The Ripon Forum

Volume 0, No. 0

Winter 2009 Issue

What it Takes

By on December 1, 2015

Being a Red Governor In a Blue State

by JIM DOUGLAS

This past December, I joined 48 other Governors and Governors-Elect in a meeting with President-Elect Obama and Vice President-Elect Biden.

As the Vice Chair of the National Governor’s Association, I traveled to Washington DC to discuss the economy and recovery strategies. In one of the few moments that were not committed to business, the President-Elect commented to me that, “you must be quite a politician to get elected in a blue state.”

Having served in many of the elected offices in the state throughout my career, I have learned one thing about Vermont – it’s about the people. This is an axiom that I have observed throughout my life, and my service is really incidental to putting people first. I consider myself fortunate because I get to meet and work with many people from all walks of life, as the main part of my job.

Political pundits and outside observers often view Vermont as one of the bluest of the blue states – and they have ample evidence to make that case.

Having been a listener and leader for my many years of service has led me to conclude that “good policy is good politics”. I spend a great deal of time traveling Vermont, talking with more Vermonters than most. Everyday I hear the concerns, aspiration and ideas of the people of my state. And it is their voices that guide me as I craft policies and advance our agenda. Focusing on what matters most to the people I serve, continuing to bring fresh and creative ideas to the table, and protecting the state’s fiscal integrity has always been a formula for success in Vermont – and I believe it is a formula for success throughout the country.

In the recent election, my positive agenda to grow Vermont’s economy, my message of fiscal responsibility and my record of accomplishment resonated with the voters of Vermont – even as nearly 70 percent of them voted for President-Elect Obama.

Political pundits and outside observers often view Vermont as one of the bluest of the blue states – and they have ample evidence to make that case. To simply view Vermont in that context fails to recognize that voters in the Green Mountain State are, in fact, pragmatic and independent people who want to know that their hard earned tax dollars are being put to use in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

That is just what I have been doing during my tenure as Governor. I’ve worked to make Vermont more affordable by advancing comprehensive health care reforms, creating more affordable housing and moderating the tax burden. We’ve succeeded in insuring thousands of previously uninsured Vermonters and made progress by advancing the Blue Print for Health to encourage Vermonters to live healthier lifestyles and bring down the cost of health care in the long run. I’ve pushed for a cap on skyrocketing property taxes and Vermont will see progress in the coming year with the implementation of a new law that will begin to bend the curve on school spending. And when the legislature has pushed for increased taxes on Vermonters, I’ve always been a voice of reason protecting already overly taxed Vermonters.

As I have fought for a more affordable Vermont, I have also made it a priority to encourage businesses and entrepreneurs to look to Vermont as a place to bring and create high quality, high paying jobs. Vermont is now on the path to becoming an e-State in the coming years through the development of a comprehensive wireless and cellular phone infrastructure that reaches every corner of the state. We’ve made a commitment to higher education, new scholarships and workforce training programs so that the next generation of Vermonters will have the skills they need to compete in the 21st century economy. And I am continuing to push for reforms to the permitting system that will spur economic development, while protecting Vermont’s cherished environment.

To simply view Vermont in that context fails to recognize that voters in the Green Mountain State are, in fact, pragmatic and independent people who want to know that their hard earned tax dollars are being put to use in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

When the national economy began to slow, I pushed for a package of initiatives to stimulate the economy and empower struggling Vermonters at no cost to taxpayers. Among the initiatives in my Economic Growth Initiative was a summer sales tax holiday that spurred economic activity for small businesses and retailers. Some even reported doing two months worth of business in just two days – a much needed boost especially as times have become more difficult.

All elected officials, Republican or otherwise, should recognize that there is no substitute for listening to the people of one’s state or district. Their hopes and concerns are an excellent barometer of the conditions on the ground, and the best guidance for solid policy.

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Jim Douglas is the Governor of Vermont.

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