October 21st, 2010
Author’s note: This essay begins a second series of essays and reflections about politics and the moral life. Each essay develops a theme from a work by the philosopher Plato, entitled “Laws,” which he wrote shortly before his death in 347 B.C. “Laws” is written as a dialogue involving three old men with long experience in politics: Cleinias, from the Cretan city of Cnossos; Megillus, from Sparta; and an Athenian stranger who is not named, but who may be Plato himself.
STATE BUDGET: We have few choices in the state budget other than decreasing our expenses or increasing our revenues. I’ll look at both. We’ve begun the process of consolidating some agencies for cost savings and efficiency and will continue with that strategy. Our focus will be on the products and services they deliver, how we adapt to make them less expensive, or how we do without them.
STATE BUDGET: The state budget shortfall is currently projected to be around $120 million, but the shortfall will likely be larger than that; the proposed savings from the Challenges for Change, if successful, will not begin immediately but will phase in over time.
STATE BUDGET: Shift taxes from earned income in business and wages to unearned profits on land speculation and natural resource extraction. There is $1.2 billion per year in tax revenue on resources alone, but corporations pocket this revenue. The Legislature acts in the interests of corporate lobbyists and land speculators, driving business and wage-earners away from Vermont. See the Prosper Vermont citizen legislative initiative at ProsperVermont.com.
STATE BUDGET: We have a situation in which the budget shortfall is driving policy, when it should be the other way around. This is a defining moment for the Legislature as we weigh “bad” against “worse.”