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Some of the reports of State officers I have not seen ; others were furnished in manuscript at a late day; while a few were seasonably prepared and forwarded. They will all be laid before you. A careful study of these documents from men most familiar with the affairs and wants of the State is indispensable to proper legislation. I am confident that this has been very much neglected, and I earnestly invite your attention to them, as well as to those of previous years, and to the reports of legislative committees found in the various jonrnals, all of which are of great interest and value.
FINANCES. The financial condition of the State, as shown by the Treasurer's report, is as follows:
Due towns, U. S. Surplus fund.......
bonds and coupons, due 1876.........
8,959.02 1,940.24 4,360.00 42,760.36 135,500.00
Cash and deposits..........
. . $126,118.66
218.94 ... 28,167.63
$154,505.23 The only items in the list of liabilities that are likely to be called for are suspense, savings bank tax, and orders not presented, amounting to $47,367.15, leaving an excess of available assets over current liabilities Aug. 1, 1882, of...
........$107,138.00 The excess reckoned on the same basis, Aug. 1, 1878, was 153,009.00 : 66
" 1880, was 199,483.00 I respectfully renew the suggestion of my predecessor that the tax levy be so made as to avoid leaving large sums in the treasury. It is a fertile source of extravagance in the National as well as State Government, and an annecessary burden on the people. Authority being given to the Treasurer to negotiate temporary loans, no embarrassment will ensue. The temporary loans made by the Treasurer in 1882 were $83,500, of which $56,500 was under authority of the act of 1880, and the remainder under previous acts. These previous acts, running back to 1864, are regarded by the Treasurer as still in force, and under them there is still authority to borrow over one million dollars. I recommend the repeal of all such authority, including the act of 1880, and that future acts should provide that the power of the Treasurer to borrow money should cease at the end of the succeeding session.
The disbursements for the last two years are presented by the Treasurer in his usual clear and careful manner. Omitting all payments on account of loans, savings banks tax, United States deposit, soldiers' and trust funds, that are not taken into account as a part of the current expenses of the State, the disbursements for the two years ending August 1, 1882, were... ....... $719,171.00 1880, were.....
773,911.00 1878, were. ,...
824,572.00 1876, were.....
810,858.00 1874, were.............. 697,638.00
66 -1862, (omitting all war expenses, also) were.............. 364,772.00
The Auditor estimates that $70,000 of the expenses of 1881 and 1882 were exceptional. Admitting this, and deducting but $16,000 as exceptional from expenses of 1861 and 1862, during which time two regular and one extra sessions were held, we find our annual current expenses $150,000 greater than twenty years since, and they were much larger at that time than they should have been. A system of the same petty frauds existed then that have been so often reported of late years. I am aware that this statement will surprise many, for nearly all the tables prepared on this subject refer to 1860 and 1861 for comparison, and these years are generally spoken of as a halcyon period " before the war,” but the Auditor for 1860, in his report, devotes some space to " deficits” and “ frauds” in the treasury; to 66 errors and irregularities” of county clerks; and as to accounts of State's attorneys, he says : 6 I find in most of them improper items charged and allowed,” by court auditors, “ and it is believed that considerable amounts of money will be found in the hands of some of them unaccounted for." He also treats of sheriff's in about the same manner, so that if we seek to find a time when State expenses were what they should be, we must go back of 1860. But with all these practices in vogue, the court expenses for that year were $75,642, against $178,027 in 1878.
The whole subject of Court and State expenses has been so freely discussed by the press, so much attention was devoted to it in the messages of Governors Fairbanks and Proctor, and in able reports by Hon. Samuel Williams, chairman of a joint special committee in 1876, and by Judge Veazey, who, as a commissioner on this subject, appointed in 1878, made a full, clear, and valuable report to the Legislature in 1880, that it seems needless to do more than ask your attention to the matter. I would suggest that every thing bearing on the subject of expenses, in the documents referred to, be reprinted for your information, and that the recommendations of Judge Veazey be carried into effect. Among them are the increase of jury fees, the limitation of the number of trial justices, and the power of the State's Attorney to prosecute all crimes by information. When a man of Judge Veazey's high character and ability devotes time to a matter with which he is already familiar, and suggests measures that will reduce taxation, and root out long established evils, his suggestions should not find a tomb in the hands of a committee.
The republication of these reports is desirable for the reason that it is almost impossible to arrive at any correct result or conclusion from reading the State reports of that period. Mr. Williams says ; 6. With this view, we recommend the adoption of the joint resolution herewith submitted, so that the report of the Auditor of Accounts may hereafter exhibit a more comprehensive and detailed summary of the receipts and disbursements of the State revenue.. ... The later reports are such as not only to require days of labor, but uncertainty as to the correctness of the result, unless the vouchers are examined in detail. In order to ascertain in regard to the receipts and disbursements, you must collate and compare the reports of the Treasurer, Auditor of Accounts, and county clerks, examine the vouchers and classify the items, and be very careful to add or deduct from the expenses of the different departments items which appear in others. The classification in the Auditor's report is very defective, so that if, for example, it should be desirable to ascertain the costs of the Board of Insurance Commissioners, it would be necessary to examine all the vouchers in detail, as some items are found in official expenses, some in printing reports,' and some in miscellaneous,' and the same remarks will apply in respect to other expenses.” This difficulty may be further illustrated by the fact that the court expenses for 1878 are given differently in official documents, the lowest statement of them being $110,549, while Judge Veazey’s correct analysis shows them to have been $178,027.
