The 2020 election was historic. Voter turnout records were smashed: Some 160 million Americans voted — the largest number ever, comprising 67% of eligible voters, the highest turnout rate in 120 years. In Vermont, over 360,000 voters turned out, exceeding the previous record of 327,000 votes cast in 2008. Former Vice President Joe Biden won Vermont with 66% of the vote (up from 56% for Hillary Clinton in 2016), while President Trump received 30% of the Vermont vote, the same proportion as he received in 2016. Nationally, Biden received the highest number of votes ever by a U.S. presidential candidate, topping Barack Obama’s 2008 total, and currently has a 3.5 million vote lead over President Trump.
In Vermont, Republican Gov. Phil Scott was elected to a third term with a stunning 40 percentage-point victory over Democratic nominee David Zuckerman. And in another historic result, Molly Gray was elected as just the fourth woman to hold the office of lieutenant governor.
We discuss the national election results with Stuart Stevens, a former top strategist for George W. Bush’s two presidential campaigns and also a lead strategist for the 2012 Republican presidential candidate. In the 2020 race, Stevens was part of The Lincoln Project, a group of Republican strategists who worked to defeat Trump. Stevens is author of It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump.
We dissect the results of the Vermont election with Anne Galloway, founder and editor of VTDigger, and Xander Landen, VTDigger’s political reporter.
Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe on the key legislative issues in 2020, including the failure of paid family leave and the veto of a higher minimum wage. He accuses Gov. Phil Scott of “governing by veto or veto threat.” And he discusses his political future and his run for Lieutenant Governor. (February 19, 2020 broadcast)
The programs that low-income rely on are under attack. Nationally, Pres. Trump is slashing money for food stamps and affordable housing, to name a few. In Vermont, Gov. Scott is proposing to eliminate funds for two longstanding anti-poverty programs: the Micro Business Development Program, established in 1988, which provides free assistance and access to capital to help low-income Vermonters start their own businesses, and the Vermont Matched Savings Program, established in 2000, which matches saving and offers financial education program for low-income Vermonters. Representatives of Vermont’s community action agencies and program participants discuss the role and impacts of these antipoverty programs and what will happen if they are eliminated. (February 12, 2020 broadcast)
In fall 2019, Rebecca Holcombe became the first declared candidate for Vermont governor in the 2020 gubernatorial race. Holcombe is a former teacher, principal, and she served as Vermont’s secretary of education under Governors Peter Shumlin and Phil Scott. Now she is running to unseat Scott as governor. Holcombe discusses why she’s running and the issues that are a priority for her, including climate change, workforce development, health care and education. (February 5, 2020 broadcast)
Will Vermont finally get paid family & medical leave, a higher minimum wage and legalized marijuana sales that are taxed and regulated by the state. Vermont House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski (B-Burlington) discusses the politics and possibilities of the 2020 legislative session in Vermont. (January 22, 2020 broadcast)
Rep. Jill Krowinski, Vermont House Majority Leader
This week, Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman announced that he would run to replace Gov. Phil Scott, who is widely assumed will run for a third term in 2020. If Zuckerman were to defeat Scott, he would be the first candidate to defeat an incumbent Vermont governor in 60 years. Zuckerman is a Progressive/Democrat who will run on the Democratic ticket, and he will first have to win a Democratic primary against former Education Secretary Rebecca Holcombe. Zuckerman talks about the issues that matter to him, his strategy for winning and how he got into politics. (January 15, 2020 broadcast)
Vermont Lt. Governor David Zuckerman, candidate for governor
Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe launched the 2019-2020 legislative biennium with a challenge to his colleagues: “I challenge each of you, and I challenge myself, to never let go of this one question: what can we do to improve life in the other Vermont?” Ashe describes “the near complete takeover of the legislative process by special interests” that inspired his challenge. He also discusses his proposal to reduce Vermont’s incarceration rate and end the use of out-of-state prisons, legalize and tax marijuana sales, and speculates on whether this session will end in a raft of vetoes by Gov. Phil Scott as it did in 2018. (February 13, 2019 broadcast)
