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Shumlin Challenger Focuses Campaign On Vermont's Economy

"I think that this race is winnable and I see a narrow but widening path to victory." - Republican gubernatorial hopeful Scott Milne

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Scott Milne says he’s going to make the Vermont economy the top issue in his campaign and he says the state’s low unemployment rate tells only part of the story about the health of the economy.

It’s common these days to hear Governor Peter Shumlin talking about Vermont’s low unemployment rate. He often says it’s the lowest rate east of the Mississippi River and one of the lowest in the country.

On Friday, the state Labor Department confirmed that trend in a new report that shows the rate for May is 3.3 percent. That’s unchanged from the previous month and well below the national rate of  6.3 percent.

Scott Milne says those labor statistics hide an underlying weakness in the Vermont economy and he hopes to point this out to voters this summer.

“I think that this race is winnable and I see a narrow but widening path to victory,” said Milne. “Even over the last week it becomes more obvious that this is a very winnable race.”

Milne notes that a new federal Small Business Administration report released this week shows that while private sector employment across the country is growing at a rate of 2.1 percent, the Vermont economy only grew at 0.7 of one percent.

“Vermont’s economy is growing at one third the rate of the federal economy,” said Milne. “And I think it’s going to become more apparent to people as we talk about issues and look under the surface of what’s really going on that the economy is issue number one.”

Milne says health care will be another key issue in his campaign because it has a profound impact on the state’s overall economy.

Governor Peter Shumlin wants to implement a single payer system in Vermont in 2017. Although he doesn’t totally rule out backing a single payer approach, Milne says he doesn’t think it’s a good idea.

“I think it’s a pragmatic decision that we need to understand exactly what it’s going to cost , what the benefits are going to be and what the risks are going to be,” said Milne. “My intuition now very much is that the cost and the benefits are not going to be worth the risk.

Milne will face Emily Payton and Steve Berry in the Republican gubernatorial primary that’s being held at the end of August.

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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