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Gov. Jim Douglas for ... president?

FAIR HAVEN — Could Jim Douglas be the next Vermont governor to contend for the presidency?

A high school social studies teacher thinks so, and has launched a movement to draft Gov. James Douglas to be a nominee for U.S. president.

Curtis Hier said people are tired of the politics of polarization and the dominance of special interest groups in Washington.

"It's time for a smart, honest, soft-spoken, humble, middle-of-the-road leader to step forward," Hier said. "It's time to restore some civility and common sense."

Hier, who laid out his idea in an opinion piece in the Rutland Heral, said he is serious. "Some might see it as a fun little gimmick. But I'd really like to see it happen,” he said.

Douglas is all but assured to seek re-election in 2008, said a spokesman.

"The governor is flattered, but is focused on serving as governor and achieving the ambitious affordability agenda he outlined in his inaugural address," said Jason Gibbs, Douglas' spokesman.

It wouldn't be the first time in recent years that a Vermont governor has been mentioned as a presidential possibility. Former governor, now Democratic National Committee chairman, Howard Dean was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in early 2004. Two Vermonters have been president — Chester Arthur and Calvin Coolidge.

Hier said that a revolutionary new system for nominating a president, known as "Unity08" would give someone like Douglas a chance.

Unity08 is a movement supported by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, former Massachusetts governor William Weld, actor Sam Waterston, and others. The organization plans to hold an online nominating convention in June 2008. Only 100 paper petition signatures are required to run or to draft a candidate.

"I don't think the governor will want to accept at first," Hier said. "But if it looks like we can hand him a nomination and financial support, who knows?"

Hier noted that top-tier candidates will not accept a Unity nomination. "It'll be a candidate that's not currently on the radar screen, but it will be a serious candidate. Our governor could fit that description."

Hier will use the Internet, which he said is transforming politics, to get people connected to Douglas.

"We plan on the Draft Douglas Campaign having a large blog presence and YouTube videos. We encourage people to blog early and blog often," Hier said.

For more information, go to www.draftdouglas.com

State revenues up overall, transportation and education funds down

MONTPELIER — State revenues were up $4.6 million over projections in March, according to a top Douglas administration official, putting the state nearly $8 million further in the black than expected earlier this year.

On Monday, Secretary of Administration Michael K. Smith released General Fund revenue results for the month of March, the ninth month of fiscal year 2007.

“The State of Vermont ended March and the third quarter of Fiscal Year 2007 with the General Fund again performing above the new target projections for the month, causing the cumulative total at the end of the third quarter to exceed cumulative projections by $7.44 million,” said Smith in a statement. “The Transportation and Education Funds, however, continued their disappointing trend by contributing below target performances for the month. We will continue to monitor the state’s revenue performance as we progress through the tax season, and enter the last quarter of the fiscal year.”

The cumulative general fund revenue at the end of the third quarter was $797.96 million, which is $7.44 million or .9 percent above forecast, Smith said.

Personal income tax revenue surpassed its March target with $15.56 million in revenue or about $800,000 above the recommendation.

Corporate income taxes were $5.47 million above estimates as was the estate tax, which was $2.86 million above projections.

The property transfer tax also contributed positively to strong finish in March, contributing $840,000 in revenue, which was 8.1 percent above the revenue target for March.

However, the rooms and meals tax was below projection by slightly more than $1 million with $10.76 million. Sales and use tax figures were also below projections, contributing $16.17 million or $700,000 less than projected.

Smith also announced revenue results for the Transportation Fund for March, with receipts below the revenue projections. The fund collected $18.49 million for the month, missing the revised consensus revenue target by $2.38 million. For the year to date, the fund is $3 million below target.

“All of the components that comprise the Transportation Fund finished below target for the month of March,” said Smith. Those components are diesel, gasoline, and purchase and use taxes.

The education fund was also down for the month of March, Smith noted.

Non-property tax education fund revenues (which constitute about 13 percent of the fund’s receipts) were $11.57 million in March, or $740,000 below projections. To date, the fund has collected $1.46 million less than anticipated.

Posted April 10, 2007

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