- Associated Press - Thursday, January 8, 2015

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - In an inauguration distinguished by a legislative vote and marked by protests from universal health care activists, Gov. Peter Shumlin said told lawmakers Thursday he wants to create 1,000 new jobs by buttressing Vermont’s clean-energy sector and wants to put more enforcement teeth into efforts to clean up Lake Champlain.

In his address, the Democratic governor said he also wants to devote his third two-year term to expanding the economy and reducing school spending while improving educational quality.

“I heard clearly in the election this fall that Vermonters expect more from me and from the state to help improve their lives,” said Shumlin, who barely survived the November election.

Shumlin got 46.4 percent of the vote to Republican newcomer Scott Milne’s 45.1 percent. The state Constitution says when no candidate for governor, lieutenant governor or treasurer gets more than 50 percent of the popular vote, the decision is left to lawmakers. So Thursday began with an election for governor in a joint assembly, which Shumlin won, 110 to 69.

Shumlin devoted much of the latter part of his address to a long-running and so far largely unsuccessful effort to reduce phosphorus levels in Vermont’s rivers and Lake Champlain from farms and other sources. The lake has been plagued by toxic, smelly algae blooms during the summer months.

Shumlin warned that if the state does not take strong action, the federal Environmental Protection Agency will impose its own version of a Lake Champlain cleanup plan later this year. He said the EPA’s solution likely would be “more costly and less targeted” than a plan the state completed last spring.

The governor called for tougher enforcement of the state’s water quality standards against noncompliant farms and for legislation that would deny those farmers property tax reductions they currently enjoy through the state’s current use program.

He said he would leave specific proposals on two of the toughest issues facing the state - rising school property taxes and efforts to control health care costs - to a budget address to be delivered to lawmakers next week.

Last month, the governor announced he was dropping plans to ask lawmakers to approve a financing proposal for a universal, publicly funded health care system, saying he wanted to push instead for more modest changes.

That decision had loud repercussions Thursday, as more than 100 protesters descended on the Statehouse, with some of them disrupting inaugural proceedings. They waved banners saying “Put People First,” and sang a song including the lines, “Ain’t no way we’re backing down. We’re rising up, the time is now.”

Some entered the House chamber, drowning out parts of a benediction delivered by Rev. Robert Potter of the Peacham Congregational Church. And some began a sit-in that continued into Thursday evening.

State police said 29 people were arrested and issued citations for trespassing and nine also were cited for resisting arrest.

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