Last week a noted economist pointed out that Vermont’s exports have dropped 25 percent since 2010 while, nationally, exports have actually risen by 17 percent in that same time. This is troubling news especially when you consider that the exporting industries inside Vermont are the ones with the best wages, upward mobility for their employees and historic potential for growth – critical factors in retaining and attracting a younger workforce. This news goes hand in hand with other worrisome factors: Vermonter’s pay the highest healthcare premiums in the nation, we are ranked as being one of the worst, fiscally, for retirees, and our state’s economic outlook is usually ranked towards the distant back of the pack by most publications that track the nation’s economic performance.
The reality of a stalled economy and a future continuously leveraged away by a skyrocketing cost of living and an ever-expanding tax burden is well understood by most Vermonters – and while the numbers are real, and the math irrefutable, Montpelier seems completely uninterested in addressing the economic headwinds facing our state or taking real, meaningful steps to cut spending and give taxpayers a breather. As a young-ish father committed to raising both his family and his fortune in the Green Mountains I am perhaps most frustrated by the wanton waste of time that often occurs in your legislature. We often debate, for hours, resolutions that are completely unrelated to the governance of Vermont and on topics seemingly designed to display only Montpelier’s inflated sense of self-importance on the national and global stage. In committee we take weeks and weeks of testimony on bills that leadership has no intention of letting come to the floor for a vote and waste critical man-hours, and taxpayer dollars, in the process. Even good, tri-partisan, economic development legislation like this year’s independent contractor bill is subject to the purgatory of legislative dithering – doomed to bounce from committee to committee until the clock runs out, special interests are satisfied, and no meaningful progress is achieved.
And all the while, our economy is at sea — forced by a tone-deaf government to face increasing taxes, fees, mandates and regulations in a competitive global marketplace where months and yearly quarters matter…and wasted time can mean the death of a business.
Balance, and a new direction forward, in Montpelier has never been more urgently needed. I remain steadfastly optimistic about our future and I can’t wait to see what Vermont, and her workforce, is capable of once given the opportunity to compete. We just need a state government committed to its core principles and where a balanced budget, economic opportunity, public safety and quality education fill the dance card and the pet projects, useless resolutions and wasted testimony become the occasional rarity instead of business-as-usual.
With just a couple of weeks left in this year’s legislative session I intend to focus on those core principles and to urge my colleagues to do the same. The people of Vermont deserve nothing but our total focus on the issues that matter and those that directly impact the future of Vermont.
You can count on me,
Job Tate, state representative for Chittenden, Killington, Mendon and Bridgewater