VT lawmakers: Shumlin hiding information about single-payer plan


By Bruce Parker | For Vermont Watchdog

MONTPELIER, Vt. – State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are accusing Gov. Peter Shumlin of hiding critical information about financing single-payer health care in Vermont.

“We have a governor who is violating the law,” state Sen. Joseph Benning, R-Caledonia, told Vermont Watchdog.

UNDER FIRE: State lawmakers accuse Gov. Peter Shumlin of breaking the law.

Benning, the Senate minority leader, said state law requires Shumlin to disclose financing and spending options for Green Mountain Care, the state’s controversial single-payer health care system.

Such statements lend strong support to majority party Democrats who are demanding the governor release funding proposals for the $2-billion plan.

State Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, recently issued a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain Shumlin’s proposals for financing Green Mountain Care, but the governor denied that request, citing executive privilege.

Last Friday Browning pushed for an amendment that would subpoena documents from the governor. The House voted not to consider the amendment.

State Rep. Don Turner, R-Chittenden, blasted the obstructions and accused Shumlin of acting lawlessly.

“There’s no question he’s in violation of the law. He just chooses to ignore it. Representative Browning did a public records request for that information but was denied. I understand she’s going to seek a subpoena and has vowed to take it all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary,” he told Vermont Watchdog.

Calls to Shumlin’s office for comment weren’t returned.

The cloak of secrecy surrounding Green Mountain Care has led some to conclude that the governor is covering up exorbitant costs associated with the plan.

“I think if the governor is going to continue to say, ‘I’m going to do single-payer,’ he has to show us how. And he has to show us how he’s going to build a sustainable, political base to support it. And the longer he doesn’t do that, the more it leads you to think he can’t do it,” Browning said in comments made to Watchdog.

Turner said Vermont has no realistic plan for financing Green Mountain Care as a single-payer system.

“There are only a few options that can raise this kind of money in Vermont — one is the income tax, and two is the payroll tax,” he said. “I’ve seen reports that we have a 6 percent sales tax on many goods right now. If we were to raise $2 billion with a sales tax, it would have to jump up to 29 percent. Can you imagine a 29 percent sales tax in a state of 600,000 people?”

Turner said that if the state uses the payroll tax to generate the $2 billion, that tax would spike to 17 percent.

Whatever tax hike may be involved, Turner urged the governor to come clean with the people.

“Vermonters deserve to know what’s going to happen to our health care system, how much it’s going to cost, who’s going to pay for it, and how it’s going to be paid,” he said.

“We’re facing an ideology that’s not proven. We’ll be the first in the country to try to dismantle a system we know in the United States and turn it into a single payer. And the governor is full bore ahead — he wants to be the first in the nation no matter what the cost. ”

Contact Bruce Parker at bparker@watchdog.org