a game of chess. The Legislature has signaled its willingness to compromise and has proposed compromises. The House has also passed and sent on to the Senate a stripped-down budget bill that would keep state government running after July 1 to avoid negative impacts to the state’s credit rating.
Given the discovery of another $11 million in surplus funds this week, it would be prudent for the governor to compromise with the Legislature rather than repeating his worn-out mantra and having his spokespeople issue press releases taking the Legislature to task for daring to differ with him.
His own spokesperson this week acknowledged that there is now $55 million in surplus revenue and rather than note that this is more than enough to do what the Legislature and the governor wants, flagellates the Legislature for failing to do the governor’s bidding.
Enough of this. Compromise, act like grown-ups. Pass a budget and send the legislators home. They have gardens to plant and lawns to mow and graduations to attend.