By House Speaker Shap Smith
States have faced many challenges as the country recovers from the Great Recession, but in Vermont, we are making progress and we know our approach is working. Vermont has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, our roads and bridges are in better shape than ever before, and we have the lowest gender pay gap and highest access to pediatric care in the nation. Yet we still have work to do.
This session we are rolling up our sleeves to face challenges head on. In the House, we passed legislation to increase the quality of life and access to opportunity for all Vermonters through investments in the economy, to clean up Lake Champlain and our impaired waterways, and to support middle class Vermonters facing unaffordable health care costs. We put forth an economic development bill that gives assistance to first-time homebuyers and invests in attracting entrepreneurs and good jobs to the state.
We listened to voters and passed a landmark education bill to improve educational outcomes for children through expanded districts and learning opportunities. We capped the rate of growth of education property taxes and ensured cost savings from efficiencies at the district level. We eliminated new unfunded mandates for local schools.
We passed tripartisan legislation to invest in college savings accounts to give every Vermont child a financial path to college. We also answered the call of Vermonters to ensure everyone has the opportunity to earn sick days, to expand energy and transportation alternatives, and to institute greater tax fairness.
These accomplishments were achieved while resolving a budget gap that widened after the governor shared his initial proposal. We did so by closing tax loopholes and making measured reductions in spending. We found a solution that honors the Vermont spirit of finding middle ground and living within our means, while also refusing to place more burdens on the property tax.
Vermonters are asking us to do what is right and responsible. For the last four months, we have been making tough decisions that we know won’t please every one of our neighbors. The House and Senate proposed balanced budgets that received tripartisan support. We have welcomed realistic alternatives and will continue to consider them as we move forward to adjournment. Our goal is to setup the next generation for success.
As we close out the session, it is my hope that our progress will allow us to unlock the promise of Vermont.