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Scott Focuses on Economy In Vt. Gubernatorial Bid

  • Republican Vermont gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott speaks with the Valley News Editorial Board at the Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H., Friday, October 21, 2016. Scott has served as the state's lieutenant governor since 2011 and held office as a state senator from Washington County before that. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

  • Republican Vermont gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott takes in a question from the Valley News Editorial Board at the Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H., Friday, October 21, 2016. Scott focused on his ideas to improve the state's economy, also discussing growth and development, education and health care funding. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/22/2016 12:06:19 AM
Modified: 10/22/2016 12:06:32 AM

White River Junction — Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Scott on Friday said he wants to use his business experience to curb government spending, boost job creation and a waning workforce, and make the state affordable for working Vermonters.

“I’ve been in business for 35 years,” said Scott, the lieutenant governor and a co-owner of a family run excavation company in Middlesex, Vt. “I understand what it means to meet a budget. I understand what it means to live within your means, and when I level fund, it means something else than to others in government.”

The “others,” meaning the prevailing Democratic majority, have launched expensive programs that increase uncertainty in the business community and taxes on residents, he said.

The solution, he said, was for Vermont to trim the budget and avoid increasing taxes so that the state could “live within its means” — a phrase he used many times during an hourlong interview with reporters and editors at the Valley News.

Scott also cast his frugal economic agenda as the main difference between him and his Democratic opponent, former Secretary of Transportation Sue Minter.

“She thinks that we can spend our way out of this,” he said.

Another clear distinction between the two major-party candidates is gun control.

Minter supports an assault weapons ban and the expansion of background checks to include such currently unregulated areas as private sales. Scott said he did not support any new gun control legislation in Vermont which, he said, was a special case in terms of having low amounts of gun violence.

“I believe Vermont is one of the safest states in the nation,” he said.

In a June Seven Days story, reporter Paul Heintz illustrated Vermont’s current private sales restrictions — or lack thereof — by arranging within a few hours to purchase an AR-15 from a stranger in a South Burlington parking lot.

Asked whether the ease and anonymity of this purchase gave him pause, Scott said, “It does not.”

Besides limiting government spending, Scott said his plan for economic growth would include offering tax incentives to businesses and accommodating their needs, if necessary, through changes to state law.

“We need to pay attention to those companies,” he said. “... We need to make sure to listen to what their needs are, so that we don’t find ourselves in a situation where we have a tremendous job loss.”

Scott’s own business, which has won state contracts, drew attacks from his Republican primary opponent; Scott on Friday reiterated that he planned to sell his shares so as to avoid any appearance of a conflict of interest.

In keeping with his plans for development, Scott expressed support for a 172-acre mixed-use project that Jesse “Sam” Sammis proposed near Exit 4 along Interstate 89 in Randolph. Sammis in February withdrew his permit application amid opposition from residents and environmental groups, but has plans for some sort of development there.

“There’s a lot of other pristine views in Vermont,” he said of Exit 4, which boasts sweeping views of the Green Mountains. “And I think that that already has a highway through it, and there’s already a commuter parking lot, and there’s already a gas station. I think there’s room at that point.”

Scott also said that Act 250, the Vermont law regulating large developments, could use some streamlining, including requiring an up-or-down decision within 90 days.

That doesn’t mean he’ll get behind any proposal, however. Scott questioned the scale of the NewVista development, a community of thousands that Utah multimillionare David Hall is planning to build in the White River Valley, and said that the project would be difficult to complete.

“I don’t know if Mr. Hall has heard about Act 250,” he said.

Although Scott said he supported solar power as a way for Vermont to meet its energy goals — lawmakers have to pledged to generate 90 percent of the state’s energy from renewables by 2050 — he flatly rejected large wind projects as an option, saying turbines on ridgelines were “tearing” the state apart.

As governor, Scott would contend with the legacy of the current Democratic Legislature and chief executive, including Act 46, the 2015 school district merger law; and current Gov. Peter Shumlin’s push for “all-payer” health care, which would pay providers a predetermined sum for caring for patients, rather than use the current fee-for-service system.

In Friday’s interview, Scott indicated a light touch.

He advocated for school choice but said he would not try to repeal Act 46, given the amount of resources that districts already have poured into consolidation.

And although Scott expressed cautious support for finding a model to replace fee-for-service health care, he said Shumlin was rushing an “all-payer” policy in an effort to secure his legacy.

“There’s a lot of mistrust in terms of whether this will work,” Scott said. “After all the dysfunction with Vermont Health Connect and the single-payer (system), people aren’t feeling as though they want to trust anyone in government to make these big types of policy decisions.

“So I would like the process to slow down a bit.”

Rob Wolfe can be reached at or 603-727-3242.
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