There's been a lot of digital ink devoted to Governor Scott Walker's testimony before Congress yesterday, especially given his admission that his union-busting budget provisions weren't fiscal and his lies over the hiring of his campaign donor's 27-year old son. Good thing they didn't get into the whole money-laundering, high speed rail issue in this hearing or it could have become a brawl.
Given that, I want to shine a light on the other guy in the room: Vermont Governor Shumlin, who was just rock-solid from beginning to end, regardless of whether he was sparring over pension funding with Republicans or simply offering a contrast to the arrogant and feckless Mr. Walker. Truly, it's people like Governor Shumlin who restore my faith in our system.
Long story short: He's dealing with the same kinds of issues that Scott Walker is (as are most states), and cites the costs of incarceration and health care as the two biggest challenges. But unlike Governor Walker, his solutions include single payer health care statewide, and negotiations with public employees using "maple syrup" instead of vinegar.
This is what good government looks like. More like him, please.
SHUMLIN: Yes, Congressman. I'm sitting here listening to Governor Walker and I'm sitting here realizing we all have similar challenges as governors. Unlike Congress we've all got to balance our budget. So the real question is, what are we arguing about?
And my point is, if you want to go after collective bargaining, which I believe helped build this country, helped build the middle class that's been under assault in this recession, you know -- just come out and say it: I'm going to go after collective bargaining.
But if you want to balance your budget, you bring people in. You talk to them. You have a dialogue.
I can guarantee you this. What Vermonters are looking for, and what they expect, is the same thing they expect in Wisconsin, and the same thing they wish for and expect in America. They want reasonableness. They want compromise. They want bright people working together to solve problems.
And when you use vinegar, when you refuse to meet with unions, when you don't sit down and talk with them, when you take on an outright assault on a basic principle in a democratic society which is collective bargaining -- the thing that my grandfather when he got off the boat and others now rely on and relied on to make a decent living, to come from a beet farmer to success in America, the thing that built our country -- well, that's a different debate.
So I think really what we're talking about as I sit and listen to Governor Walker talking about he's approaching these challenges...All we governors are doing the same thing here, folks. The question is, are you going to bring people together to solve problems or are you going to go after an assault on a basic principle which is collective bargaining?
I think we're trying to do two different things. If you want to go after collective bargaining just come out and say it -- hey, we're taking you on. But don't try and blame the worst recession in American history on a need to go after public pensions.
I'm listening to the question over here -- you know. Let's be honest about this. Taxpayers have always paid for a part of public pensions, retirement plans. This isn't something new, folks. This started with pensions -- with asking public employees to give up economic opportunities that they might have if they did what I did if they went into the public sector and built a business and made a lot of money.
In exchange for getting a lower wage, in exchange for less economic opportunity, they get a guaranteed 25 -- 22,000 on average retirement once they're all done.
Now, it's not new news that taxpayers pay a portion of that, and employees pay the other portion. What is new, is that my state and Governor Walker's state, we're asking the employees to pay more than they did before.
TOWNS: Let me just say this in closing. Governor, keep on using maple syrup.
SHUMLIN: We're going to try.