MONTPELIER – Speaking Thursday afternoon in his second inaugural address to the Vermont Legislature, Gov. Phil Scott championed collaboration and respect in Vermont politics while hinting at policy goals for the upcoming biennium.
“We must look for common ground instead of highlighting or exploiting our differences, view consensus and compromise not as a weakness, but as a strength,” Scott said.
He contrasted those calls for collaboration to entrenched national politics before outlining goals that included revisiting Act 250, reducing inequalities in education and reversing the state’s ongoing demographic challenges.
Before reaching into politics, however, Scott opted instead to note stories from around Vermont that, according to Scott, showed “there is still good in the world,” including a pair of stories tied to communities here in Franklin County.
“We saw the good in the people of Swanton who sheltered and fed their neighbors as flood waters forced them from their homes in the depths of winter,” Scott said.
“The good is found in the Perry family, whose combined 120 years of dedication and service in the Navy was recognized at a shipyard in Groton, Connecticut as the USS Vermont was christened,” he said later. “Four sons, three grandsons and a granddaughter-in-law, all following in the footsteps of the former representative from Richford, Captain Al Perry.”
Among the more detailed goals outlined in Scott’s address was the call to reform Act 250, Vermont’s landmark land use law often heralded for its role in conserving Vermont’s environment and often criticized for stifling its economic development.
Scott noted that the context that created Act 250, a population boom spurred by the Baby Boom and the construction of the Interstate, was no longer a reality in Vermont, which has struggled with an aging population and a general population decline as Americans continue moving to more urbanized parts of the country.
“That’s why I’ll propose reforms to modernize Act 250 in a way that expands growth in our struggling downtowns while continuing to protect the environment,” Scott said. “We can and must do both.”
Building off of reforming Act 250, Scott also announced that his upcoming budget would include measures for revitalizing existing housing units and affordable housing, as well as expanding broadband to rural areas.
He acknowledged the latter – championed by some legislators as a catalyst for restoring Vermont’s declining rural population – wouldn’t be a “cure all to Vermont’s economic challenges,” but described it as a way to bridge some of the technological disparities between different parts of the state.
Read a full recap of the Governor’s inaugural address in Friday’s Messenger. Click here to subscribe.