Last week, the Governor, in his inaugural address laid out a clear vision for this session and the future of Vermont. It is a broad vision that I believe all Vermonters can agree with - an affordable & prosperous future, strong schools and economic opportunity for all. The challenge now for the legislature is to figure out how over the next few months we can find common ground and move towards this ultimate vision. As we work in that direction, legislators need to ask themselves: Will this help us reverse our negative demographic trend and allow us to grow Vermont?
Governor Scott correctly pointed out that “our stagnant populations is threatening every service we deliver, every program we administer and every investment we hope to make.” To make Vermont truly affordable – we need more people in the workforce, we need more kids in our schools, we need growth. Currently – we have fewer and fewer people paying for more and more state and local government. This is unsustainable, and even the politically progressive among us should realize that this is the case. To cover our obligations for everything from underfunded pension obligations to clean water will require more people working in Vermont.
We are already seeing the negative impact of our demographics on State Government and Vermont taxpayers. Moody’s cited this trend in their reasons for why they choose to downgrade our bond rating this past fall – this, in turn, will make it more expensive for us to borrow money going forward.
Montpelier has been dominated by one ideology for the past decade and the persistent belief that more regulation, more government spending, and higher taxes will lead us to prosperity and allow us to meet our collective challenges. It is time we change course – because if we continue on the path we are on – or double down on the failed policies that led us here – the harder it will become to correct our course. Challenging my colleagues to look at our problems from a different point of view and pushing them towards the middle of the spectrum – even in small ways can pay dividends for all us in the future.
The committee assignments I received will be on the front lines of many of these issues. In Natural Resources we will work make changes to Act 250 – we can streamline it, or we can make it more restrictive. Only one way will grow our economy. In Education – we can focus on workforce development and building an education system that allows all Vermonters to succeed by providing them with the skills they will need to meet the challenges of a 21st-century economy.
In a few months – we will know how successful we are in moving towards a more affordable Vermont. I will keep you updated as we go. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and my phone number is 802-370-0494.