Op-ed: Big salaries for such a small state

Gov. Phil Scott . Photo from Gov. Scott’s Facebook page.

By John Walters
©2024 Vermont Political Observer

For all of Gov. Phil Scott’s tough talk about the budget and how tight we’ve got to be with our money, you might not guess that he and his top officials are due to get some very healthy raises in the new fiscal year.

The Pay Act, H.889, had been floating serenely through the Vermont legislature to little to no public notice. The House passed it, and it was incorporated into the fiscal 2025 budget for passage before adjournment.

I hadn’t heard a peep about it until Sen. Tanya Vyhovsky, a Progressive-Democrat from Essex, tweeted this the other day:

Yep, that’s right, 6.4% pay raises for the governor and all his appointees.

To be fair (if only for a moment), that figure is exactly what state employees are getting in their collectively-bargained contracts. But you know, it might have occurred to the governor and his tight-fisted apparatchiks that a voluntary gesture of self-discipline might be in order. You know, in light of the fact that we allegedly can’t afford to provide enough shelter for our homeless population.

Especially the governor himself. Especially when, as Sen. Vyhovsky pointed out, the Pay Act would make him the second highest paid governor in the country.

That’s right. Humble ol’ Gov. Phil Scott is pulling down a top-of-the-heap salary for leading our brave little state. Emphasis on “little,” because if we compared state budgets and governors’ salaries, Scott would lead the pack by a country mile.

I can’t guarantee that online lists of gubernatorial salaries are up to date, so it’s possible that Scott might actually be third or fourth or fifth by the time he starts collecting his bump. But according to the statistical website World Population Review, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has the most generous salary at $250,000. Under the Pay Act, Phil Scott would earn (can I put “earn” in air quotes?) a cool $234,379 in the new fiscal year. To view the details, click here and scroll to Page 125.

New York: Fourth largest state by population at 19,469,232.

Vermont: 49th biggest state at 647,818.

New Your state expenditures, per the Kaiser Family Foundation: $209.3 billion, second highest behind California.

Vermont state expenditures, same source: $7.6 billion, larger than only South Dakota and Wyoming.

Vermont’s budget is 3.35% the size of New York’s. And yet Phil Scott is earning almost exactly as much as Kathy Hochul. Feel like you’re getting your money’s worth?

Column continues below image. Click image to enlarge.

I can maybe understand why the legislature hasn’t raised a fuss, since the pay increase is the same percentage (on a much, muuuuuuuuch larger base) as it is for unionized state employees. But this is the same governor who vetoed a bill to raise legislators’ pay from its currently abysmal levels. I wouldn’t blame House and Senate leadership if they put out a press release or even held a press conference pointing out the obvious contradiction. Their restraint might be morally admirable, but it’s politically ridiculous.

Scott’s lofty salary also kinda helps explain his opposition to additional taxes for high earners. Aside from his state pay, he’s also collecting hefty sums from the 2018 sale of his half of Dubois Construction. Under the terms of that deal, Scott was to receive interest-only payments of $75,000 a year for the first five years and interest plus principal after that. So he’s pulling down something north of 75 G’s from that sale, which would mean his total compensation is at least $310,000 and probably quite a bit more. He’s not in the top bracket, but he’s awfully darn close.

It seems like this ought to be a bigger deal than it is. Phil Scott is preaching fiscal discipline, but his own pay is completely out of whack with the scale of his responsibilities. Why is that? Why do we pay our governor so much?

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  1. Arlene Mutschler says:

    No wonder he wanted to run again??? Cant give that up, huh? And VT is the second highest per student to educate. And we are at a 50% of learning. and grade of 50%! embarrassing. But did they count grades for teaching how to decide a gender? I wasnt going to vote for him anymore anyway. I havent in a few years. But everyone thinks he is so NICE? well NICE doesnt cut it!

  2. Robert Sartini says:

    What a terribly predictable hit piece. It’s embarrassing to even read. Write your legislators and whine to them.