Earlier today Governor Scott delivered his 2018 State of the State address highlighting the progress of the past year and strengthening his commitment to growing the economy and making Vermont more affordable, while protecting the most vulnerable.
Last session, Governor Scott presented, fought for and signed a budget that did not raise a single tax or fee for the first time in memory. He drew a line in the sand and said the state budget would not grow faster than wages, which means state government actually helped Vermonters keep more of what they earn. In addition, over the last 12 months, Governor Scott and his administration closed a budget gap of nearly $60 million. He also reduced education costs by $13 million in order to keep statewide property tax rates level for the first time in more than a decade.
His housing package (the most substantial investment in new housing in state history)will deliver 600 additional units of housing that working families can afford; employ 1,000 Vermonters; help attract new workers to the state, and generate $10 million in wages.
A few other key highlights from the past year include: the expansion of Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts to help communities encourage private investment; the expansion of downtown tax credits; additional funding for the Vermont Small Business Development Center; investments in tourism and marketing; tax exemptions on forestry products; and alterations to the telecommunications permitting process...among others. These pro-growth investments are an important step toward a stronger economy and more opportunity to all four corners of Vermont.
The Governor provided leadership on the opiate crisis, by supporting the expansion of the “hub and spoke” treatment model that has substantially reduced, and in some areas eliminated, waiting lists for treatment. Also, over the course of the past year, the Governor’s PIVOT program worked to rethink and reform processes in state government to make them more efficient and effective. Just one example, one team streamlined construction permit applications, improving average turnaround time by 30%. There are currently 44 more of these projects underway.
And Governor Scott is just getting started!
SETTING THE AGENDA
In his State of the State, Governor Scott also asked the Legislature to work with him to restore the economic foundation of our state. He said he will continue to fight for affordability, expanding the workforce, and investing in pro-growth areas.
The Governor was crystal clear: He will not accept a budget with any new taxes or fees--including an increase in the property tax--again this year.
He outlined a workforce expansion plan and an innovative, data-driven campaign, focused on training Vermonters for existing jobs, creating the best cradle-to-career education system in the nation, and deploying innovative tools to recruit new working age people to our state.
The Governor underscored the importance of economic development to securing a prosperous future. He stated his intention to introduce new legislation to support rural economic development, affordable housing, help working families and young professionals, and revitalize our downtowns. Specific proposals will be outlined in his Budget Address on January, 23.
Finally, the Governor announced his plan to introduce a comprehensive Veterans package, which will support those who have bravely served our country, state, and communities. This includes tuition free higher education for Guard members, improving licensing and scholarship opportunities, and perhaps most importantly, eliminating Vermont’s tax on military pensions.
SETTING THE TONE
But in order to accomplish these goals, the Governor stressed that we must pull together. He said:
“The solutions we were elected to find are achievable, but we must not let our work be clouded by politics. We must resist the instinct to retreat to ideological corners.Progress requires a willingness to compromise, to listen, to find consensus and to be honest and respectful brokers on behalf of all Vermonters.
“We must do everything we can, to pull our nation out of darkness and restore civility and respect to our public process...
“We have an opportunity to set an example with our actions, we can commit to meaningful dialogue and be guided by our shared principles, we can work together towards consensus whenever possible, and compromise when its required…
“If we do these things we will make a difference in the lives of Vermonters, we will live up to the promise of our history, and in the decades to come the record willshow, in our nation's hour of need, Vermonters, once again, led the way.”
To view the Governor’s complete State of the State address, click [here].