Message from Montpelier: April 20

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It may come as a bit of a surprise that the House passed a budget, saw no new taxes and a growth over last year of only about .08 percent. This has been an initiative of not only the governor but the Republican Party also for several years now, and finally in a bi-partisan effort, we have passed in the house a balanced budget that doesn’t raise taxes.

In the world of transportation in which I live, we passed a $615 million package that uses state and federal funds to advance not only bridge work and paving but will start some legacy projects as well. Of importance to Colchester is the intersection of Routes 2 and 7 in the village, a project that has been on the books for close to 30 years. Work will begin this spring on utility relocation and site boring with the real meat of the project in 2018 and ’19.

Of considerable disappointment is the delay of the diverging diamond at Exit 16. This safety project is and has been at the top of our to-do list for a few years now. It will create a safer route for both commuters and pedestrians. The work will include sidewalks, which are sorely needed, as well as improved traffic patterns to expedite traffic flow. Why, you ask, are we not moving forward? Well, it’s complicated but it boils down to a couple nearby fuel dealers feeling threatened by the possibility of Costco getting a permit to install gas pumps, hence cheaper gas prices. This results in Act 250 appeals, stormwater appeals, etc. It would appear these gas distributors are putting financial gain ahead of a public safety project. Sad. I applaud Costco for its persistence. Oh, and by the way, the Costco project does not go forward without safety improvements to the Exit 16 area.

Looking for smaller government and cost savings? Well, we tried. Gov. Scott proposed merging the lottery department with liquor control, a move that has been studied for years. It became almost totally partisan, and we failed to support the executive order. Too bad, as it could have saved Vermonters anywhere between $500,000 and a couple mil. I supported it, as did my friend Rep. Condon. Thanks, Jim, for having the courage to not succumb to party politics all the time. So we will now study the issue some more, waste another year or so, spend some more taxpayer dollars to arrive at a conclusion we already know. Sorry, I should have started with the bad stuff and finished with the good. But look on the bright side: no new taxes unless the majority party chooses to push one of its four carbon tax bills this year. Stay tuned. Good news is if everyone sticks to their guns, you should see your Colchester reps coming together to oppose any such bill.