Jan 05, 2017Vermont Business Magazine
Timothy McQuiston
Already well known for his gracious manner and conciliatory nature, Governor Phil Scott offered his first inaugural address before the Legislature at the State House on Thursday afternoon by opening with kind words for Governor Peter Shumlin's long political career. Scott, in a half-hour speech, then laid out his campaign vision for growing the economy, making Vermont more affordable and restoring faith and trust in government. He also won five standing ovations, mostly for his remarks concerning early education, the environment and continuing the fight against opiate addictions, which he credited Governor Shumlin for starting. He also garnered something of a half-ovation, in what was a Democratic-heavy body of lawmakers, by insisting that Vermont would not solve its budget problems by raising taxes.
 
“We must set a clear direction and commit ourselves to attaining real results,” Scott said in his address. “Today, I will sign an Executive Order, which directs every State agency and department to focus on three strategic priorities: strengthening the economy; making Vermont more affordable; and protecting the most vulnerable. These goals will drive every initiative we undertake,” Scott said.
 
It was for his vow to protect the most vulnerable that led lawmakers and guests to first rise to their feet.
 
“To achieve this vision, we need to focus on four major policy areas. First, we will continue to combat the opiate epidemic, with the urgency we would any other health crisis. Second, we’re going to revitalize our approach to economic development. Third, we must transform our education system. Finally, we have to build sustainable budgets that enable us to achieve these goals.”
 
On continuing to address the opiate crisis, the governor said, “With compassion, perseverance, and the strength of all Vermonters, we will continue to lead the nation in addressing this challenge; reducing stigma; and shedding light onto the darkness of addiction.
 
“With enhanced treatment, better prevention, and stricter enforcement, we can continue our efforts to turn the tide. We will break down barriers, allowing models for success and lessons-learned to flow freely from agency to agency… and community to community.
 
“That’s why I’ll establish a Director of Drug Abuse Prevention, an Opioid Coordination Council and – this year – will convene a State Convention on Drug Abuse Prevention.”
 
On the topic of economic development, the Governor said, “When talking with employers across the state, they shared two of their biggest obstacles to growth… First: a lack of qualified workers… And second: that the cost and quality of housing, impacts their ability to recruit talent.
 
“Our economic development efforts will focus on solutions to these problems. We will invest in programs designed to train Vermonters with the skills needed for the jobs we currently have. And we will set specific housing targets and find ways to expand availability of good homes for working families and young professionals.”
 
Scott also called for transformation of our education system. “There is no better way to grow our economy, and create more opportunity, than through our schools…we must rethink our entire education spectrum. Everything from early childhood education and graduate school to tech programs, workforce training and adult learning. We can revitalize the entire system, so we no longer have to accept rising taxes and compromises in the quality of our children’s education.”
 
The governor also acknowledged Vermont’s budget challenges and his approach to more strategic and sustainable budgeting. “To deliver on the goals I’ve outlined today, it is imperative we restore fiscal responsibility to the budget…We will modernize and rethink government to find efficiencies, and budget more strategically. And we will make necessary investments to grow our workforce and our economy.
 
“We cannot continue passing budgets that grow faster than the economy or wages of working Vermonters,” he continued.  “I will set clear limits that reflect the changes working families see in their own finances. I will not support, or carry out, experiments at taxpayers’ expense…. And I will only sign a budget that meets these standards.”
 
He added that change in government will come from the bottom up, not the top down.
 
He promised, "I will not let you down."
 
Governor Scott, in his own way, also invoked the "golden rule," echoing the invocations of Bishop Christopher Coyne and Rabbi Tobie Weisman, along with the benediction of Robert Potter, the senior minister of the Peacham Congregational Church.
 

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