In his January budget address, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott declared that Vermont has a demographic crisis. He has proposed a range of solutions, including paying young workers $5,000 to move to the state. He also announced that he is abandoning his longstanding pledge against raising taxes and fees in order to raise funds to fight e-cigarette abuse. We talk with Stephanie Yu of the Public Assets Institute about whether the governor’s numbers add up, and explore who is thriving and struggling in Vermont today, inequality, school funding, and other issues. (January 30, 2019 broadcast)
Rep. Tom Stevens is chair of the Vermont House Committee on General, Housing, and Military Affairs, He was elected in 2008 as state rep for Waterbury, Huntington, Buel’s Gore & Bolton. He has served as Chair of the Waterbury Select Board and President of the Waterbury Village Trustees. Tom is President of the board of Downstreet Housing and Community Development. This year, Stevens was named Legislator of the Year by VBSR. He discusses prospects for a $15 minimum wage, paid family, allegations of sexual abuse at the Vt National Guard, and new political dynamics with Gov. Phil Scott. (January 30, 2019 broadcast)
Rep. Tom Stevens (D-Waterbury), chair, House Comm. on General, Housing and Military Affairs
Rebecca Holcombe served as Vermont’s Secretary of Education under two governors. She was appointed in January 2014 by Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin, and kept on in January 2017 by Republican Gov. Phil Scott. She was a driving force behind Act 46, Vermont’s landmark school district consolidation law passed in 2015 that reshaped the landscape of school governance. Holcombe abruptly resigned from Gov. Scott’s administration on April 1, 2018. Two months later, she slammed Gov. Scott in a widely published op-ed, accusing him of rejecting the will of voters on local school budgets and breaking his campaign promises by increasing taxes — while saying he was lowering them. This is Holcombe’s first extended interview since leaving Scott’s cabinet. (June 6, 2018 broadcast)
Rebecca Holcombe, Vermont Secretary of Education, 2014-2018
On May 22, 2018, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott vetoed four bills passed by the Legislature, including legislation that would have raised Vermont’s minimum wage to $15 and established a paid family leave program. Scott previously vetoed legislation regulating toxic chemicals, and he is expected veto the state budget and tax bills. The Vermont legislature convened in a rare special session to address the vetoes. The state budget has only been vetoed once in state history prior to Gov. Scott’s tenure; this will be Scott’s second budget veto. What is the crisis? Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe and House Speaker Mitzi Johnson say there is none. “This is a manufactured political battle,” says Ashe. “We have a governor who is playing off bogus plans…. If he wants to stand behind destroying our schools, that’s on him.” (May 23, 2018 broadcast)
In the aftermath of the discovery in 2016 of widespread contamination of drinking water around Bennington, Vermont, citizen’s groups have lobbied for laws to tighten restrictions on toxics. But on April 16, 2018, Gov. Phil Scott vetoed legislation intended to help protect children from toxic chemicals in toys and other products. The Vt Senate overrode the governor’s veto, 22-8, three days later, leaving the fate of the veto in the hands of the House. The legislation, S.103, would give the Commissioner of Health greater authority to regulate toxic chemicals, provide more information to consumers about toxins in children’s products, and require testing for toxins in new drinking water wells. “In the choice between protecting kids and pleasing industry lobbyists, [Scott] went with the lobbyists,” said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG). Burns discusses the battle over toxics in Vermont, as well as the future of renewable power, regulating data companies, and the future. (April 18, 2018 broadcast)
On April 11, 2018, Gov. Phil Scott strode onto the steps of the Vermont State House and signed into law the first major restrictions on gun ownership in the state’s history. The move represented a dramatic about face for the Republican governor — and the culmination of a years-long organizing effort led by gun safety advocates, legislators, and most recently, thousands of Vermont high school students. Sen. Philip Baruth proposed one of the first gun control measures in 2013, only to withdraw the legislation after it received no support that year. Moments before joining Scott for the bill signing, he reflected on the long and often lonely fight to enact gun control in Vermont, and what lies ahead. We also hear from callers with their views on the new laws. (April 11, 2018 broadcast)
