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The Commons
Photo 1

Randolph T. Holhut/Commons file

State Rep. Mike Hebert, R-Vernon.

News

Across the aisle

A Windham County Republican sees the session through a different lens but agrees that collaboration across the aisle is paramount

Originally published in The Commons issue #414 (Wednesday, June 28, 2017). This story appeared on page 0.



Rep. Mike Hebert (R-Vernon) had a different experience of the legislative session from the one described by his Statehouse colleagues Becca Balint and Tristan Toleno.

He chalks it up, first, to his membership in same Republican party as Governor Phil Scott and, second, that he does not serve in any leadership role.

As a Republican, he admits he had easier access to the governor and his administrative staff.

But, Hebert adds, when Peter Shumlin, a Democrat, was in office, Democrats had easier access than he did.

“After years of having the governor in your own party, it’s a change to not having someone you’re walking lockstep with,” Hebert said.

The Republicans felt like they didn’t exist during Shumlin’s turn in office, he added.

Hebert said he mostly worked with other members of the House during the session and stayed out of higher-level discussions.

“The [political] party system is great when you’re running it, but one you’ve got to work for the people. You need to be able to work across the aisle,” he said.

In his opinion, both the Scott administration and the Legislature became entrenched in their own points of view at the end of the session.

Hebert said he preferred an earlier version of the teachers’ health insurance plan because he felt it was more equitable.

Under the version that passed, some school districts that have already negotiated might land above the spending cut-off, Hebert said — and, if so, they might need to cut their budget or raise taxes.

When asked if Scott as governor appeared a different person from Scott as senator, Hebert had a simple response: of course he is.

“Once you’re governor, your world changes and you have to adjust to that,” Hebert said. “Because quite honestly, the buck stops on your desk.”

He said he would never fault someone in executive office for changing to adapt to a new role.

“Your authority has changed and your responsibility has changed,” said Hebert, who dismissed as simple campaign theatrics the suspicions of the Democrats that national Republican leaders are putting pressure on Scott.

“If you can paint Phil in line with the national party, it helps [your cause]”, he said.

In the end, it’s not about such campaign rhetoric, Hebert said.

Scott “does what he thinks is right for the state of Vermont,” he added.

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