Roper: So, a 78% approval rating and $2 gets you a cup of coffee

House quickly overrides five more of Scott’s vetoes

by Rob Roper

Phil Scott, according to some polls, is the most popular governor in the United States. He has an overall approval rating of nearly eighty percent. Curiously, he has a higher approval rating amongst Democrats than he does with the Republican voters of his own party. While that appears to be a good formula for holding the corner office on the Fifth Floor, it hasn’t panned out as a good strategy for being able to use that office to advance an agenda – or oppose one.

This week, with lighting speed, House Democrats overrode Scott’s vetoes of all five house bills that he returned to that body at the end of the official 2023 session. None of the votes was even close. As a result, Vermonters will be paying for an $8.5 billion budget (H.494), a 13% increase over last year and nearly a 50% increase over the last pre-Covid budget of 2019. We can look forward to a brand new $125 million payroll tax on top of our regular income tax burden (H.217). Vermont professionals will be tagged with higher licensing fees (H.305). And non-citizens can start voting in Burlington while sixteen-year-olds can start voting in local elections and holding local office in Brattleboro (H.509 and H.386 respectively), despite the now-apparently-irrelevant state Constitution.

Adding insult to injury, the House used the veto session to bring up and pass H.158, another bill the governor opposes, expanding the state’s bottle bill — the 5¢ and 15¢ deposit mandates — to include bottled water, sports drinks, etc., jacking up the cost of these products for consumers. Will he veto it? Will it matter?

All of this, of course, follows the override of Scott’s veto back in May of S.5, the fraudulently named “Affordable Heat Act”, which puts Vermonters on a path to paying significantly more for the heating oil, propane, and kerosene we need to stay warm through winter.

Governor Phil Scott

None of these laws is particularly popular, and some, such as S.5, are demonstrably despised by solid majorities of Vermont voters. Still, Scott was unable to leverage his historic popularity to change Democrat, Progressive or Independent minds to vote with him on any of these bills. The votes that did change from original passage to veto override overwhelmingly went against the governor.

So, the verdict is in: if Scott wants to be exceptionally popular, he can continue disassociate himself from his own party as much as he likes. But if he wants to be relevant and respected as an effective leader, he better start working with his party (and, in fairness, vice versa) to elect more like-minded members of the House and Senate. Arguably, and call me crazy, it’s better to be 51 percent popular and 100 percent relevant than 78 percent popular and totally irrelevant.

After Scott’s first election to the governorship in 2016 there were 53 Republican representatives and 7 GOP senators. Now there are 37 and 7 respectively. That is certainly not all Phil Scott’s fault, but, as the de facto leader of the Party, he hasn’t done much to help.

For a point of contrast, when I served as chairman of the Vermont Republican Party during the 2008 election year, Governor Jim Douglas, recognizing that his ability to sustain a veto was on the line, helped to raise over half a million dollars to support state house and senate candidates as well as party operations. Douglas and his campaign team were deeply involved in candidate recruitment. As such, the VTGOP was able to hold its ground during the Obama “Blue Wave.” (Though I still regret we weren’t able to pick up at least a couple of house seats….) If Scott had been equally committed to helping build Republican legislative numbers in 2018, 2020, and 2022, who knows how things might have turned out last Tuesday.

The one bright side to Tuesday’s veto session took place in the senate, where S.39, the bill that would more than double legislators’ pay and benefits package over the next couple of years, was recommitted to the Committee on Government Operations as it didn’t appear to garner enough votes for an override. Nevertheless, Senate President Pro Tem, Philip Baruth, pledged to bring it back and pass it in 2024 – an election year. Good luck with that.

So, going into the 2024 election cycle, Republicans are in a position to point out to voters that the Democrats and Progressives thwarted public opinion, and in some cases public outcry, in order to raise taxes on their incomes, raise their property taxes, jack up their fees to own/drive cars and do their jobs, dilute the power of their votes, and, as a reward for all this so-called governing, voted to give themselves a truly massive pay raise at taxpayers’ expense.

This should be a winning hand. Still, it has to be played. Here’s hoping the governor will help his party play it.

Share Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics

  • Rob Roper is a freelance writer with over twenty years’ experience in Vermont politics and policy.

