Saturday February 23, 2013

As the head of the Democratic Governors Association, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has a unique soap box on which to expound.

On Friday morning, Shumlin laid much of the blame for the current economic stagnation on Republican policy.

He singled out the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives for its recalcitrance in resolving the looming sequestration crisis.

During a forum hosted by Politico, Shumlin said the crisis has been manufactured by House Republicans, accusing them of holding the nation’s economic recovery "hostage."

Shumlin said their fiscal plans will "bankrupt" the nation, adding governors of all political affiliations should fear their tactics and strategy.

"We governors are scared to death if these guys in Congress don’t get their act together," he said.

If budget cuts do take effect on March 1, Shumlin said he would have to cut police and firefighters and other public sector employees to make ends meet.

"The one thing that stands in our way of prosperity, of job creation, right now, is this Congress, which refuses to work with the president," Shumlin said Friday on POLITICO’s State Solutions Conference, adding: "We have a Congress that is holding American prosperity hostage right now; we have Republican governors who are passing the tax policies they can’t get past a Democratic (Senate) and a Democratic president."

He also said Republicans on the state level don’t appear able to manage budgets and tax plans, noting that former President George W. Bush "spent money like a drunken sailor."

He drew attention to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to zero out income taxes and his state’s reduction of corporate taxes, which Shumlin said will bankrupt the Sunflower State.

Most frighteningly, conservatives have cited Brownback’s plan as a model for other Republican governors to consider.

"The contrast has never been more clear, in terms of what Democratic governors are offering versus what Republican governors are offering," Shumlin said. "They are imposing policies that will cut taxes for their millionaires and billionaires at the expense of creating jobs and prosperity. Š We are investing in infrastructure, roads, bridges [and] education."

Shumlin stressed that the best way to overcome Republican obstinacy was to focus on state governance.

"We’ve got a Congress that we all know isn’t producing anything," Shumlin said in an interview with Politico. "Governors are more important than ever, I would argue. ... We have an opportunity, in spite of the paralysis in Congress, to create jobs and create prosperity for those who have jobs."

"The case for leading from the states comes naturally to Shumlin, who has pursued a dizzying agenda in Vermont, stocked with big ticket Democratic priorities that wouldn’t stand a chance on Capitol Hill," wrote Politico’s Alexander Burns.

Burns noted Shumlin has pushed "a wish list of national liberal goals."

Shumlin has promoted a single-payer health care system and set up a robust insurance exchange called Green Mountain Care.

"He has expanded broadband Internet access, banned hydraulic fracking and opposed the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. In the current legislative session, he is arguing for issuing driver’s licenses to undocumented agricultural workers, decriminalizing marijuana and legalizing physician-assisted suicide."

Some on the right have criticized Shumlin for what they call his "blinding ambition" and insinuate he is working his way up to a run for the presidency.

We’re not privy to Shumlin’s long-term political strategy, but we doubt the presidency is in his sites.

However, we have a sneaking suspicion he might covet a certain senator’s seat in Congress, a senator who could be closing in on retirement. We think Shumlin would be a fine candidate for that seat and we don’t see anyone who could realistically compete against him. And his progressive agenda, his willingness to lay it on the line and his ability to rap off a pithy but relevant aphorism would be a welcome relief in the stodgy, stuffy rarefied air of Washington, D.C.

But that’s all speculation. There’s no telling who will retire when and who will step up to fill big shoes.

We know that Shumlin continues to bring attention to Vermont for its innovative and bold measures to revitalize its economy and health care system. We hope he continues to keep the little people in mind while he proposes how best to move forward. And we have confidence wherever his ambition leads him, he will never forget the Green Mountain State.