9-23-16- Okay, Montpelier, Cut This…

by Rob Roper

Earlier this week Governor Peter Shumln asked his agency leaders to identify programs that could either be drastically cut back or eliminated altogether. The budget reality Shumlin is finally facing up to in his last months in office is that the state cannot afford all the government the legislature has voted into being. As the Administration Secretary, Justin Johnson described the exercise, “Look at what you’re offering and say, ‘Is there something that we would not do so we can do the other things better?’”

Here are some thoughts….

Eliminate Efficiency Vermont. That would save $50 million right off the bat. Though it is a politically popular program, particularly with the left, is helping people choose light bulbs and insulate their homes really a core function of government? Shouldn’t these initiatives be led by privately funded non-profits and the power companies? Get government out of this so we can do other things better.

Repeal Vermont’s Certificate of Need (CON) laws. Currently, thirty-six states and D.C. have CON laws that essentially require some businesses, particularly healthcare services, to get permission from the government in order to open and operate. Vermont is the worst and most burdensome of them all. Again, it is not the role of government to determine if a community needs a privately provided service or not. That’s for the marketplace to decide. So eliminate the CON laws along with the all the bureaucracy necessary to implement them. Vermonters will benefit on both ends – saving the taxes used to pay for an unnecessary government function, and accessing more cheaper services in the marketplace.

Cut funding for universal public school pre-k and make it a means-tested program. For the past ten years the legislature has been eagerly expanding the role of the public school system to include all three and four year olds. This has added tens of millions each year to Vermonters’ property tax bills, and, if this program is allowed to continue on its present path, will end up costing in the hundreds of millions per year. And, it doesn’t work. Test scores taken by fourth graders who have matriculated through the pre-k program have actually dropped as access to publicly funded pre-k has expanded.

Access to subsidized pre-k can have a positive impact for poor and at risk children, so Vermont can both save money for taxpayer and increase the societal benefit of pre-k by for making it a limited, means-tested, program for low income families rather than a universal entitlement for the rich and middle class as well.

There are three things to start on. I’m sure there are many more.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeanne Norris September 23, 2016 at 6:35 pm

Yes the perfect three to cut!!


John McClaughry September 24, 2016 at 12:34 pm

Adding to Rob’s UPre-K recommendation: if you had $1000 to spend to improve the lot of 1000 4 year olds, would you spend it one dollar apiece for them all, or ten dollars on the most at-risk ten percent, and zero for the top 90%?
Which choice would yield the most improvement?
From voluminous research we know that the 90% would get zero benefit by third grade.
The at risk 10% might show some lasting benefit, catching up with the others.
But Vermont went the dollar for everybody route, because the various interests pushing for it don’t really care about the at risk 10% where wasting the money on 100% offers greater benefits to non-children.


Bob Frenier September 24, 2016 at 1:01 pm

I just added these to my “Weed the Garden” program.


Jim Bulmer September 24, 2016 at 1:06 pm

Wonder if Shumlin’s awakening about fiscal responsibility has anything to do with the election in November???? Does he think his sudden concern about spending will help Ms. Minter who has committed to adding to the sales tax base? While Peter’s on the right track (finally) it’s a grand thought, afraid it’s too little too late.


BOB HOLDEN September 24, 2016 at 5:53 pm



William Hays September 25, 2016 at 6:12 pm

Comments on:
Efficiency Vermont: total boondoggle, methinks. If your house is cold, cut some firewood and stuff the cracks with grocery bags (before they are outlawed). Get some cats, for foot-warmers.
CON Laws: not a government function, at all.
Universal pre-K: a total waste (“free” babysitting), as is “K” itself. Go to mandatory 1-8. Let the rest be voluntary. As an aside, our Hutterite population cuts off bi-lingual education at Grade 8, in Montana, and elsewhere. The Hutterites are some of the most successful farmers and business persons here. Their practices are a ‘bit weird’, to me, as they have a religious base, but you can’t deny success. I never went to “K” (generation gap), and did well in the ‘real world’. Of course, I had a two-parent home.


Steve Hearne October 1, 2016 at 1:18 pm

I visited a Hutterite ranch while hunting in Montana a few years ago. They run a very impressive operation indeed! I was treated in a most respectful manner by everyone I meet there and the children were very much involved in the operation of the ranch. They are quite successful in their endeavors.


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