Editor’s note: State Reps. Jessica Brumsted and Kate Webb, both Shelburne Democrats, shared their thoughts after Gov. Phil Scott’s State of the State address and the start of the legislative session last week.
From Rep. Jessica Brumsted
Gov. Phil Scott stressed the importance of growing Vermont’s economy and noting that Vermont’s demographics (with the second-oldest state population in the country) make that challenging. The governor also stressed the importance of not raising taxes and fees but finding efficiencies so that we can fund programs to bring young families into Vermont, clean up our waterways, support our veterans and provide tuition-free college for those in Vermont’s National Guard.
Both the speaker and the governor are concerned about affordability for all families. However, they propose to get to results in different ways. Approaches to these goals will be the subject of debate during this session. I would like to see the Legislature continue its efforts to clean up Vermont’s waterways and to make progress on providing affordable and accessible childcare. Additionally, we must continue to focus on stabilizing public education costs. The rural nature of our state makes all of these initiatives very challenging.
From Rep. Kate Webb
The governor did an excellent job identifying our economic challenges. That is often the easy part and helps to build consensus. It is far more complicated to address those challenges.
The governor proposes a most interesting solution to our aging demographic: entice National Guard soldiers to remain in Vermont following their service – a novel and quite likeable plan. The governor would entice soldiers by removing state income tax on military pensions and offering free college tuition for Guard members at a Vermont institution.
These are both laudable and positive. Here is the hard part: how will he do this while keeping his promise not to raise revenue? Where will he find these efficiencies and who are the winners and losers? Add to that uncertainty from Washington, D.C., for a state that typically receives around $2 billion in federal support.
We also anticipate a $45 million gap in the general fund and an $80 million gap in the education fund. How he plans to thread this needle should be revealed in his budget address on January 23.