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Halftime show

Posted March 8, 2007

Unlike malfunctioning wardrobes, the recent halftime show put on for Vermonters by our top elected officials is not very titillating. And, the performances leave plenty to be desired.

Gov. Jim Douglas, on one hand, says he doesn’t like the pace the Legislature is working at to solve the property tax conundrum (they are working too slow), and doesn’t see anything on the table that will reduce property taxes for Vermonters.

Democratic leaders — House Speaker Gaye Symington and Senate Pres. Pro Tem Peter Shumlin — counter that the governor is offering premature criticism since two key committees have been doing yeoman’s work with little, or no, guidance from the Douglas’ administration.

In fact, House Education Committee Chairwoman Janet Ancel said her committee has hardly seen hide nor hair of the governor’s top officials since the start of the session. And, the only way she was able to get legislative proposals from the administration was to — gasp — ask for them. In other words, they weren’t being offered by Douglas’ team on their own, or through an intermediary.

For someone so openly concerned about the well-being of the state’s schoolchildren and the people who pay for their education, you would think someone from the governor’s office would be in the committee room to note and record every syllable.

This certainly makes the governor’s tantrum seem more like, well, a tantrum, than a truly heartfelt broadside against a do-nothing Legislature. In fact, a day after Douglas — for the second day in a row — chided Democrats over a lack of reform proposals aimed at cutting property taxes, Ancel released a five-page report on just what her committee, and the House Ways and Means Committee, have been doing with their time.

They certainly have not been measuring drapes.

But, it’s also clear why Douglas is so peeved. His proposals have been rejected by the committees to date. That means, no statutory cap on school budget increases, no change in the common level of appraisal system, and no increase in the income sensitivity component.

While many of their proposals may indeed cut school costs, as Ancel noted, “If it was easy, someone would have done it by now.”

Still, their reform to do list doesn’t address some of the problems faced by farmers who are taxed on their non-farm property at sometimes crippling levels, or by people who live in high-growth towns where property values are skyrocketing and their incomes are stagnating.

While lawmakers continue to cut through a dense fog of numbers and ratios, Douglas should put aside partisan rancor and work with the Legislature to achieve the right solutions, rather than just compromised solutions.

The wounded warriors

The recent revelations that the soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were not given the best care possible, and are being forced to live in sub-standard housing while they wait for treatment, should come as no shock.

Vietnam vets are probably the most acutely aware of the neglect the U.S. military engages in once soldiers return home from the battlefield and are fighting off the demons of war, or the ravages of what they are physically exposed to during battle.

But, the list goes on. Remember Gulf War Syndrome, and how tens of thousands of vets returning home from the first war in Iraq were treated as if they were lepers — all because they complained of symptoms that could not be easily dismissed?

It is despicable, and dishonorable, for a country to send off to fight in a war young men and women and then fail to care for them when they return.

And, in the case of this administration it is one more shining example of the poor pre-war planning that was undertaken, and that no back-up plans appear to have ever been made if “Plan A” didn’t work.

The men and women who took up the call to arms based on Pres. George W. Bush’s distortions and lies should not be left to suffer as he ignores their pleas for help and comfort.

If, as the president says, we are to honor their sacrifice, then we should do that by more than simply calling more of them to battle.

The only way to stop the atrocity at Walter Reed is to stop the atrocity in Iraq.