Vt. gov. takes office after lawmakers elect him
MONTPELIER, Vt.—Vowing not to raise taxes -- at least for now -- Democrat Peter Shumlin took office as Vermont's 81st governor Thursday just hours after lawmakers elected him because he couldn't get enough votes on Election Day.
"As we tackle the difficult challenge of balancing our budget, we must not and cannot succomb to the idea that Vermonters have the capacity to pay higher taxes right now," Shumlin said. "In order to grow jobs and be more competive with neighboring states, we must resist the temptation to raise broad-based taxes."
Vermont's famously fractious electorate failed to give either Shumlin or his Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Brian Dubie, the more than 50 percent in the Nov. 2 election required for either to claim victory under the state Constitution, leaving lawmakers to decide the outcome.
The candidates mainly responsible for denying either a majority were the minor-party third- and fourth-place finishers, whose main platform planks were secession from the United States and marijuana legalization, respectively.
The Legislature almost never has elected anyone other than the plurality winner. Dubie conceded to Shumlin the day after the election. Shumlin set up a transition team and office and has been busy making appointments to a new administration and crafting a budget to present to lawmakers later this month.
The transition office's letterhead and press releases referred to him throughout as governor-elect, though technically, Shumlin held that title for only about three hours Thursday, between the Legislature's vote by secret paper ballot in a joint assembly and the moment when he would raise his right hand and take the oath of office as governor.
Shumlin, a 54-year-old businessman from Putney who previously served as president pro tem of the state Senate, has vowed to be a fiscal conservative as governor. Otherwise, he's widely seen as a liberal's liberal, leading Vermont to pass a gay marriage law and in the fight to shut down the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant when its license expires in 2012.
He's vowing to push for single-payer health care in Vermont, for improvements in education -- especially early childhood education -- and for expanding broadband Internet and cell phone coverage to all corners of Vermont. That left some Republicans questioning how the state would afford all these things without tax increases when it is already facing a projected $150 million budget short fall in fiscal 2012.