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Governor Phil Scott on plans for re-election, property tax rates and bringing balance to the Statehouse

Gov. Phil Scott announced Saturday that he is running for re-election in November. The Republican has served four terms. His announcement comes on the heels of a legislative session marked by divisions over large-scale issues such as spending and taxes.

Vermont Public’s Bob Kinzel spoke with Governor Scott on Tuesday about why he is seeking another term, his plans to veto the Legislature’s interest bill and his hopes for recruiting candidates who are more could bring balance to the Statehouse. This interview is made for the ear. We highly recommend that you listen to the audio. We have also provided a transcript, which has been edited for length and clarity.

Bob Kinzel: In your re-election press release, you said you are running again to restore balance in the Statehouse because Democrats have supermajorities in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. And you’ve certainly identified a number of issues where you disagree with the Democrats’ approach. Was there a turning point for you? Was there an issue where you said to yourself, “Okay, that’s it. I really need to run again.”

Gov. Phil Scott: You know, it’s just the hectic end of this session – the chaotic end of the session – something I’ve never experienced before. And I thought, “This is different, and we have to pay attention, because we’re putting Vermonters at risk.” So then I finally came to the conclusion that I had to run.

More from Vermont Public: The legislature is suspended and partisan battles spill from Statehouse to the campaign trail

Bob Kinzel: So they sent you a revenue bill, which sets the property tax rate, I think, at 13.8%. Is it pretty clear that you’re going to veto that bill?

Gov. Phil Scott: Well, I think they – when they were down to 12.5%, the Senate had introduced a bill to get out of their body, I thought that was too much. They then negotiated it down to 13.8%, which puts it even further out of reach. So from my point of view, that alone is enough to veto it.

More from Vermont Public: Lawmakers pass property tax bill, cutting hike to nearly 14%

Bob Kinzel: Do you expect to negotiate with Democrats on this issue between now and the veto session, which will take place in mid-June?

Gov. Phil Scott: I certainly hope so. I think there are some areas where we can find a middle ground. And I’m willing to do that. And I think it behooves us to get together and at least talk about it, so I plan to do that. I know the morning of the suspension. When I went upstairs to give my address, the speaker had said we should get together soon. And I said, “Absolutely.” So I’m hopeful that we can do that and at least agree to disagree and find a way forward.

Bob Kinzel: As I said before, you’ve talked about pushing for more balance at the Statehouse. Will you actively recruit candidates for the Statehouse? And would that also include moderate Republicans and Democrats?

Gov. Phil Scott: Yes absolutely. I have worked, I continue to work on identifying and supporting candidates. And as I’ve said before, they don’t have to be Republicans. So I’m also working to support independents, even pragmatic Democrats who want to be part of the middle. The, you know, the moderate centrists of the world – Democrats, like Bobby Starr, or my good friend and mentor, Dick Mazza.

Bob Kinzel: How do you explain that Vermont voters gave Democrats a supermajority in the Statehouse in 2022, and they also elected you by a wide margin. Is there a message in that?

Gov. Phil Scott: You know, I don’t think Vermonters collectively voted for a supermajority. I think they voted for people they felt comfortable with. And I think that’s what happens. Everyone knows their House Representative or Senator, likes them and is comfortable with them, and so on. And then they get elected.

Bob Kinzel: So given the issue you raise there, that people vote for their local representatives, and may not consider them part of the supermajority – how are you going to address that in the November elections?

Gov. Phil Scott: Well, I think they need to look a little deeper at their voting habits. Did they vote for a 13.8% increase? Did they vote for a payroll tax? Did they vote for a 20% increase in DMV fees? Did they vote to override my vetoes, leaving Vermont – you know, without my affordability concerns? Did they override what I thought was the right thing to do? So I think we should just make it clear. I think we will ask voters to look at the voting behavior of the person they support.

Gov. Phil Scott will deliver his budget address on January 23, 2024.

Zoe McDonald

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Vermont Public

Gov. Phil Scott will deliver his budget address on January 23, 2024.

Bob Kinzel: As you know, former Governor Howard Dean is considering running again this year. What do you think of a race with Dean?

Gov. Phil Scott: You know, I have a lot of respect for Governor Dean, when I was first elected, and I had no idea what was going on, anything to do with politics and so forth. He was governor. And I spoke to him a few times. And he was very nice to me. And we were talking about racing or other things, and he was just interesting to talk to. I therefore have a lot of respect for him.

But I would say it again, and he’s also fiscally conservative, but he’s not. Remember the old saying, “This ain’t your dad’s Oldsmobile?” This is not the governor of the Democratic Party, Dean recalls. This is different. And I think he would find that a challenge. So again, I don’t make decisions about who participates and who doesn’t. I make my decisions based on what I think is best for Vermont. And I don’t think having a supermajority, plus a governor in the executive branch who is part of that supermajority, makes for a better Vermont.

Bob Kinzel: You know, in his press release earlier this month, Dean talked about the toxic atmosphere in the Statehouse. He called the quote “toxic.” And then he praised the Legislature for tackling important issues that have been postponed for a year. It seems like he’s portraying you as part of the problem.

Gov. Phil Scott: Well, I beg to differ. I think I am part of the solution. I think we need more moderate centrists to run for office, and hopefully we will succeed. In November we will all be successful.

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