Rep. Dave Sharpe
By Rep. Dave Sharpe
As the chair of the House Education Committee, I have long been disturbed that nearly all Vermonters graduate high school, but only about half continue their education beyond high school.
This trend spells disaster: by 2020, two thirds of jobs in Vermont will require some post-secondary education. We are setting ourselves up for a situation in which many young Vermonters will only be qualified for low-wage jobs.
Now Sue Minter, a Democratic candidate for governor, has what I strongly believe is the best plan to tackle it head-on. Her proposal, Vermont Promise, will provide two years tuition-free for high school graduates to attend Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College. Her goal is that by 2025, three-fourths of Vermonters will be enrolling in a post-secondary education or certification program.
This plan is a winner for young Vermonters to avoid crippling student debt, and for Vermont businesses that would be able to grow with qualified job applicants.
I’ve known Sue since we both served together in the Legislature and Vermont Promise is typical of how she works: she sets the bar high, and lays out a practical way to get there.
Minter proposes paying for Vermont Promise, an estimated $12 million per year, through a bank franchise fee on the largest banks and by expanding Vermont’s corporate income tax on the big banks – a tax these banks pay if they operate in New Hampshire or New York, but they currently don’t have to pay in Vermont. That’s a fair deal and will help relieve pressure on our property taxes.
When Minter announced Vermont Promise, other Democratic candidates for governor suddenly rolled out half-baked plans of their own. One candidate can’t say how he will pay for his college proposal; the other candidate wants to pay for it in a regressive way by raising taxes on the poorest Vermonters. Neither one of them have the guts to take on the big banks to fund an essential social program like Sue is doing.
With Vermont Promise, Sue Minter has offered a real solution to a real problem. She’s the only candidate for governor in either party with a track record of tackling tough jobs in Vermont and making Vermonters’ lives better.
Dave Sharpe, of Bristol, is a Democratic state representative in Addison-4 and chair of the House Education Committee.