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"It is a rewarding and humbling honor to represent the fine folks of the Windham 4 District of Putney and Dummerston. Vermont is the best place I know to live, work, raise a family in and retire to- and I will keep working hard to keep Vermont that special place. A place that works for everyone , not just an elite few and leaves no one behind.
Under the banner of Progress with Justice, I'll keep working for Economic Justice, Environmental Justice and Racial/Social Justice.
And, we can't wait- especially with Climate Justice. This year we've seen extreme heat, extreme rain and flooding and extreme wildfire smoke .Do we really need more convincing that Climate Extremes are real, they're here and we have to act now.
In that way, we help bring about a better today and brighter tomorrow for Vermonters- all Vermonters. " -
As the 2024 Legisaltive Session opens up and we did into the work ahead,I note that there’s been lots of talk about affordability from Gov. Scott over the seven years he’s been in office.
In retrospect, though, not much action.
No doubt that Gov. Scott is sincerely and deeply concerned about the cost of living here in the Green Mountain State. We all are. But simply blaming the legislature for high taxes and regulatory red tape does precious little to help — or do anything about real affordability. Especially when it comes to some of the highest-ticket items in Vermonters’ budgets, like home heating, transportation, housing and childcare.
So what does “Real Affordability” look like?
Child care is a cost-gobbler, grabbing significant chunks of a family budget for working parents with young children, so they can stay in the workforce. This year, the Vermont Legislature passed a bill to make child care less expensive and more accessible, while paying educators fairer wages.
The governor vetoed the bill.
The Legislature overrode that veto, and those expanded financial supports are steadily coming online and getting to parents and providers.
How about heating costs? Are your heating costs more affordable?
What I’ve seen are significant increases in the past few years for one of Vermont’s basic necessities: staying warm.
That’s why, in 2023, Democrats put forward the Affordable Heat Act, which would significantly lower heating costs for many Vermonters by helping them make the switch to clean, affordable, renewable heat. (I’m a good example: After installing a heat pump, our home heating costs went down 30 percent.)
Again, the governor vetoed this bill. We were able to override, setting in motion a process to study and draft this proposed program. Early results show big potential savings, and a promising path to transition Vermont homeowners away from dirty, price-spiking fossil fuels.
Transportation costs also vary wildly. We can’t control prices at the pump, so we’re held hostage to Putin and the profiteering international oil market.
Electric cars are part of the answer. They’re cheaper to run and maintain, as well as better for the environment. ( An EV “fill-up” recently cost me $15, the same day my wife spent $55 to fill her vehicle with gas.) The legislature has led on offering incentives to help low- and moderate-income Vermonters buy EVs and more fuel-efficient cars, while expanding charging infrastructure all across the state.
Housing is another area of great need, where the administration suggests we don’t need more money, just regulatory relief. In recent legislation, we’ve updated our land-use policies to encourage housing development where we want it — in vibrant, walkable downtowns — while discouraging sprawl. But that answer only gets to half the problem. To build more housing, we also need more funding.
That’s why we call on the governor to support the full measure of funding from the Property Transfer Tax to the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. Yet, budget after budget, year after year, Gov. Scott has recommended less — sometimes far less — than the full amount from this important funding source for housing. This year, he also vetoed the state budget, which included critical and time-sensitive funding for housing.
Democrats would love to work with the administration on these and many other issues. We need a partner at the table, though, who brings more than the veto pen.
Going into the 2024 legislative session, we have much work to do to keep Vermont working for all Vermonters. Hardworking Vermonters are accountable to their families and to their home budgets, and the legislature and governor need to be accountable to hardworking Vermonters. Affordability becomes real when Vermonters can afford to pay child care, heating costs and other day-to-day expenses.
In the legislature, we work hard — every day — to make life better for all Vermonters across the state, and to ensure that no one gets left behind. Democrats are ready, willing and able and look forward to helping Vermonters see what “Real Affordability” looks like.
The headline: Vermont ends fiscal year above targets.
Yes, the end-of-year fiscal numbers for Vermont are in and the numbers look good, despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth from those disappointed our state and the U.S. aren’t in recession.
Revenues were $39 million higher than forecast. Here and across the U.S., Bidenomics is working. Unemployment remains low. Inflation is way down.
And, especially compared to other world economies, the U.S. is in good shape and getting better.
If there’s a dark cloud on the economic landscape, it’s oil prices. Oil companies keep sticking it to us, only reinforcing our intentions and actions to divorce ourselves from this abusive relationship that dirties our air, is warming our planet and dips deeper and deeper into our pockets. They need to be held accountable and, as a start, I like the suggestion circulating that, if weather forecasters want to expand their penchant for naming every major storm, we could name some of these destructive storms after oil companies.
What we are doing, though, with the Inflation Reduction Act is starting to send out funds for infrastructure investments. That’s good reason for a bit of optimism on both the climate and economic fronts.
In-state, the investments the Legislature crafted in the FY 2024 budget are also poised to be difference makers. Investments in housing, child care and workforce investments will start paying dividends.
And, yes, flood relief and recovery will need to be added to the mix. The most recent “100-year floods” and agricultural damage from the May freeze are stark reminders that these climate events are recurring on a regular basis.
Future investments, then, would do well to include climate resiliency and mitigation for such events. For any climate deniers still out there, I will remind: Climate change is real. It’s here, and it’s time to act.
It would be great if we could go into the next legislative session in accord that these investments are needed. That our best interests are not best served by continued fealty to the oil industry. I hope so, and ask those who think climate investments aren’t needed to remember that, if you feel a hand that’s not your own dipping into your pocket, it’s the oil corporations, not government.
For reminder, just look at the price at the pump each time you fill your car or as you start to fill heating tanks for next winter.
Now, any farmer knows you get out of the soil what you put in. Just as any investor knows, you have to spend some to make some.
Investing in a cleaner, brighter future at the federal and state level will have payoffs down the road and help keep Vermont’s economic numbers in the positive. Moving away from oil dependence can provide a cleaner future for our kids and grandkids, a more stable economy not subject to the whims of oil cartels, and continued positive fiscal news for Vermont and the U.S.