Your Vermont General Assembly is back in full swing and once again the body is forced into a posture of reaction—reacting to continued drops in student population, the highest health care premiums in the United States, rampant drug use, stagnating wages and ongoing budget deficits. Montpelier has shown its ability to pass sweeping legislation (for good or bad; i.e., Act 46) but it seems that the mode is always to hack at the leaves of the problem and never the root. I firmly believe that the underlying ailment causing so many of Vermont’s woes is an economy that is increasingly anemic, over-taxed, over-regulated and unprepared for the future.
What’s missing in Montpelier is a movement to prioritize the economy and a push for private-sector, organic growth that will improve our quality of life, increase our home values, raise revenue, foster competition and incentivize Vermonters of every age and stage of life to invest themselves in our bright future.
Vermont needs a comprehensive economic development bill, driven and executed with urgency, that will firm up the ground beneath the businesses we do have while turning over new earth for businesses that might want to open or relocate here. Without a renewed focus on growing the Vermont economy, our affordability crisis will continue to mount, wages will languish further and we will see a sustained exodus of our young people. As with a battleship, turning our economy around isn’t a quick or simple task but I do believe setting the proper course is. Here are two ways I’d start.
First, we need to cap spending at or below the rate of growth; anything else is simply irresponsible. As Montpelier continues to show a willingness to spend beyond its means and a subsequent appetite for raising taxes to cover the gap, we further erode the prosperity of working Vermonters and put a chilling effect on businesses’ long term planning.
Second, we need to bring Act 250 into the new century by providing some structural changes that sustain the law’s original intent while maintaining the vision and reality of a pristine and beautiful state—all while reducing the regulatory hurdles and runaway costs of trying to expand or build a business here.
We also need to reduce the labyrinth of middlemen (and deputy middlemen) that clog the system and instead provide the system with ombudsmen that can help guide a business owner through the process. While these changes will take many years, we should immediately allocate $826,000 to double the size of our Environmental Court. If it’s true that close to 95 percent of all Act 250 permits are eventually approved we should look to alleviate the bottleneck and have twice the amount of appeals heard and resolved.
There are many ways we can improve the culture of prosperity here in the Green Mountains and doing so will require compromise and consensus. Luckily for us, Vermonters have a proud history of doing just that.
As your rep, I make it my aim every day to spark this very discussion and to find common ground and alliances with people from every political position and corner of our state. I sincerely believe we’re making true progress.
I’d love to hear your ideas on how we can improve our lot. Call me or write me anytime: 802-558-5153, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Job Tate, state representative for Chittenden, Mendon, Killington and Bridgewater