Just hours after he was elected to a third term by a vote of the Legislature, Gov. Peter Shumlin delivered an inaugural address that focused on just two issues: renewable energy and the future of Lake Champlain.
Shumlin had to thread his way through a large crowd of protesters as he walked from his Statehouse ceremonial office to the House chamber to deliver his speech.
More than 100 members of the Vermont Workers' Center came to Montpelier to protest the governor's recent decision to abandon his goal of passing a single payer health care system this session.
Shumlin's address focused on two issues: energy and the environment. He called for an expansion of the state's small scale solar program to transform how Vermonters get their electricity in the future. Shumlin says the expanded program will be good for the environment and the state's economy.
"This new program will add over 1,000 additional jobs, put money in Vermonters' pockets with a net savings of hundreds of millions of dollars on energy bills,” said Shumlin. “And cut greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 15 million metric tons through 2032."
Shumlin also pledged to take steps to clean up Lake Champlain, which has been plagued by toxic algae blooms in recent years. He proposed roughly 20 million dollars in both state and federal funds to reduce local road runoff into the lake, and to provide farmers with incentives to develop better manure practices.
He says his approach is quite different from one taken by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency which is focused more on expensive upgrades to municipal wastewater plants.
"We know the biggest contributors to our water quality problem, it is no mystery to us. 40 percent from farm runoff and 20 percent from roads and developed lands,” said Shumlin. “We also know the largest pollution sources that we should address first and where they are located and that's what's different about our approach."
In next week's Budget Address, Shumlin says he will propose ways to deal with the state's $100 million budget gap. He hinted that the plan might include both spending reductions and some new revenue.