12-11-14 – Why Democrats Might Elect Milne in January

by Rob Roper 

Peter Shumlin’s push for a single payer healthcare system has been a disaster for Democrats, and it looks as if things will only get worse as the plan proceeds into the next biennium. Since details of the funding package were leaked earlier this week, everyone’s disgust with the plan has only amped up.

Former allies of single payer from the Workers’ Center and other left wing groups are angry over the benefits package and what they perceive to be a lack of progressivity in how single payer will be paid for. Companies who self insure under federal ERISA laws – some of the largest and best employers in Vermont — look like they’re gong to face a double-hit if they want to keep their current plans. Small businesses that currently don’t offer insurance are facing possible extinction at the hands of a new 8% payroll tax. Middle class Vermonters are looking at a major tax increase. Almost nobody is going to like this.

In the last election, Democrats who stood by the governor lost eleven seats in the legislature, including the chairman of the House Healthcare Committee, Mike Fisher, despite the fact that Republicans only fielded 80-some candidates for 180 total legislative seats. Two years from now, if the single payer debacle continues apace, things could be much worse for the majority party.

But, they have a way out.

By electing Milne in January Democrats could rid themselves of the anchor around their neck that is Peter Shumlin, kill a program that looks like it’s destined for the graveyard anyway, and shift the blame for its demise or ultimate failure onto a Republican governor who never campaigned strongly against single payer, and even said he would consider it. And, they can do all this anonymously behind a secret ballot! Every Democrat, unless the vote is unanimous, which is not likely, would have plausible deniability with their constituents.

Given that Milne is not organized to run the government (he has not made any meaningful plans to transition into the role of governor or done any serious work to formulate a budget that is due in January) and is a political neophyte, one can surmise that a tremendous amount of power would shift to the legislature. Quite a temptation for the Speaker (who many think is eyeing a run for governor in 2016 anyway, and this would clear an easier path) and the Senate President Pro Tem as well as the committee chairs.

A Milne governorship, if he does not rise to the occasion, could kill Republican momentum.

Perhaps this is why Democrats have not come out in full-throated support for Shumlin in the upcoming legislative vote to elect the Governor in January. And perhaps Milne, who has been misunderestimated consistently in this campaign, knows what he’s doing by staying in the race.

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