Milne: Let's get practical
Milne has not been elected to any political office prior to this race, but he did run for state representative in 2006, and lost that race.
He said he has a business model of a contrarian campaign, with only a $200,000 budget. But he likes being an underdog. Milne entered the race because of the Shumlin administration.
"I'm running because I feel that Vermont has taken a turn; with the Douglas governorship and large majorities in both houses, we had some balance. It's fortunate that we have good political culture in Vermont where people by and large work together," he said. "Now with the Shumlin administration with super majorities in both houses, one I think a more balanced government would be healthy for everybody and more evidently to me as the last four years have unwound, we've turned into this very progressive state where it seems like almost every week we're trying to do something to prove we're the most liberal state in the country."
He said the GMO labeling bill, which had some healthy transparency aspects to it, was a confrontational way for Vermont to be the most liberal. Along with trying to be the most progressive state in the Union, Milne said Shumlin's lack of progress towards property tax reform and missing the legal deadline to disclose how to finance single payer led to his decision to run. It was Shumlin's newspaper circuit, where he called this past session the most successful legislative session in history, Milne said, that claim made the decision; he would run for governor.
Milne said his campaign and possible governorship is built around three principles.
"Work on what is practical and not what is political, the more local a decision can be made the better it is, and a common sense, business management approach to government," he said.
He used the example of the Shumlin administration dropping the contract with CGI, the company tasked with running the health insurance exchange.
"Pulling the plug on CGI - in a normal business here, it was too late, took too much pressure, too much money," he said. "To that I would say that clearly Shumlin's administration is not business smart and too many things are getting pushed at the state level."
When asked about his plan to reform health care, Milne said he will outline a plan later, sometime in September. Right now, he just wants to talk to people and here what they think, while also being critical of the Shumlin administration. What he will say about single payer is if it is a good idea, the organization and roll out should have been managed in a much better fashion. He said there should have been more negotiation with the federal government before getting to this place.
Darcie Johnston, a Republican operative in the state, has been highly critical of Milne and has put her support behind libertarian candidate Dan Feliciano. Part of her criticism stems from Milne's less critical approach to speaking about single payer. At one point, he referred to his views about health care as agnostic.
" My criticism of Darcie Johnston is she is exactly like Shumlin, she has an ideology that single payer is bad and by association I'm bad because I'm not going to condemn it as bad ideology," he said. "I promise Vermonters that I will be factual and practical, understand what the plusses are what the minuses are, risks are before we move forward with things. I would argue that Darcie is helping me out, by pointing out that I'm more practical and less ideological."
He said that while Johnston and Shumlin have different ideologies, they are "cut from the same cloth."
Milne is a proponent of local control and sees it as an important factor in property tax reform. He said local school boards need to be involved in any solution. At the local level, he said, there is more involvement and a more engaged citizenry.
The top down approach, I think it's a Vermont tradition going back to Town Meeting," he said. "I think the more engaged you are, the more active you are the better off government is because you have full participation."
What Milne really wants to stress to voters is his focus on what he calls "pocketbook" issues. For example, he said $100 million was spent to figure out how to insure 20,000 people.
"It probably could have been a much more sensible, pragmatic way of doing it," he said. "It's almost the opposite of we don't need to be the most radical, progressive state everyday."
Milne said Vermont doesn't need to be the 3rd or 4th state to legalize marijuana, but could be the 10th or 11th. He said there should be more focus on stabilizing the economy and creating jobs.
When pressed on the issue, Milne said he would not support or promote the legalization of marijuana or take money from large lobbies in support of legalization like Shumlin, but that he would sign the bill if it came to his desk as governor.
"I have said that being a pioneer with that would be a mistake, but speaks to local control," he said. "Talk to local legislatures, this really should be driven from main street - I would sign it [a bill legalizing marijuana], I would not promote it, but I would sign it."
While he is critical of the Shumlin administration, he did say the Department of Agriculture has done some great work under this administration promoting craft breweries in the state, as well as the farm to table food movement. While these are boost to the economy and some farmers, Milne said Vermont needs to diversify away from just a tourism based economy.
"I make a living in the travel and tourism business. I know how it works and it's cyclical," he said. "We don't want to have an economy that's totally dependent on travel and tourism or we'll have some really lean times."
Milne said job creation is an important part of economic growth, however Vermont has not seen much since the trough of the economic decline. Since 2008 and 2009, only Chittenden and Orleans counties have seen job growth, he said. And most in Orleans came from construction jobs related to the Jay Peak project.
Milne said the problem with Shumlin is he can't manage ideas and the implementation well. Neither can some of his agencies. Milne said the mismanagement of the Jay's Peak EB-5 program under the Agency of Commerce is a perfect example. The EB-5 investor program allows foreign workers to earn a green card and eventually citizenship after making a $500,000 or more investment into a development project. In a VTDigger exclusive, it was first reported that Bill Stenger and his business partner Ariel Quiros, dissolved the company on Aug. 31,2013, and turned the EB-5 investments into unsecured loans. The mismanagement at the Agency of Commerce, he said, is just another indictment as to why he's running.
"If Howard Dean was governor, I wouldn't be running. I think we have a governor that's mismanaging the people's money and even if he were properly managing people's money his ideas are leading us in a bad direction," he said. "Two aspects of leadership are not only getting people to follow you and managing implementation of those ideas and in my opinion, many of the ideas the Shumlin administration has promoted are not good ideas. But we don't even know because he can't mange their implementation."
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.