Global Community Initiatives
Last Ditch Economic Pitch
Posted on January 4th, 2015

Question: What ideas do you have for Vermont's economy?

Please tell us by Wednesday, January 7 how you might answer Lt. Gov. Scott's questions about how to rejuvenate the Vermont economy, and we'll be sure to pass them along to the legislature this week. Some questions to consider:

1) What does a resilient, healthy economy do? Does it meet human needs, or does it maximize profit at the expense of human and environmental health?

2) What exactly is wrong with Vermont's economy that makes it need "rejuvination?" 

3) What is your vision for a healthy economy fifteen to twenty years from now?

4) What pieces are missing to help the state achieve its economic vision that legislative action can provide? What factors are out of our control?


Posted in Economic Ideas    Tagged with Vermont, New, Economy, Last, Ditch, Economic, Pitch, Phil, Scott, Economic Health, Resilience, Affordable, Caring, Quality


5 Comments

Michael Taub - January 4th, 2015 at 9:08 PM
WE need to make everyone pay their fair share. The Vermont Legislature has voted to increase income taxes on the wealthiest Vermonters who have benefited most from the Bush tax cuts.
Gwendolyn Hallsmith - January 4th, 2015 at 10:20 PM
Mobilizing the money Vermonters already have for Vermont based economic development by creating a public bank at the state level would go a long way to fixing our aging infrastructure, creating jobs, funding important priorities like single payer, universal health care and the cleanup of Lake Champlain. We already have the capital, and the track record of lending through our existing economic development agencies - VEDA, VSAC, VHFA, and the Bond and Infrastructure Banks.

Read the study done by Vermonters for a New Economy by clicking on the link below.


Gwendolyn Hallsmith - January 4th, 2015 at 10:23 PM
Here is the link:

http://lwvofvt.org/files/public_banking_1-13-2014.pdf
John Bauer - January 6th, 2015 at 11:28 AM
This commentary cross-posted at bauervt.com

The state of the economy for most people, in Vermont and across the country, is bad. Median income is down $5000 from 1999. Prices are up, wages are down, college is unaffordable and half of graduates are under-employed and saddled with debt. The Wall St. economy is booming, but here on Main St. we are waiting for the trickle down that comes in fits and starts, but never seems to be enough.

It is a fearful thing, living paycheck to paycheck and there is no relief in sight. We are working all the time to afford the basics while commerce advertises baubles of unimaginable brilliance that are out of reach for most of us.

If we could vote on the price of gas, the price of food, the price of cars and iPhones and all the other stuff we want, we would vote those prices down. We can't do that, but we can vote on our taxes. It is the only thing we feel we can control in what is increasingly an out-of-control economic situation.

So in these troubling times, when money is tight, voters like to hear we are going to cut taxes, that we will eliminate programs that benefit "others." The legislative leaders have made it clear that the ax will swing. They say the voters demand it. Our education system seems to be first on the chopping block.

My fear is that our hard-working elected officials will go forth and cut taxes, cut programs, cut spending and eliminate every program designed to enhance our long-term prospects for a short-term gain. They will miss the point that our problem is not the tax rate, it is the underlying economic system.

I implore the folks in Montpelier to show leadership and make the case that it is not taxes that are the problem, it is the economic system.

I believe that people are happy to pay for good schools, good roads and good health care if they feel they can afford it. I believe it is time for people to earn more money. It will help businesses and it will help pay taxes.

The economy needs to work for working people. Right now it is either broken, or it is "fixed."

Instead of gutting our schools, giving up on universal access to health care, letting roads and bridges rot, and cutting off people who need state services, let's insist our legislature and the administration focus on the economy. Specifically, focus on making the economy work for working people. Let's focus our energy, taxes and government on things that will strengthen our communities and improve our quality of life.

To be clear: focusing on the economy does not mean making Vermont better for business owners through tax breaks, incentives and give-aways. It does not mean cutting essential programs, deregulation and other gifts to established businesses, despite the pleas of the various chambers of commerce.

If we are to invest in business, community-owned businesses serve a dual purpose of providing jobs and returning profits back to the community. Employee-owned businesses provide more money, and long-term job stability, to the working people who own them. Investing in micro loans to start up businesses stimulates all kinds of jobs and economic activity. This is where we should focus our efforts.

We must invest in ourselves. Vermont can take steps to keep more money in state rather than allowing investments to go to Wall St. We are already taking steps to allow Vermonters to invest in Vermont businesses. That must be expanded as quickly as possible, and advertised, to make it easier for Vermonters to invest some of their retirement funds right here at home. It will help Vermont-based businesses to grow without using tax incentives, which are in fact a tax cut paid for by the rest of us.