Five Vermont CEOs recently wrote an open letter to Vermont Gov. Phil Scott urging him to support studies for clean water and decarbonization. “We, as leaders of companies that employ more than 800 Vermonters and account for over $1 billion in sales each year, are concerned by your refusal to seek new information and analysis to address threats facing our state,” wrote CEOs Joey Bergstein of Seventh Generation, Jostein Solheim of Ben & Jerry’s, Jen Kimmich of The Alchemist, Bram Kleppner of Danforth Pewter and Mark Curran of Black River Produce. “Two critical studies which will address threats to Vermont’s economy and environment – one to identify funding to improve water quality, and one to study the economic costs and benefits of decarbonization – have received broad bipartisan support in the General Assembly. Yet you’ve declared that neither study should be funded,” the letter stated. “Hope is not a strategy.” Shortly after meeting with the CEOs, Scott issued a letter to the Legislature restating his opposition to the studies. We talk with CEO Bram Klappner about what is at stake and why businesses are speaking out. (April 11, 2018 broadcast)
In the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people, students from around Vermont have streamed out of their schools and into the Vermont State House to demand new gun control laws. They are part of a national grassroots student movement for gun safety saying #NeverAgain. The response has been remarkable: Gov. Phil Scott has reversed his previous opposition to gun control and now backs universal background checks, confiscation of weapons from those deemed an “extreme risk,” and raising the minimum age to 21 for someone to purchase a gun. Nationally, major retailers such as Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart will no longer sell guns to anyone under 21, and serious discussion about gun control is now on the table. Students have led this movement and intend to keep up the pressure with protests, walkouts, and appearances in the State House. We speak to three student activists who traveled to the Vermont State House to demand action and say #NeverAgain. (February 28, 2018 broadcast)
Meagan Filkowski, senior, Harwood Union High School, Moretown, Vt.
Gabe Groveman, 8th grader, Twinfield Union High School, Marshfield, Vt.
Hannah Pandya, senior, St. Johnsbury Academy, St. Johnsbury, Vt.
Vermont Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, the lone third-party lieutenant governor in the country, often finds himself at odds with Republican Gov. Phil Scott. Zuckerman argues that Scott is not keeping his promise to protect the most vulnerable while cutting budgets. Zuckerman also discusses his support for a $15 minimum wage — despite acknowledging that it will be difficult for him to afford with his own employees on the organic farm that he operates with his wife. Zuckerman discusses why he serves and how Vermont must lead on having a just economy. (February 14, 2018 broadcast)
Gov. Phil Scott says he is committed to the goal of having Vermont meet 90 percent of its energy needs with renewable power by 2050. But Vermont is moving in the opposite direction: Renewable Energy Vermont says that in 2017, there was a 50 percent drop in new net metered solar projects. Are new state policies killing renewable energy? And how is Pres. Trump’s new tariff on solar panels affecting the renewable sector? (February 7, 2018 broadcast)
Olivia Campbell Andersen, executive director, Renewable Energy Vermont
Dan Kinney, co-founder and member-owner, Catamount Solar
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott promised not to raise taxes, but he is now presiding over the largest property tax increase in memory. What happened? Gov. Scott says that schools spend too much. But Rep. Dave Sharpe, chair of the Vermont House Education Committee and a former teacher, dismisses this charge and says the tax hike was brought on by Scott’s policies. Sharpe also discusses new plans for how to fund education, and expresses skepticism about the governor’s proposal to provide free college to members of the Vermont National Guard — and no one else. (February 7, 2018 broadcast)
Rep. Dave Sharpe, chair, Vt House Committee on Education
Vermont’s economy is growing slowly, but income inequality has deepened. That’s the conclusion of the State of Working Vermont 2017 report issued by Public Assets Institute. The report shows that 1 in 9 Vermonters — including 16,000 children — live in poverty. Paul Cillo, founder and president of Public Assets Institute, discusses these issues and explains how Vermont faces record property tax hikes in 2018, a crisis resulting from Gov. Phil Scott’s actions last year. (January 10, 2018 broadcast)
Paul Cillo, founder and president, Public Assets Institute
Sen. Patrick Leahy has represented Vermont in the U.S. Senate since 1974 . He is the longest serving senator in the U.S. Senate. Philip Baruth’s new biography, Senator Leahy: A Life in Scenes, chronicles how Leahy, a Catholic and a Democrat, was never expected to win his 1974 election. Leahy was Vermont’s first Democratic senator and won several subsequent elections by razor-thin majorities. Baruth is a professor of English at UVM and a Vermont state senator. He served as Vt. Senate majority leader from 2012 to 2016. Baruth discusses Leahy’s legacy, elections and oppositional roles under Pres. Bush and Reagan. Baruth also talks about Vermont politics and his assessment of Gov. Phil Scott’s first six months. (August 2, 2017 broadcast)
