By Michael Shank
This month, I was asked to investigate “Why this governor doesn’t care about working aged people?” And by governor, they meant Vermont Gov. Phil Scott. That was the question posed to me, verbatim. And while I had some initial thoughts in response to that question, I thought I’d crowdsource the answer among Vermonters instead. And so I took to social media and asked Vermonters to answer the question with me.
If you want to see those responses, find me on Twitter at @Michael_Shank and look for this conversation in October. I’m pulling directly from and excerpting those answers. Let’s begin, and count the ways that Phil Scott has illustrated that he does not care about working Vermonters.
First up, and a common refrain from folks on Twitter in response to my crowdsourcing request: “Scott vetoed paid family leave.” I heard this from many folks. Why is this important? Well, you know, kids. And parents. And loved ones. And sickness. For us working folks, the ability to take paid leave to take care of a sick kid or a sick parent, without the prospect of losing a job or losing good standing with an employer, is essential. And Scott, by vetoing that freedom and ignoring that necessity, is saying he doesn’t care about your sick kid, your sick parent, your loved one, or, frankly, your employment. (And a pandemic has reminded us why this matters – lost income and all.) But this response was just one of many, many grievances across Vermont.
Second up, and related to the point above, was Scott and his administration’s “ignoring COVID entirely and letting it rage through schools and communities, constantly pulling folks out of the workforce to care for the sick or be sick.” Another Vermonter called out the “education secretary who bungled COVID, putting even more pressure on working families without a coherent (and often late in the game) policy.” Again, for us working folks, Scott’s approach is perilous policy, and as we head into what’s already being called a “twindemic” – with a severe flu and COVID season predicted for this winter – Scott is putting too many Vermonters directly in harm’s way.
It’s also worth noting here that Scott’s COVID policy is an extension of his general approach to public schools – i.e., he’s keen to dismantle them and has consistently undermined them, which subsequently worsens Vermont’s demographics problem (who will move to a Vermont community if they know the state is actively undercutting its public schools).
Third, and related to where we just left off: Scott has targeted our public servants at every turn. As one person noted, “He seems to have it out for all public service workers and state employees. e.g., the pension and health care fights. He consistently undermines/underfunds meaningful state work — the very work for which he gets credit.” Another Vermonter captured it poignantly and personally: “I don’t know what public school workers ever did to get on his bad side, but he sure does seem to make life harder for us at every turn.” There’s a demoralization crisis among public servants. Burn out and quiet quitting is common, and they are leaving their positions because they’re under-resourced and under-supported. And it starts at the top, with a governor who has illustrated that public servants are not his priority.”
Fourth: Scott “vetoed democratically approved tenant protections during a housing crisis” and “ended tenant financial assistance abruptly when a third of COVID financial assistance went to businesses, not those working for business.” Scott has made it clear that he is not on the side of working Vermonters who are struggling to stay in their homes, afford housing, and pay rent. And after abruptly ending a poorly managed federally funded housing assistance program, amid a large and growing crisis of housing affordability, Scott’s administration has indicated they have no short or long term plan to solve the crisis and even less compassion for the workforce bearing the brunt of it. Again, going back to the demographics problem facing Vermont, how will we recruit and retain service workers when housing isn’t affordable? How will small businesses survive if their workforce can’t afford to live here?
Fifth: Scott has refused to tackle the hard work to slow global warming, which puts working Vermonters increasingly and directly in harm’s way. As one Vermonter quipped in response to Scott’s vetoing of the Clean Heat Standard, for example: “Hey, I believe working age people would like to enjoy retirement by not sitting daily in the fifth circle of Hell.” Avoiding that fifth circle won’t be an easy option for retirees with a governor who fights substantive climate policies, which he’s done regionally by refusing to join the Transportation and Climate Initiative, and statewide by vetoing the Global Warming Solutions Act and more. Fifth circle is a likely future with this governor as Scott is short on solutions but long on vetoes.
There are many more answers (again see for yourself on social media). For example, Vermonters flagged that Scott doesn’t care about harm reduction or saving the lives of working Vermonters. If he did, he would’ve supported overdose prevention sites. In refusing to do so, the governor’s move is “out of line with all the science — both published and in the field.”
But there’s more. Vermonters kept listing the failures of the Scott Administration:
– Scott’s “refusal to even consider new efforts on gun safety”
– Scott’s “resistance to any reform of our tax system, which was badly in need of an overhaul eleven years ago”
– Scott’s “flip flopping on following science to pander to his party”
– Scott’s “zero energy expended on pushing back about public dollars funding religious/private schools”
– Scott’s “nothing to support or recognize marginalized communities”
– Scott’s “meh” response to administration failures
– Scott’s vetoing more than any governor in Vermont history
The list goes on. All of this is what’s at stake this election. It’s beyond clear that Scott is failing working aged Vermonters on all fronts and in all the ways mentioned above. It’s past time for a change. It’s time for a governor that cares about working Vermonters. That’s not Phil Scott. And it’s time for him to go.
Michael Shank is a resident of Montpelier. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of Vermont News & Media.