Borrowing money is cheap because Vermont has a great bond rating and interest rates are near zero. Now is the time to invest in cleaning up Lake Champlain, even if we have to borrow the money to do it. Most lake pollution comes from farming, and most of that is livestock. We need to invest in helping dairy farms make changes to how they manage their operations. Dairy farms operate at the margins of sustainability and we as a state should support them if we want to see cows on our hillsides.

Investing in dairy farms is essential to our tourist industry and cleans up the lake; both are important to our long-term economic well-being.

A state bank will keep more money in Vermont, reduce the cost of banking and borrowing, and return profits to the general fund. To those who call a state bank risky, I will make two points: Wall St. banks are doing very well, and there is no better investment than the people and businesses of Vermont. We should create a small state bank and let it grow over time to minimize the risk.

Keeping money in Vermont and paying fair, livable wages will boost our economy. Give a dollar to a low-income person and it will be spent almost immediately and usually close to home. Give a dollar to a wealthy person and it is likely to be invested or saved, often out-of-state.

Increasing in-state economic activity will generate more tax revenue to allow us to pay for the programs we want. Keeping money in Vermont means more jobs, more business activity. Keeping money in Vermont can lead to a stable, sustainable economy. It's pragmatic, it's frugal ... it's Vermont.

We have already seen promising results from the recently passed legislation to invest 10% of our daily balance in Vermont, most of which has gone to energy efficiency investments, but some has been used for student loans and business investment. The legislature should at minimum double that mandate to 20%. I suggest increasing investment in affordable housing and mass transit as two places to begin. Both will provide long-term economic stability.

In short, let's replace the simplistic message of "cut taxes" with one of "increase wages." Let's replace "Wall St. banks" with "Main St. banks and co-ops." Let's stop talking about "good jobs" and talk about "better paying jobs."

In short, let's build a "sustainable economy that works for most people" to replace the "unsustainable economy that works for a few people."
Beth Champagne - January 7th, 2015 at 8:49 PM
Climate change is here, and it's disruptive. Vermont needs every ounce of resilience it can create as climate challenges (and associated political and financial challenges) increase at an exponential rate. All the work of appropriations committees in the Vermont House and Senate must reflect the urgent need to pull together, as Vermonters, to prioritize assuring the well-being of all citizens.
Vermont's governor must do as Gov. Snelling did, and raise taxes, with increases proportionately more for the wealthiest. We have a proud heritage, a legacy of community spirit, and superb examples of character and leadership throughout the state.
Now more than ever, our legislators find ways to serve the common good, and abandon "business as usual." Difficult, indeed, to do, but far less difficult than facing the catastrophe that will befall one community, one region, or one group of citizens should we fail to have shifted priorities to meet the realities, difficult even to comprehend, of the disruptive force of climate change.
No amount of money will suffice to prop up business as usual once the effects of climate change intensify. From drought and storms to temperature extremes, from pandemics to insect-borne plagues, from habitat destruction and climate-disrupted food chains, to the sheer violence and unpredictability of whiplash weather, we face the loss of what we've taken for granted for so long, a stable climate in which we can manage to thrive.
Our house is on fire, and we cannot carry on doing business as usual. Our legislators will serve the interests of Vermonters by building resilience into fundamental systems, starting with energy conservation, then renewing the pursuit of universal health care, with much greater provision of mental health care; shifting education from the inculcation of abstractions to the teaching of the wisdom of caring for the earth, and for one's own body, and for localities, home ground.
Just to maintain adequacy of nourishment, care, and well-being for all citizens is the challenge facing us. in a time of climate chaos. We need to pool our resources for the purpose of ensuring that all receive the necessities of decent lives and livelihoods.
We have "enough for need, not enough for greed," and if we will hang together, we will indeed prove ourselves "Vermont Strong." What's more satisfying, anyhow: Taking care of ourselves, meeting our basic needs by pulling together, or amassing "wealth" by destroying Nature, our only real source of sustenance, our water, air, and earth, and all the life these sustain through the alchemy of sunlight?
Following the lead of Vermonters like Theresa Snow, whose Salvation Farms aims to prevent the waste of millions of pounds of Vermont-grown food each year, we can devise plans to prevent the waste of our earth, air, and water, to return fertility to soil, and to stop polluting and poisoning earth, air, and water.
We can come down to earth, and commit to pulling carbon out of the air, putting it back into the soil, and at the same time halting "farm run-off pollution" and protecting sources of drinking water. We can work with nature instead of against it, and learn to cooperate with each other as well. This is the way resilience is built, and the way we can honor our Vermont heritage.


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