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Gov. Phil Scott on plans for reelection, property tax rates and bringing balance to the Statehouse

Vermont's governor, at a podium, in a striped tie and dark blazer
Peter Hirschfeld
Vermont Public
Gov. Phil Scott said he decided he needed to run for governor again after the "chaotic end" to the legislative session last week.

Gov. Phil Scott announced Saturday that he's running for reelection in November. The Republican has served four terms. His announcement comes on the heels of a legislative session defined by divides over large-scale issues like spending and taxes.

Vermont Public's Bob Kinzel talked to Gov. Scott on Tuesday about the reasons why he's seeking another term in office, his plans to veto the legislature’s yield bill and his hopes for recruiting candidates that could bring more balance to the Statehouse. This interview was produced for the ear. We highly recommend listening to the audio. We’ve also provided a transcript, which has been edited for length and clarity.

Bob Kinzel: In your reelection press release, you said that you're running again to bring some balance back to the Statehouse, because the Democrats have supermajorities in both the House and the Senate. And you've certainly identified a number of issues where you disagree with the Democrats’ approach. Was there a tipping point for you? Was there an issue where you said to yourself, “OK, that's it. I really do need to run again.”

Gov. Phil Scott: You know, it's just the frantic end of this session — the chaotic end of the session — was something that I've never experienced. And I thought, “This is, this is different, and we need to pay attention, because we're putting Vermonters at risk.” So that's when I finally came to the conclusion that I need to run.

More from Vermont Public: Legislature adjourns, and partisan battle spills from Statehouse to campaign trail

Bob Kinzel: So they sent you a yield bill, which sets that property tax rate, I think, at 13.8%. Is it pretty clear you're gonna veto that bill?

Gov. Phil Scott: Well, I think they — when they were down to 12.5%, the Senate had proposed out of their body, I thought that was too much. Then they negotiated it up to 13.8%, which puts it even further out of reach. So from my standpoint, just that alone is enough for me to veto it.

More from Vermont Public: Lawmakers pass property tax bill, whittling hike down to nearly 14%

Bob Kinzel: Do you expect to be negotiating with the Democrats over this issue between now and the veto session, which will take place in the middle of June?

Gov. Phil Scott: I certainly hope so. I think that there's a number of areas where we can find middle ground. And I'm willing to do that. And I think that it would behoove us to get together and at least talk about, so I'm planning on doing that. I know the morning of adjournment, the speaker, when I went up to give my address, had said we should get together sometime soon. And I said, “Absolutely.” So I'm hopeful that we can do that and at least agree to disagree and find a path forward.

Bob Kinzel: As I mentioned earlier, you've talked about working to have more balance at the Statehouse, are you going to be actively recruiting candidates to run for the Statehouse? And would that include moderate Republicans and Democrats?

Gov. Phil Scott: Yeah, absolutely. I've been working, I'm continuing to work to identify and support candidates. And, as I've said before, they don't have to be Republican. So I'm also working to support Independents, even pragmatic Democrats who want to be part of the middle. The, you know, the moderate centrists of the world — Democrats, like Bobby Starr, or my good friend and mentor, Dick Mazza.

Bob Kinzel: How do you account that, in 2022, voters in Vermont gave the Democrats supermajorities at the Statehouse, and they also elected you by a wide margin. Is there a message there?

Gov. Phil Scott: You know, I don't believe, collectively, Vermonters voted for a supermajority. I think they were voting for people who they were comfortable with. And I think that's what happens. Everyone, you know, knows their House rep or senator and likes them and is comfortable and so forth. And then they get elected.

Bob Kinzel: So given that issue that you're addressing there, that people are voting for their local representatives, and maybe not thinking about them as being part of the supermajority — how do you address that in the November election?

Gov. Phil Scott: Well, I think they have to look a little bit more deeper into what their voting habits are. Did they vote for a 13.8% increase? Did they vote for a payroll tax? Did they vote for a 20% increase in DMV fees? Did they vote to override my vetoes that would make Vermont — you know, without my concern about affordability? Did they override what I thought was the right thing to do? So I think we just have to make it clear. I think that we're going to ask for voters to take a look at what the voting record is of the person they're supporting.

Gov. Phil Scott gives his budget address on January 23, 2024.
Zoe McDonald
Vermont Public
Gov. Phil Scott gives his budget address on January 23, 2024.

Bob Kinzel: As you know, former Gov. Howard Dean is considering running again this year. What are your thoughts about a race with Dean?

Gov. Phil Scott: You know, I have a lot of respect for Gov. Dean, in fact, when I was first elected, and having no idea what was going on, anything to do with politics and, and so forth. He was governor. And I spoke to him a few times. And he was very, very kind to me. And we talked about racing or some other things, and he was just interesting to talk with. So I have a great deal of respect for him.

But I would say again, and he's a fiscal conservative, as well, but this isn't — you remember the old adage, “This isn't your father's Oldsmobile?” This isn't the Democratic Party Gov. Dean remembers. This is different. And I think he would find that challenging. So, again, I don't make my decisions on, on who's running, who's not. I make my decisions on what I think is best for Vermont. And I don't think having a supermajority, plus a governor in the executive branch who is part of that supermajority, makes for a better Vermont.

Bob Kinzel: You know, in his press release earlier this month, Dean talked about the toxic atmosphere at the Statehouse. He referred to it as quote, “poisonous.” And then he went on to praise the Legislature for tackling major issues that have been put off for a year. It seems like he's making you out to be part of the problem.

Gov. Phil Scott: Well, I would beg to differ. I think I'm part of the solution. I think we need more moderate centrists running for office, and hopefully we'll be successful. We'll all be successful come November.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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