The classification in the later reports of State expenses has been much improved, but if we look for the items of which a certain class of expenses is made up, we still find it a work of great difficulty. I venture to suggest, as an addition to the present system of classification, that the Auditor be required to append to each heading a list of all orders drawn under it, and that any order embraced under more than one head should be so designated. It will tend to diminish taxation if such light is thrown upon our expenditures that both legislators and people can, without the aid of an expert, ascertain exactly for what purpose and to whom their money is paid.
It is evident from the Auditor's report and from the documents before referred to that some claims for fees and expenses are paid under the head of court expenses that are not specifically authorized by law. There is also another class of accounts which have partly grown out of legislation during the war, when the Auditor was necessarily vested with great discretionary power, that are paid without specific authority of law, some of which are classified among official experses. The amount of these claims will vary with different auditors and different officers. I am of the opinion that section 219 of the Revised Laws should be repealed, and that no State officers should be allowed to approve, pay or draw orders for any purpose not specifically authorized by law. If any hardship arises under such a restriction, it will soon come to light, and can be provided for. I regard the saving of money to the people, important as that may be, as of less consequence than is the adoption of a system which will put a stop to im
proper and illegal expenditures based on custom, and which diminish with a faithful auditor, and when public attention is directed to them, but increase again under different circumstances. We should not only remove abuses, but prevent their recurrence.
In regard to the whole subject of State expenses, I may observe that they are made up of small items, and each one must be carefully scrutinized, or the aggregate is large. The largest single item is the debentures of the General Assembly. By resolutely refusing to act on private bills, the object of which can be accomplished under the provisions of the general laws, by refusing to adjourn unnecessarily, refusing to consider bills not introduced early in the session, by refusing to pass any bill not shown to be actually beneficial and needful, by observing the clause of the Constitution which enjoins that 66 previous to any law being made to raise a tax, the purpose for which it is to be raised ought to appear evident to the Legislature to be of more service to the community than the money would be if not collected,” you will earn the gratitude of your constituents and lessen their burdens.
It is gratifying to know that a considerable reduction has been made in the State expenses since 1878, when they reached their highest point. This is owing to several causes, not the least of which is the faithful, fearless performance of duty by the present Auditor. The total expenses for the year ending July 31, 1878, were.....
......$178,027.00 do. do.
1879, 156,287.00 do. do.
1880, 150,849.00 1881, 123,765.00
1882, 120,687,00 While the reduction in court expenses, as shown by the foregoing table, is worthy of note, it should also be observed as equally deserving of attention, that there has been a large increase in the amount of fees and costs collected, as appears by the following table : Fines and costs collected for the term ending July 31, 1878, $28,583 do. do.
1880, 45,007 do.
SCHOOLS. In our colleges, normal, high and graded schools, we have a corps of teachers to whom we owe a debt of gratitude. They have grown gray in the performance of ill-requited labor for the common good. Their duties are the most arduous, as they are the most noble and dignified of all secular professions. Thoroughly devoted to their work of the higher grade, they have never failed to recognize the supreme and commanding importance of the common schools, and have ever been ready to do labor for their improvement. One of these is our present Superintendent of Education, who enjoys and deserves the confidence of all that know him, yet I regret that he has not, associated with him, a board of these veteran teachers, for official advice and counsel. It is thought, however, by many of our oldest and most experienced teachers, that the popular distrust of this method of official supervision, which was occasioned by the employment of a secretary who had a pecuniary interest in the enforcement of the law requiring a uniformity of text books, has not sufficiently subsided to justify a return to it. It was this that caused the “ extinction of the board and the creation of supervision resting solely in a single person," and it gave the cause of popular education in Vermont a blow from which it has not yet recovered. The board, with its secretary, was abolished by the Legislature by an almost unanimous vote in 1874, but its books remained until, by another step backward in 1878, the uniformity of text books was destroyed by an act allowing each town to select its own books. The obnoxious arithmetic then left Vermont, only two towns voting to retain it, while one hundred and eighty-six towns went back to the "obsolete” arithmetic of 1867.
The act of 1878, creating as many “ Boards” as there are towns, providing over seven hundred persons, instead of six, “ to prevent the too frequent change of text books in common schools,” was not as destructive of uniformity as might have been expected. The resolute good sense of teachers and town superintendents secured to some counties absolute uniformity, but where this was not the case, the result has been deplorable. Before the meeting of the next Legislature, two hundred and forty other boards will be elected to create further diversity, unless your wisdom interposes and provides some other course. I respectfully suggest, as most economical and conservative, that the Superintendent be directed to select a list, from the books now in use in the largest number of towns; that towns be allowed to continue using books now adopted; but that in case a change is made by any town in 1884, as provided by law, it shall be to the list prepared by the Superintendent. Thus will a majority vote of all the towns decide what the list shall be, and we shall gradually return to the old system.
I should, however, desire to change some of the readers in use by our schools. 'Emphasis and inflection, pitch and modulation, can be taught as well from the orations of Patrick Henry and Daniel Webster, from the writings of Andrew Jackson and Charles Sumner, from the patriotic poetry of Whittier, Holmes, Bryant, Lowell and Drake, as from the works of DeFoe or the plays of Shakespeare, while from the daily drill in reading such lessons of freedom, nationality and patriotism, there will be taught that love and duty toward the country and its flag, which, when occasion arises, will present a race of patriots as devoted to liberty, and as ready to defend it, as were our fathers of the Revolution and those who succeeded them in more recent contests.
The following table from the report of Mr. Conant, the Superintendent in 1880, gives some interesting facts :
1850 1860 1870 1880 Number of school districts.........2,594 2,591 2,480 2,359 Number of children in the schools. .99,110 75,691 75,026 75,238 Number of teachers. ..............
5,009 4,796 4,359 Average wages per week, including
board, of teachers........... $3.15 $3.72 $6.06 $5.53