When it comes to Governor Peter Shumlin's out-of-state travel, it was this statement made by the Governor last week that propelled this reporter to continue digging for details: "I am no different than past governors."
It's an answer WCAX has been looking to find for months -- is the governor's travel schedule different from past governors? The answer: Yes -- especially if you compare him to his predecessor, Jim Douglas.
"When you live in Vermont, there's no reason to go anywhere else," Douglas told WCAX.
Each acting administration sends out an official appearance schedule to the press on a weekly basis. This document details their press availability and where they can be seen publicly, but the documents often omit details like long weekends and vacation time. That official schedule is all that's publicly available to document Douglas' travels. It shows he spent 39 days out-of-state during his first 21 months in office for official travel. Governor Shumlin during that same amount of time has been out-of-state for 81 days.
"We all work hard -- past governors, this governor. We're creating jobs, we're getting results. It requires me to both be in and out-of-state and no one should be running for governor who's not prepared to reach outside of Vermont to bring jobs to this state," Shumlin said
Governor Douglas said he only took 3-4 days of vacation each year, but you won't see that on the official schedule. "When I went away on vacation during my gubernatorial years, I kind of got itchy -- wondered what I was missing back home and I didn't find I was relaxing much," Douglas said.
"I don't take a lot of time off. No governor takes a lot of time off. I took 2.5 weeks of vacation a year," Shumlin said.
We asked the Shumlin administration to help us dig deeper. They spent several weeks documenting every detail of the governor's travel schedule in a way not ordinarily tracked by an administration. That information shows the governor was out-of-state for not just 81 days, as his public schedule shows, but 119 days, 34 of which were for personal vacations. According to that same document, 44 of those days out-of-state were for official business travel, 41 were for business unrelated to his job as governor -- like campaign fundraising events.
"The way you get results -- which we're getting in this administration -- is by working really hard both inside Vermont, and when necessary, outside Vermont to go get those economic opportunities," Shumlin said.
There's one thing both Governors say was equal about their out-of-state travel -- the expectation that you're always able to work.
"I use my 2.5 weeks a year to recharge my batteries -- read, but I should also point out I'm also governing. I have an iphone. We text, we email, we telephone. A governor is never entirely off," Shumlin said.
"Now even later in my tenure, when I went on trade missions to Asia, visited the troops in the middle east, cell service was great, Douglas said.
Both Shumlin and Douglas dedicated unofficial business travel to meet with governor's associations for their individual parties. Something Randy Brock vows if elected he wouldn't do.
Governor Howard Dean also faced scrutiny for his time out-of-state, particularly during his run for President. Dean's records are sealed in the state archives until the beginning of 2013, but he told WCAX he thinks he did spend more time out of state than Governor Shumlin did. He also noted out of state travel is a "non-issue" for voters. He said people will ultimately vote on how effective a job the governor has done, not the amount of time he spent working in state.
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