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Governor-elect James Douglas announced at a press conference Thursday afternoon
(November 14) that Tim Hayward would become his chief of staff. Hayward worked in
the first Snelling Administration and has been the executive director of the Vermont
Bankers Association for 18 years. Hayward is also the head of Douglas’ transition team.
Douglas also announced that lobbyist Betsy Bishop
will be his deputy chief of staff, campaign manager Neale Lunderville will become secretary of Civil and Military
Affairs, former Fletcher Allen public relations staffer Jason Gibbs will be his press secretary, Susanne Young, currently the deputy treasurer under Douglas, will be his legal
counsel, and Jim Barnett, deputy campaign manager, will be the governor's special assistant.
At the press conference, held in the governor’s ceremonial office on the second floor of
the State House, Douglas said that choosing agency secretaries would be the next
order of business for the transition staff. He said all political appointees, which include
agency heads and their deputies, department commissioners and their deputies, as
well as all others in the Dean Administration, will be asked to submit their resignations.
Douglas said that some may be retained in their current positions or moved to other
offices, but, “most of the positions will see new faces.” He expects the process could
take a couple of months.
Of the few policy items Douglas mentioned, he said he would urge the Public Service
Board not to increase funding for the Energy Efficiency Agency. It works to decrease
electric energy consumption through the use of conservation and technological
efficiencies. It is funded by electric bill surcharges. A proposal before the board would
increase its budget from its current $12 million to as much as $16 million.
Douglas said he wants to keep it at $12 million. He said he supports the program, but
with the economy soft, and electric rates already high in Vermont, the extra charge
would act like a tax increase and discourage economic development.
On that note, as he said he stated during the campaign, it will be very hard to increase
economic development through tax cuts. He said there are clear needs in the Agency of
Human Services, which includes the welfare department (the Department of Prevention,
Assistance, Transition & Health Access) and the Department of Corrections.
Douglas said policy changes that will lead to economic growth must come first, before
tax cuts can be made.
One revenue enhancement that Douglas said he would support, however, is Powerball,
the national lottery. Most states, most notably New Hampshire, are part of Powerball.
Douglas said that Vermonters are crossing the Connecticut River to buy Powerball
tickets, and while they’re there, they also do other shopping.
“They’re clearly buying them (Powerball tickets),” Douglas said, “I’d just as soon have
them buying them in Vermont.”
Governor Dean has been a strong opponent of Powerball, believing that the state
should not increase its obligation to gambling for state revenues. Douglas said he did
not know how much that lottery would bring the state, but acknowledged that estimates
run from $1 million to $8 million. Whatever the revenues, he said they would help offset
the property tax.
Douglas said he would like to somehow get the Pownal race track back in action. He
said the former horse racing facility in Bennington County once employed upwards of
1,000 people. Otherwise, he didn’t expect to have any other gambling initiatives, “I’m
not a great fan of gambling.”
He also will try and maintain the Rainy Day Fund. The fund is the principal reason why
Vermont enjoys the highest bond rating in New England. If the state actually used the
fund to shore up slumping tax revenues, the rating would go down, Douglas said, even
though that’s what it’s there for.
In the sunny, formal setting, Douglas was his usual casual, self-effacing self, not shy
about interjecting corny jokes, some directed at himself. He’s still the state treasurer
until January 7, when he will be sworn in as governor.
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