Public Assets Institute Gov. Phil Scott laid out an ambitious agenda for state government in his second budget address. He outlined many problems facing Vermonters today, and for the most part his assessment was accurate. The state does need to address drug addiction, retirement security, environmental protection, mental illness, affordable housing, energy efficiency, job creation, equal educational opportunities, and the many other issues he cited.
It is hard to see how he can achieve all this with a spending formula that ties the growth in the state budget to Vermonters’ wages. And while we applaud his proposal to try to recruit young families to settle in here, we have to wonder how many young parents are eager to move to a state where the governor says we’re spending too much on education and wants to reduce staffing in schools.
Along with the problems Governor Scott cited, Vermont—like the rest of the nation—also has a problem with income inequality. Wage growth has been stubbornly slow, while incomes for the wealthy have grown much faster. Linking state spending to wage growth can only exacerbate the problem. When wages aren’t keeping pace with basic living expenses, Vermonters need more support from their government, not less.
The National Federation of Independent Business, NFIB, which represents more than a thousand small businesses in Vermont responded to Gov. Phil Scott’s commitment not to raise taxes in his Budget Address today.
“Governor Scott’s call to pass a balanced budget without raising taxes and fees is music to the ears of NFIB small-business owners across Vermont,” said NFIB Vermont State Director, Shawn Shouldice. “But our members are very concerned about the continued upward pressure on property taxes and health care costs. We look forward to hearing the ways the Administration plans to address these issues.
“Affordability continues to be the mantra of this Administration and the Vermont General Assembly. NFIB’s members have consistently struggled with the cost of operating their businesses in our state, and they need relief so they can grow and prosper. When small business owners pay fewer taxes and fees, they often put that money back into their businesses by improving their infrastructure or hiring additional people.
“NFIB certainly agrees that economic growth is pivotal to our state’s future success. Empowering our workforce, while simultaneously growing the small business sector, will ensure Vermonters will be able to find work and employers will be able to hire qualified candidates.
“While the efforts to promote our state outlined today could bring more business to Vermont, those small companies already based here desire a reduction in taxes and relief from burdensome regulations that are stifling growth.
“Today we heard many ideas from Governor Scott that will put Vermont on a new path. It is now incumbent upon the legislature to work with him to execute these ideas and make our economic prosperity a reality without putting undue pressure and burdens on our state’s job creators.”
Vermont Conservation Voters "The solutions Governor Scott proposed in his budget address for climate change and clean water fall dramatically short of what we need to take on the challenges Vermont faces," said Lauren Hierl, Vermont Conservation Voters Political Director. "Retrofitting a handful of wood stoves, spending Volkswagen settlement money, and exploring how to package and sell our phosphorus pollution - rather than strongly implementing and enforcing our clean water laws - are fundamentally inadequate. These proposals do not move the dial on either climate change or clean water. We hope the Legislature will step up to the plate – now that it is clear that leadership on these issues won't be coming from Gov. Scott – to put forward policy proposals commensurate with the challenges and economic opportunities needed to make Vermont a stronger, healthier, and more resilient state."
Vermont Natural Resources Council “We were encouraged to hear Gov. Scott note in his State Budget Address the importance of clean water, climate action, and investing in the future of Vermont,” said Brian Shupe, Vermont Natural Resources Council Executive Director. “However, we are deeply concerned that his statements lacked specificity or commitment to putting adequate resources behind these important initiatives. Vermont can not build our clean energy economy on small steps and half measures, and we won’t continue to build the state’s economy – much less address our climate and energy goals – on such timid policies and programs.
With regard to the urgent need to clean up the state’s polluted lakes and rivers, it is troubling that the Governor did not identify a plan for funding the state’s clean-up plan. This issue has been studied for years, and action is long past due. The Governor did not offer any specific recommendations to move Vermont closer to clean water. Instead, the Governor focused on fixing our water pollution problems by selling pollution, in particular nutrients, to other states. This is not a new idea, and it is not sufficient to address our severe water quality problems in Vermont. If we are going to achieve clean water, we must stop importing nutrients into Vermont in the form of fertilizer and take bold steps to reduce runoff. To imply that we can solve our problems by selling our pollution for a profit smacks of gimmickry.”
AARP Vermont “AARP Vermont is pleased to have heard Governor Scott strongly endorse the move to reduce and eliminate the state’s taxation of Social Security benefits for older and low income Vermonters – legislation AARP Vermont is working hard to see through to passage. Social Security provides a basic foundation of income stability for retirees and their families. As one of only four states that tax these benefits, our Governor and legislators alike recognize the need to make a change that will contribute to the financial security of thousands of older Vermonters.”
--Greg Marchildon, AARP Vermont State Director