3 lawmakers ask state to cut ties with economist
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Three state lawmakers on Monday urged the administration of Gov. Peter Shumlin to sever ties with a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist who was shown on video saying it was the “stupidity of the American voter” that helped create the Affordable Care Act.
In a letter dated Monday, Republican state Reps. Kurt Wright, Patti Komline and Heidi Scheuermann said the “arrogant and disrespectful” comments by Professor Jonathan Gruber caught on videos that became public recently will undermine Vermont’s health care reform efforts.
The letter said Gruber’s attitude is unacceptable and it urged the state to terminate a $450,000 state contract that is being used to help design a proposed single-payer health care system that is Shumlin’s signature policy proposal.
“Failure to do so will only further erode Vermonters’ confidence in a process that has already left much to be desired,” the letter said.
Shumlin Monday said Gruber’s words were “reprehensible, repugnant and sad,” but he doesn’t want to end the state’s relationship with him until his work in Vermont is done.
“The worst part if you think about is not that he said what he said, but that he thinks what he thinks about the rest of us,” Shumlin said. “I share the extraordinary disappointment in comments that don’t reflect the way we do things in Vermont.”
The videos show Gruber, an adviser in the drafting of the federal health care reform law and a consultant to efforts in Vermont and other states, making comments that include “the stupidity of the American voter” helped Democrats pass the complex federal health care legislation.
Gruber has since disavowed the most controversial remarks. Reached Monday by email, he declined to comment on the Vermont letter.
Shumlin said Gruber was helping the state test financing ideas for its single-payer health care proposal and his work is 90 percent completed. The administration is planning to release a single-payer financing proposal early next year.
“If we were to terminate him now we could not get a financing plan to the Legislature in January,” Shumlin said. “Our work with him will end soon. I’m grateful that we’re near the end.”