Why Sen. Patrick Leahy’s retirement will have big implications for Vermont

Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 6:13 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Just under three months are left until Election Day, and six months until a new U.S. senator for Vermont is sworn in.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, who is stepping down next year, has helped Vermont maintain an outsized influence in Washington.

There are dozens of projects across Vermont bearing Leahy’s name.

After building 48 years of seniority in the upper chamber, his retirement will have big implications for the state going forward.

At Norwich University, a gathering of academic, military and political leaders celebrated $16 million in workforce, cybersecurity and artificial intelligence training coming to the school.

“I fought for this money because I believed in Norwich and I know it would not have been wasted,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.

Helping the school create state-of-the-art labs allowing students to dig into technical training with AI and quantum computing.

“We would not have been able to do the things that we have done and expanded our programs and developed our brand without this partnership,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Anarumo, the president of Norwich University.

Vermont’s longest-ever-serving senator and current Appropriations Committee chair has brought in some $70 million for Norwich University during his tenure.

The investment in Norwich is one of a recent $212 million package of earmarks for Vermont-- direct appropriations from Congress for local projects that Leahy helped secure.

Add that to the small state minimum which brought hundreds of millions in COVID funding.

Next year, Leahy is stepping back from public service after 49 years.

Political observers say we still will receive federal cash but without the chair of the powerful Appropriations Committee being from Vermont, “It’s not as certain without a person like Senator Leahy and his chairmanship,” Political Analyst Steve Terry said.

The earmarks are on top of about $8 billion in federal spending that comes into Vermont that goes to all sorts of things including Medicaid‚ infrastructure, Social Security and education.

“That’s meaningful money for people who benefit from those things, but in the context of overall federal money, it’s not that much,” said Bert Johnson, a political scientist at Middlebury College.

Political scientists say some on the Appropriations Committee, such as Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, send more earmarked money home than Leahy.

Back in Northfield, Leahy’s colleagues and Norwich leaders unveil the Senator Patrick Leahy School of Cybersecurity and Advanced Computing.

The projects at Norwich are just one of the millions of dollars in earmarks Leahy is bringing in this year. Other projects this year include Lake Champlain, the University of Vermont and the Burlington International Airport.

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