May 21, 2010
When lawmakers arrived in Montpelier in January, there was little doubt that it would be the most challenging legislative session in recent memory. As I said in my State of the State Address, “The trajectory of the Vermont economy for the next decade will be shaped by our decisions this year.” It was not enough to merely provide quick fixes to the many challenges confronting Vermont. Our job was to position Vermont for economic success in the coming years.
Vermonters can be proud of all that was done to spur our recovery and strengthen our economy. While other states are increasing taxes to balance budgets, we moved in a different direction to encourage job growth by crafting a more welcoming tax structure, while investing in economic development and infrastructure.
By reinstating the 40 percent exemption for business investment and rolling back the changes to the estate tax, Vermont is sending a powerful signal that we will compete for jobs in the post-recession economy. And when some legislators wanted to increase taxes on manufacturers, farmers and others, I stood with Lt. Governor Dubie, employers, union leaders and working Vermonters to push back and stop that ill-guided proposal.
Because of the jobs bill that I proposed in December and signed in April, we are helping spur recovery by investing nearly $9 million of federal stimulus money in job creation initiatives – to help train workers, expand telecommunications, provide capital to local employers, promote tourism and support farmers.
We once again made a strong commitment to a safe and strong physical infrastructure with a transportation budget that makes record investments in paving and improvements to our roads, bridges and culverts – and putting Vermonters to work.
To bring greater certainty to employers, out-of-work Vermonters and the state budget, I worked with lawmakers on a plan to make our unemployment insurance trust fund solvent. Although the compromise required sacrifices from all sides, doing nothing was our worst option.
Through Challenges for Change, my Administration will be working hard throughout the summer and fall to realize savings through efficiency in state government – ensuring that every taxpayer dollar is spent to achieve results for Vermonters.
Although there is much to be proud of, now is not the time to turn from the daunting challenges that remain for Vermont. There is a long way to go to ensure that every Vermonter has access to a good job. And looming shortfalls in our state budget will continue to require prudent fiscal management and tough choices.
The most direct threat to the fiscal and economic health of our state is the ever growing burden of property taxes. That is why I have repeatedly proposed ideas to control property taxes during the past five years. Even as many school districts level funded budgets this year, property taxes grew. In fact, property taxes have increased by nearly half a billion dollars in the past decade.
With the lowest student to teacher ratio in the nation, it is no wonder that Vermont has the second highest property tax burden in America. That is why I am deeply troubled that legislative leaders once again ignored my proposals to reform education spending and rein in property taxes. In fact, legislators could not even achieve the goal they set for themselves through Challenges for Change to achieve modest administrative savings in education. This lack of action has the potential to increase property taxes by $100 million more in fiscal 2012.
As Vermonters continue to address their own economic challenges, they will continue to need leaders in Montpelier willing to make the hard choices to control state spending, reform property taxes and grow our economy. Although we made progress, much work is still to be done to position our state and its people for a prosperous future.
Source: Office of the Governor
Last Updated at: May 21, 2010 10:07:18