When the stateâ€™s congressional delegation, joined by Gov. James Douglas, files a protest to a private company for dismissing a long-time employee, the average reader should be interested. We canâ€™t recall another time in Vermontâ€™s history that itâ€™s happened, which makes the outrage and disappointment expressed by Gov. Douglas and Sens. Patrick Leahy, James Jeffords, and Rep. Bernie Sanders, all the more poignant.
The protest is over the sudden dismissal of Chris Graff. A familiar face on Vermont Public Televisionâ€™s â€œVermont This Week,â€? Graff not only worked as the Associated Pressâ€™ bureau chief for the past 27 years, but he has been one of the stateâ€™s most prominent and well-respected journalists â€” as the managing editor of a staff of fine reporters, as a keen observer of state politics and history, and as a moderator of numerous political debates and public forums. He has become, as one editor recently wrote, an institution in Vermont.
Good news came Friday in Montpelier when Gov. James Douglas agreed to consider an increase in taxes to help pay for changes in the stateâ€™s health care system. Though he conceded that it took him out of his â€œcomfort zoneâ€? on taxation, Douglas approved the notion of adding a 60-cent tax on a pack of cigarettes â€” driving state taxes from $1.19 to roughly $1.79.
Good for the governor. Just the notion of raising taxes to accomplish a public good was a needed concession to move things forward and offer an element of hope in future legislative discussions.
The governor, however, still insists that the final draft on the health care plan must include his employer-sponsored insurance plan, which requires employees who qualify for their companyâ€™s health insurance plan to opt for that plan rather than the stateâ€™s plan. While such a requirement would drive up costs to businesses, itâ€™s a fair point and one that Democrats can easily support.