Dear Governor-elect Shumlin,
Congratulations and thanks for taking up the challenges we face.
May I suggest some priorities as you move ahead? You know from your own political experience that there are no easy answers. All durable solutions are incremental, involve compromise and take time to implement. They are the result of listening and open discussion.
Above all, you will need to be a communicator and educator. We have become too disconnected from the purposes and mission our taxes fund. You will need to use the Web and your office to bring more understanding, transparency and measurement to the work of your administration.
It will be possible to reduce some indirect costs of education like energy, healthcare, administration while preserving quality. It will, however, require both innovation and compromise. There are benefits of scale that can be achieved by centralizing costs while preserving the curricular integrity and involvement of local communities. We will need a statewide teacher’s contract.
One serious problem that will require broader understanding will be the need to stabilize the State and teacher’s pension and benefit funds. We are not alone in having to address this issue. Institutions from UVM to California have the same problem to varying degrees. Fixing it will require good faith and compromise from all parties.
You will need to redefine “economic development” for Vermonters. The mythology that has developed around business development, job creation and regulation has doomed most efforts from the start. I would not overpromise on the job creation front. Hopefully, your administration won’t create jobs in that sector. In all probability, you will lose some within state government as you streamline and improve standards of measurement, accountability and transparency among your 8000 plus employees. It is possible to do more with less. We all do it every day.
Instead, you may look to our skilled workforce, our working landscape and our existing entrepreneurs and the jobs they have created over two centuries and let that guide your creativity and the creativity of those you enlist to help in this effort. Playing the high stakes game of using taxpayer money to bribe companies to create jobs or to relocate or not to relocate hasn’t worked all that well. Helping them succeed at what they do best or helping with intergenerational ownership or business sale challenges might work better. We will need to redefine “small business” to Vermont scale. The federal definition of fewer than 500 or in some cases 1000 employees doesn’t fit us except in a few cases.
You clearly understand the relationship between the cost of healthcare, economic growth and the wellbeing of Vermonters. Good luck with the federal waivers. That will be a necessary component of any experiment we try with single-payer healthcare.
Finally, you will need to be decisive one way or the other on Vermont Yankee. Are you open to working with a more responsible owner that offers Vermonters a good rate, or is the age and safety of the plant the basis for your relicensing opposition?
I wish you good luck and the good will of Vermonters.