VOTE FOR VERMONT
GUESTS: GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT
TOPIC: UPDATE AFTER 11 MONTHS IN OFFICE
Pat McDonald and Ben Kinsley are co-hosts of the show “Vote for Vermont.” Joining them on a recent show was Governor Phil Scott. McDonald started the discussion noted that just recently Business Insider Magazine ranked Vermont as one of the 15 states for job seekers. The Governor noted that while this is good news, it highlights the problem of Vermont’s demographics. While there are jobs, we need more people to take advantage of the opportunities.
McDonald reviewed the promises the Governor made during his campaign which were (1) grow the economy, (2) make Vermont more affordable, (3) protect the most vulnerable and (4) improve government operations and services.
The Governor also mentioned the advances being made in affordable housing for middle-income families. A $35M bond was approved by the Legislature which is the largest investment ever made in housing in Vermont’s history.
The administration has an extensive list of accomplishments on its website and the Governor was asked to highlight a few of them such as:
- Revitalizing the State’s relationship with Agriculture and Vermont’s outdoor communities: The Governor supported the continuation and strengthening of V.O.R.E.C (Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative). This diverse group from the recreation sector is tasked with promoting our outdoor recreation assets, sustainably support this sector and help drive overall growth in the Vermont economy.
- Secure sales tax exemptions to strengthen the aerospace and forestry business sectors: the Governor explained that aerospace is a big industry and that we should look right across the border to Canada to build relationships in energy and aeronautics. Thinking creatively, he noted that while we can’t build airplanes in Vermont we could look regionally to find a niche in the industry, like machine work or building parts.
The Governor shared an exciting idea of pre-clearance for people and products travelling from Toronto, Quebec City, and Montreal to Vermont with the intent to make travel more convenient and quicker for skiers, shoppers and others. Pre-clearance would also be applicable to Amtrak travel as well.
- Executive Orders: The Governor set out guidelines that everything his administration does must promote to the extent possible his four priorities. To that end, his administration has:
- Created the Government Modernization and Efficiency Team (GMET) along with a Program to Improve Vermont Outcomes Together (PIVOT).
- Formed the Governor’s Opioid Coordination Council along with the position of Director of Drug Abuse Prevention. One positive fact the Governor shared about the opiate crisis was that Vermont does not have a waiting line for treatment. But he also noted that while this is good news there is much more to do.
- Proposed merging the Department of Liquor Control and the Lottery Commission, because they serve the same customers and require the same skills to deliver their product.
- Suggested alignment of the Department of Labor with the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, because the new entity would better connect those seeking to fill jobs with those looking for work.
The Governor was asked about the EB-5 situation and the suggestion made recently by Tom Evslin to appoint a special prosecutor to look into what happened. He is considering Evslin’s proposal. The Governor noted that there are several EB-5 programs in Vermont that are very successful and have positive impacts on Vermont’s economy. The Federal Government wants Vermont to discontinue all programs but the administration believes the EB-5 program is an important tool and does not want to see the successful programs discontinued.
The Governor talked about the $50M approved by the Legislature to advance clean water infrastructure and the budget that was passed with only one negative vote in the House without raising taxes and fees and without cutting programs and services for the most vulnerable. The Education savings proposal added a little wrinkle to the process but resulted in a compromise which will re-open teachers’ contracts statewide in 2019. In the meantime there will be ongoing conversations about the possibility of an 80/20 split across the board, a statewide teachers’ health care contract, and other potential savings.
The Governor was asked about the simple numerical slogan he used to frame Vermont’s challenges: 6 – 3 – 1. The numbers reflect some sobering facts: 6 people leaving the workforce every day, 3 students less in schools every day, and 1 baby born addicted every day. The Governor said he worries about these numbers daily.
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