RUTLAND-A crowd of about 100 legislators, businesspeople and
residents met at South Station last week to discuss current issues
with Governor Peter Shumlin. Familiar talking points were touched
upon with a few local issues addressed in the Governor's hour-long
Jobs and economic growth in Rutland were a clear focus and Gov.
Shumlin mentioned his transportation bill as an impetus.
Investments at the Rutland airport and putting the "western rail"
project on a faster trajectory were promised to help give the
region a boost.
Gov. Shumlin said "it is absolutely critical that we drive the
natural gas pipeline down the western side of the state and into
Rutland. There are public hearings coming up, we'd love to hear all
sides, so please show up and make your voice heard." He mentioned
that Vermont is more dependent on oil than other states and
improving natural gas delivery will help businesses as well as
citizens save money and prosper. Right now, natural gas is about
40% cheaper than oil.
With regard to jobs, Vermont isn't doing bad, but we can do
better, Gov. Shumlin said. Despite the tough recession, Vermont has
the sixth lowest unemployment nationally and we have the fastest
growth rate in the northeast. Vermont was the only state in the
nation to see income grow in 2011.
The Governor asked "How do we continue that momentum?" and
pointed to increased education and training as imperative to moving
in the right direction and ensuring that Vermont's students are
prepared to enter the workforce. As businesses grow and start
hiring again, the state has to make sure that there are available
workers from within the state. "We are an aging state and there is
work to do," he said.
Shumlin outlined a plan to provide incentives for students to
stay in Vermont; essentially allowing the state to pay for the
final year of college if a student stays and works in Vermont for
five years after they graduate. Plans to expand the dual enrollment
scheme where high school students can earn college credits was also
mentioned as was bolstering the technical college programs so that
students can be prepared to enter the workforce early.
Gov. Shumlin also addressed elementary education, saying "In
grade school, let's have an individual plan that links every
student's abilities and aspirations with their educational
experiences. Very early on, they're getting internships,
apprenticeships and linking career with educational attainment and
the amount of money you make when you join that particular
profession." Gov. Shumlin mentioned his proposed $17 million
investment in early childhood education. "I say, if we are going to
succeed in growing jobs and growing prosperity, we've got to have
the best education system in America, and we have got to have
everybody in," he said.
Welfare reform is also needed, said the Governor, reminding the
audience that Vermont is the only state where welfare has no time
limit. He said "welfare should be temporary, not timeless." He also
railed against the idea that some welfare recipients choose not to
work because they do better by staying home. "Change the system,"
was his response. "Fundamentally change the system so everyone can
prosper," he said, the system should encourage employment.
Governor Shumlin took a few questions from the audience. One
audience member mentioned a need for tax credits for training young
workers in apprenticeships. Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice
President Thomas Donahue voiced his concern over the bill that
would regulate labeling of genetically modified food, siting local
businesses that use canola oil. Because canola oil derives from a
hybrid seed, these businesses would be forced to drop "all natural"
from their labels and include a disclaimer about genetically
Gov. Shumlin said that as is, the bill could do more harm than
good and although he supports labeling, the bill needs some
The legislative breakfasts are regular events in Rutland and they
are open to the public. They are hosted by the Rutland Region
Chamber of Commerce and the Rutland Economic Development
Corporation. These are great opportunities to meet your local
legislators, reservations are required.