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Scott delivers message of unity in troubled times

Published: Jan. 7, 2021 at 4:58 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 7, 2021 at 9:12 PM EST
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont Governor Phil Scott in his 3rd inaugural address Thursday called for unity to get through the current political divisiveness and also the strength of Vermonters to get through the COVID crisis.

“The challenges we face demand the very best of all of us, that we rise above the partisanship and division, the pettiness and political games, to commit to the tough work ahead, to get through this crisis safer and stronger, and to do it together,” Scott said.

Scott said while COVID has shaped everyone’s lives over the past year, it’s important to know the actions Vermonters have taken have made a difference. “By working together, we can come out of this stronger than we went in,” Scott said.

But he added that many of the challenges we had before the pandemic will be with us after we emerge from the crisis. He stressed the importance of sticking with the fundamentals he has espoused since he was first elected -- “the crisis of affordability.”

The governor says the pandemic has put the spotlight back on fundamental challenges including the difference in the quality of education from school to school, and a struggling state college system.

Scott says he has focused earlier COVID federal relief packages on small businesses, and that will be a priority for the new funding, although it will never be enough. He says the state must focus on helping employers by reducing the cost of unemployment insurance without impacting benefits to the unemployed and avoiding any new payroll taxes on workers.

He said an emphasis needs to be put on Tax Increment Financing to allow towns to keep a portion of their state tax dollars to fund projects that spur private investment. He also proposed to continue the derailed efforts of Act 250 reform.

Scott said facing the state’s demographic problem must remain a priority. “With an aging population and shrinking workforce, we just don’t have the people we need. Think of it this way: We need more taxpayers, not more taxes,” Scott said.

When it comes to early childhood education, Scott proposed organizing all the state’s child development work within the Agency of Education. “This move will break down another unnecessary bureaucratic silo. It will finally unite the state’s experts on childcare, preschool, K-12 and technical education, which is long overdue,” Scott said.

Click here to read the transcript of Gov. Scott’s inaugural address

Click here for the Democratic response from Vermont House Speaker Jill Krowinski

Click here for the Democratic response from Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint

SCOTT AND STATEWIDE OFFICIALS SWORN IN

The biennial democratic tradition looked much different Thursday amid rising coronavirus cases and political turmoil in the nation’s capital. Scott took the oath during a brief ceremony outside on the Statehouse steps that included increased security. “I solemnly swear that I will be true and faithful to the state of Vermont,” Scott recited.

Vermont’s new democratic Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray was sworn in in front of a virtual session of the Vermont Senate. “We need to look at those challenges face them and think how can we recover stronger from this pandemic and build a more viable equitable and stronger future for Vermont,” Gray said.

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