Growing Our Economy
To grow our economy, we need to invest in local infrastructure, especially broadband. Reliable broadband is more and more critical to our economic success. It allows our businesses to connect with customers everywhere, attracts and retains young people, and expands opportunities for people to work remotely from home offices for companies any where in the world.
We also need to continue to invest in our downtowns and village centers. As co-chair of Wilmington Works, I have seen how Wilmington’s downtown designation has brought tax credits and grants to help revitalize a downtown devastated by Tropical Storm Irene. Smart investments, like the Vermont’s Downtown Program, can leverage private funds to help grow our local economies.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), Vermont small businesses employed about three-fifths of state’s private workforce in 2011. The SBA also estimates more than 50 percent of all small business owners are 50 or older. Yet, Inc. magazine reported that about 66% of small-businesses have no succession plan and, as result, are exposing themselves, their families and their employees to unnecessary risk. While the Agency of Commerce & Community Development has funded succession-planning workshops throughout Vermont, we need to do more to make sure that small business owners can transition into retirement and their businesses can transition to new ownership and continue to grow our economy.
I applaud all of our local school boards who are working in the shadow of Act 46 to figure out what consolidation decisions will best meet the needs of our communities and best enable our schools to educate our children. Act 46, however, does not fix the flaws in our educational funding system. Nor is it likely to lower our property taxes. Changing that funding mechanism is the next and most critical step to better educating our children.
We also must help more of our children enroll and graduate from college. While Vermont has one of the highest graduation rates from high school, only about 1 in 2 high school graduates go on to college. Yet, two-thirds of jobs in Vermont require post-secondary education. To achieve the educated workforce that we need, it is imperative that more of our children enroll and graduate from college. To accomplish that, we must make state colleges in Vermont more affordable. We also must make Vermont more affordable so that more recent college graduates stay here.
Making Vermont Affordable
To make Vermont affordable, we need to find a property tax solution that eases the burden on working families. Montpelier must also learn to live within its means just like the hard working people here do. State government cannot keep spending more money and raising taxes and fees every year. That’s simply unsustainable. We need to live within our means.