State of the State: Kicking the Can Down the Road

Commentary by Rebecca Holcombe

In yesterday’s State of the State, Governor Scott kicked the can down the road– again.

He offered crowd pleasers, like another study on afterschool programs.

What he failed to present was a strategy for the most important challenges we face: creating a strong 21st century economy and making sure Vermont is prepared for the climate crisis. He said: “I simply cannot support proposals that will make things more expensive” for Vermonters who depend on fossil fuels.

It is ridiculous and insulting to hard working Vermonters to suggest that an electric Mustang is a solution to the crisis of climate change. Vermont deserves better. We need a governor who understands the scope of the crisis and has a plan to support actual solutions for working families.

Here is what Governor Scott failed to acknowledge: we already make things more expensive for Vermonters through taxpayer subsidies of the fossil fuel industry. We make things more expensive by failing to develop a comprehensive strategy for a future with more frequent and more ferocious storms, thus putting our infrastructure and bond rating at risk. We make Vermont more expensive by allowing those storms and warming waters to poison our lakes and streams faster than we can clean them. We make Vermont more expensive for Vermonters by failing to account for the public health risks and environmental degradation caused by dependence on fossil fuels, the burden of which falls hardest on less wealthy Vermonters.

Our state and our nation are begging for leadership on climate. Global warming poses a catastrophic threat to both our ecological and economic viability. Real climate action requires a comprehensive approach.

As Governor, I will advance a coordinated and coherent strategy for sustainable economic development and energy policy that ensures a supply of reliable and affordable local power, but which also protects Vermonters against threats to public health and environmental degradation.

Governor Scott has said this is an issue that needs to be handled regionally and nationally. We can’t wait for national solutions, for all the obvious reasons, and now Governor Scott is trying to back away from the Transportation Climate Initiative- a regional effort to bring down emissions and raise revenue to support rural and lower-income Vermonters in our transition to a green energy future. Scott’s inaction means we will pay higher regional prices, but get none of the benefit.

We can’t wait until gas and heating oil are $12 a gallon. We need to aggressively invest in weatherization, public transit, and rural economic development now. Governor Scott appears content to swap out one car for another and call it a day. That’s not leadership, and it’s not an approach in line with the urgency and scale of the crisis at hand.

Shifting to a green energy economy allows Vermont businesses to be part of our energy solution in ways that create wealth right here in our communities.

Acknowledging the crisis enables us to protect our rural communities and vulnerable Vermonters from increasingly severe weather events and storms and their devastating impact.

As Vermont’s governor, I will protect our economic future by:

  • Making sure Vermont is a voice and a partner in the Transportation Climate Initiative (TCI), which is a regional collaboration that uses the power of groups of states to move the needle where the Trump Administration and the Senate have failed.
  • Making sure that any revenues invested to transition us to green heating and transportation are used in an equitable and just way, to protect lower-income Vermonters who stand to lose the most in the face of climate change.
  • Aggressively embracing the Global Warming Solutions Act as an opportunity to rethink state government investments and move the needle on a sustainable, green energy economy.
  • Evaluating the portfolio of investments we make in workforce development, housing and economic development to ensure they are consistent with the state’s energy, environmental and equity goals, and to expand high wage, high demand jobs in green economic sectors.

Vermont has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to sell not just goods, but solutions. We are blessed with really smart people, with deep expertise in strategies to manage and improve energy systems, as well as ways of living and working that meet our climate goals and create community wealth. We can be the place people turn when they want to know how to manage the coming energy transition proactively, responsibly, and equitably.

For that, we need a governor who will say “I hear you” to Vermonters—and especially our young Vermonters— who are worried about climate. We need a governor who will get to work with the legislature to create a strong 21st century economy and prepare Vermont for our climate-altered future.