Philip Baruth, author, professor, Vermont state senator
This spring, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott vetoed the state budget after the legislature rebuffed his last minute demand for the state to to strip local school boards of the right to collectively bargaining health care benefits with teachers. Scott also vetoed the Legislature’s marijuana legalization bill. The standoff over these issues forced the Legislature to stay in session two weeks longer than anticipated and required a one-day veto session last week. The result? Scott signed a budget almost identical to the budget he vetoed. The budget includes penalties for school districts that may result in property tax hikes. No deal was struck to legalize marijuana. Advocates discuss the politics of the veto session. (June 28, 2017 broadcast)
Dave Silberman, Middlebury lawyer and pro bono drug policy reform advocate
Darren Allen, communications director, Vermont NEA
Vermont Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe discusses Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of Vermont’s first-in-the-nation legislative marijuana legalization and the governor’s attack on teachers’ unions. “Perhaps we were too optimistic that there would actually be compromise,” he says. “I can imagine what might follow next is some type of proposal related to state employees, right to work laws which have gained currency in other states. …We will do everything that we can to stop that.” (May 24, 2017 broadcast)
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott’s 2016 attempt to weaken the collective bargaining rights of teachers has a familiar ring. In 2010, Republican governors won elections in Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan, in each case taking over from Democratic governors. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder surprised many by immediately attacking teachers’ unions. Another Vermont Conversation discussed Gov. Walker’s battle with unions. Today, we talk with leaders of teachers’ unions in Ohio and Michigan for the national dimension of this issue. (May 24, 2017 broadcast)
Michael Charney, former vice president, Cleveland Teacher’s Union
Amanda Miller, president, Kalamazoo Education Association
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean discusses President Trump’s failure to repeal Obamacare, the Clinton-Sanders schism in the Democratic Party, what it will take for Democrats to win again, Gov. Phil Scott’s first 100 days, and why he believes that today’s Republicans can’t govern. (March 29, 2017 broadcast)
Vermont voters overwhelmingly rejected Gov. Phil Scott’s call to slash education spending, as 91 percent of school budgets were approved on Town Meeting Day. We discuss the politics of school budgets in Vermont, the impact of education cutbacks, the controversy around independent schools, and future of school district mergers. (March 8, 2017 broadcast)
Gov. Phil Scott has proposed a budget that key Vt. legislators charge is out of balance, raises property taxes, is unconstitutional, and impossible to implement. Is Gov. Scott’s first budget irreparably broken? Paul Cillo, president of Public Assets Institute and a former House majority leader, discusses the politics and dollars of the new budget, and what lies behind the new politics of resentment, nationally and locally. (February 8, 2017 broadcast)
The Vermont Business Roundtable, along with VBSR and others, released a report, Vermont’s Early Care and Learning Dividend, which details the return on investment that Vt stands to gain by increasing public investments in high-quality early care and learning programs. The report found that investing in a high-quality, affordable early care and learning system would yield net benefits to Vermont’s economy of $22 million a year. These benefits would continue to accrue over the working lifetime of the children receiving that care, totaling $1.3 billion over the next 60 years. This equates to a return of $3.08 for every dollar invested. Gov. Phil Scott has expressed support for investing in child are, but has proposed funding it by taking money from K-12 education, which the Legislature has nixed. Has the governor punted on child care? What’s the future for early childhood education in Vermont? (February 8, 2017 broadcast)
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has proposed a radical change in how education is funded and governed. In his first budget address on Jan. 24, 2017, Scott proposed mandating level-funded budgets for all schools, pushing back school budget voting nearly three months, and funding early and higher ed by cutting $50 million currently allocated to pre K-12 education. Two education advocates debate the proposal and its impact on local control of education in Vermont.