Categories: Commentary

12 replies »

    • Gone, but fondly recalled in the hearts and minds of those who remember her true nature – a state that once stood for freedom and unity and produced successive generations of rugged, independent-minded revolutionaries and heroes in a long-ago era. Yet today, a state that tragically cannot seem or even want to resolutely rebuke the incursion of this politico-social & Godless scourge of humankind that is rapidly devouring her.

      Vermont 1791 – 2023. May she rest in peace.

  1. And every day I read this Vermont news I am thankful that I moved to North Carolina 3 years ago. Miss the scenery and some people but not the direction the state has taken.

  2. Well, Phil doesn’t help the VTGOP cuz he doesn’t care about the VTGOP. He voted for Biden for cripes sake. He’s a democrat, (and a liar) but he just won’t take the title.

  3. When the S5 fallout hits with perhaps $8+ per gallon fuel oil and gas costs, I have the feeling that many of the climate change legislators that consider this one of their finest acts, will be chased out of office. Baruth and Krowinski first followed closely by the gang of hysterics. Bray, MacDonald………..ect.

    • There comes a point in a Vermonter’s life after 6 decades of watching the state fall to the enemy. That point is of being too pissed off to comment so it’s better not to say anything and plan to move. While complaining here on this thread makes us feel better, it appears that the course is set and the Vermont version of the Titanic can not be saved because no one is hearing us. The so-called most popular governor in the nation is also the worst governor that Vermont has had in my lifetime. I regret ever voting for him and believing in him.

  4. The Republican Party, here in Vermont and nationally, must repudiate Donald Trump to make any real progress nationally or in the State. Results in the midterm elections show the folly of sticking with him.

    • Repudiate him for doing WHAT, exactly?

      The “folly” of sticking with him has been observed by him being the Presidential frontrunner. Nice try, though. Kinda. I guess. If you’re still that desperate or fearful of his political prowess, power, and potential.

  5. Vermont GOP was going “reach across the aisle” RINO way long before Trump. Now Republicans watch as the RATS run the table.

  6. Not merely does the winning hand desperately need to be played, but it must be funded and disseminated by the VT GOP – as the lamestream media within VT will protect these diseased legislators along with their dangerous and depraved agenda. Do I believe the VT GOP will do any of this in ’24? No. Paul Dame, only weeks ago, spent public access time in front of the news media disparaging not merely Joe Biden, but Donald Trump as well, of course.

    I mean, while we are desperately fighting for the survival of this Constitutional Republic and battling the onslaught of Communism or Marxism and the new “Liberal World Order” that Obama and Biden have certain types of dreams about, we certainly don’t wish to “offend” anyone or appear “intolerant”. Correct, Paul?

    • There is no “winning hand” for the VT GOP to play. You can be sure that the VT GOP follows RNC policy- with the result of maintaining the stays quo. There is currently a vast divide between Vermont’s conservative residents and what the VT GOP has become- and as a very minority voice in the VT GOP, assuredly conservative voices will continue to be ignored. phil scott represents what the VT GOP has become, for better or worse- and to be elected governor in this state, one MUST placate the majority liberal demographic in Vermont. Your voice, mine and thousands of others of conservative thinking folks do not constitute a large enough demographic to warrant attention by the VT GOP leadership- except when it’s fund-raising time.

  7. So, the poll link in the article goes to NewsChannel5, which links to a poll conducted by Morning Consult – ” Morning Consult is a business intelligence company established in 2014. It was named one of the fastest growing technology companies in North America by Deloitte in both 2018 and 2019 and was valued at more than one billion dollars in June 2021.The company specializes in online survey research technology and has offices in Washington, D.C., New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. Morning Consult provides global survey research tools, data services and news to organizations in business, marketing, economics, and politics. The company’s proprietary brand tracking platform, Brand Intelligence, tracks over 3,000 companies, products, and individuals across 40 countries by surveying tens of thousands of people every day on each brand it tracks.”

    The problem with for profit (global) polling companies, they can manipulate data according to who is paying for it. Also, it appears Morning Consult relies heavily on AI and online surveying to garner their results. No details on the how, who, where, and when. 80% approval means someone paid big money for the smoke to fog up the mirror. Propaganda is a business model and many companies are all in because deception is profitable.