State Government

Falling Overboard

State boards and commissions just grow and grow

by Vermont Daily staff

In 2018, Governor Scott created a new Sunset Advisory Commission to review the growing number of boards, councils, task forces, committees, commissions, and working groups in state government. Yet, the number of new state boards and commissions has continued to grow substantially. Why are there so many boards? Do they still serve a purpose?

Boards, Boards, and More Boards

The State of Vermont does not keep a list of how many total state boards there are–in part because state bureaucrats and administrators might not know the true figure. Some estimates place the number at roughly 350, but the true figure is likely even greater. This is partially because informal working groups or temporarily-created task forces often fall outside the radar of state policymakers.

Some of these boards and commissions include high-profile committees that oversee important functions or organizations. These include the Vermont Pension Investment Committee (VPIC), which determines the state’s investment holdings for its pension system, and the Vermont Veterans Home Board of Trustees, which governs the Vermont Veterans Home.

The purpose and structure of other boards is less clear. For example, the Vermont Racing Commission–or the horse racing commission, as it is known around Montpelier–hasn’t been active in years. And while the State Workforce Development Board may center around a critical issue, its dozens and dozens of members would seemingly make it difficult for cohesion and decision-making.

Other boards have arguably outlived their purpose. The Green Mountain Care Board was designed to implement a single-payer health care system in Vermont–a proposal that was tossed out nearly 7 years ago. Yet, the board exists–in part to oversee the state’s failing OneCare program–and pays its 5 members a total of nearly $600,000 each year, on top of hundreds of thousands in staffing expenses.

Similarly, the State Board of Education all-but admitted its purpose was outdated. Yet, despite discussions of eliminating the Board and absorbing its functions into the Agency of Education, the board still exists.

Enter the Sunset Advisory Commission

In 2018, Governor Scott created a 6-member Sunset Advisory Commission to review boards and commissions for repeal. The board has met several times to consider the effectiveness and usefulness of several state boards, commissions, task forces, councils, committees, and working groups.

Yet, of the state’s hundreds and hundreds of boards, the commission only seems to touch on a few. For example, legislation sponsored by co-commission members John Gannon (D-Wilmingham) and Rob LaClair (R-Barre Town) would retire just 4 of the state’s hundreds of boards–all while the Legislature is contemplating adding dozens more. This one-step forward, two-steps back approach has made it difficult for the commission to achieve meaningful change.

A Hail-Storm of New Boards

The minimal efforts towards repeal of old boards take on an even greater importance in light of the dozens and dozens of new boards proposed for creation this year. Vermont Daily has reviewed hundreds of pending bills in the Vermont Legislature and identified countless new boards that have been proposed. These include the following:

  • Working Group on Services for Adults with Autism
  • Council on the Economic Future of Vermont
  • Task Force to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for the Institution of Chattel Slavery
  • State Youth Council
  • Office of the Child Advocate
  • Task Force on School Exclusionary Discipline Reform
  • Emergency Service Provider Wellness Commission
  • Health Equity Advisory Commission
  • Working Group on the Status of Libraries in Vermont
  • Forensic Care Working Group
  • Local Revenue Distribution Working Group
  • Pension Benefits, Design, and Funding Task Force
  • Artificial Intelligence Commission
  • Nutrition for Older Vermonters Working Group
  • Facilitation of Interstate Practice Using Telehealth Working Group
  • Forensic Mental Health Working Group
  • General Assistance Working Group
  • Housing Recovery Working Group
  • Corrections Monitoring Commission
  • Access to Credit Working Group
  • Intercollegiate Sexual Violence Prevention Council
  • Child and Parent Representation Working Group
  • Truth and Reconciliation Commission Development Task Force
  • Agricultural Innovation Board
  • F-35 Adverse Impacts Compensation Board
  • Independent Monitoring Board for Body-Worn Camera Footage
  • Sustainable Sanitation Working Group
  • Environmental Stewardship Board
  • Vermont State Building Security Board
  • Vermont Higher Education Endowment Trust Fund Council

This is just a partial list of the myriad of state boards and commissions considered for creation.

Until legislators reign-in their appetite for deference to create a new board or commission every time an issue arises, it is likely the number of new boards will only continue to grow–at an unknown cost to Vermont taxpayers.

8 replies »

  1. I truly feel it’s just a way for the majority in control not to have to pay their dues with a constituents at home for failing to deliver meaningful legislation. We don’t need another committee for pensions we already know there’s hard work to do. No one wants their name attached to it so it bites them in the seat end when it comes to the next election. Committees equal no liability to the people that are elect. End the committees and the oversight and the boards take the money put it towards our debt and show up and do your job. Thank you

  2. This State has more than enough : BOARDS : to BUILD a DAMN Castle .I doubt that many of them even hold a meeting!!! Lets drop 1/2 or more of them and put the money WASTED on them to BETTER USES

  3. It’s all about responsibility, You don’t want to take responsibility for a decision ? Set up a board or committee to study the issue, and make the decision, then you can sit back, and point your finger at them when the decision is unpopular. Politicians need to grow a pair, and not be afraid to make the tough (controversial) decisions.

  4. Our elected officials at “work”, taking our money and enjoying the endless gravy train, never owning up to any responsibilities of their jobs. They take their orders from the “puppet masters”, while Vermonters suffer. In the real world of business all these useless workers would be fired. Look at the so-called Republican Governor, he’s a useless RINO, taking orders from the “puppet masters”. He gives us lip service and mandates what he’s told to by his “puppet masters”. Follow the Money. Remember, Governor Scott, the previous AG and the Secretary of State met with China in 2019. That’s out in print. I wonder what’s not out in print? Investigative journalism needs to be done.

    Drain the Swamp just doesn’t mean Washington, D.C.

    Liberty is from God not men.

  5. Boards and the ever expanding functions of government: I am sure that in the long team pursuit of the common good, the boards, departments and the entire arena of functions now part of our government all made sense to someone at the outset. All of these enterprises should rightly be under more conscientious direction/supervision of our elected officials. Wouldn’t it be prudent to set expiration dates, sunset clauses, for them all? The elected officials would charge themselves with reviewing them to see if there is consensus to continue…or let them expire.
    Adding such an element of review to the culture of elected officials might make them more accountable to us constituents and it might have additional impacts. Perhaps this would reveal that some departments and the present wide array of government functions are actually answering compelling needs. Have they become sufficiently valuable to the public that they could stand alone as private businesses? Oh gracious, WHAT have I said? !!heresy!!

  6. How can a state with less than one million people be so difficult to govern without appointing a round robin of bureaucrats and corporate goons to oversee the overseers? Klar is right – a bloated tick indeed!

  7. Nice catch Guy. I was wondering when someone was going to discover and fix the layer upon layer of government bureaucracy in the Vermont state government.
    It would be almost impossible for Governor Scott to remain America’s most popular governor if he decided to take down all of these boards, commissions, committees, groups, councils, and task forces. That would certainly alienate all of these high-level political appointees. Shouldn’t that be the job of the legislative leadership? Who thinks them all up anyway?
    It’s about time that someone expose and start to take down the monopoly on Vermont government bureaucracy and make the elected officials earn their pay and listen to the people who elected them.

  8. We need a Co m m m m m misssssssion – ON Commissions !!

    Nobody know how many Commissions these sluff-off legislatures have created to avoid any important and often necessary decisions!

    Absurdity gone WILD!