Scott’s spending plan prioritizes Vt. workforce, housing, tax relief
MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - Gov. Phil Scott delivered a budget proposal Tuesday aimed at bolstering Vermont’s workforce and leveraging federal funds.
The governor says the Legislature has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. His budget aims to fund programs that train and retain workers, create housing and put more money back in your pocket.
In front of a virtual joint session of lawmakers, Scott pitched his $7.7 billion spending plan.
“Vermont’s economic future is in our hands,” said Scott, R-Vermont.
Fueled by nearly $400 million in federal cash, Scott calls the budget one of the most complex his team has ever built.
The plan looks to retain and rebuild the workforce, which is down 24,000 workers in the last two years.
“Every sector in every region is feeling the pressure,” Scott said.
It starts with $140 million in career technical centers, state colleges, scholarships and internships through the Department of Labor, aimed at recruiting and retaining nurses, carpenters, plumbers and other hands-on careers.
“If we don’t focus on the trades, we won’t have people to maintain our hospitals, transport goods, build homes, pave roads or do the work we need to support our communities,” the governor said.
There are also investments in the remote worker program, new workforce expansion specialists and a loan repayment program.
Scott’s plan also relies on tax policy-- $50 million in targeted tax cuts for middle-income families, young workers and retirees. That’s on top of a one-time property tax rebate.
“We can make changes that Vermonters will notice in their wallets,” the governor said.
Scott calls for another $70 million investment in housing, and investment in social services, substance use and suicide prevention.
“This work to keep communities healthy is directly connected to keeping them safe,” he said.
Another $216 million would address climate change and community resiliency funded by federal cash. And investments in water, sewer, stormwater, cell towers and broadband.
With the spending comes saving, too-- retiring bonds to draw down debt payments and funnel $19 million into our rainy day fund.
The governor calls his proposal transformative and says it will set Vermont on a trajectory for success.
“There is absolutely no doubt that the economic future of our state will be defined by what we do today,” Scott said.
Democratic lawmakers say they are in agreement with Scott on many of his initiatives, but they say they would have liked to have seen the governor address the ongoing pandemic, and the investments be made equitably across Vermont.
“Of course, we want to deliver to middle-income families and want to deliver for working families. And I think it’s important for when we have this money, we need to look at the people who have been left behind because of the way programs have been set up, and find a different way to invest that money,” said Sen. Becca Balint, D-Vt. Senate President Pro Tem.
“When we are having these policy conversations, not everyone is at the table. We are missing voices in helping us shape these policies to make sure they are equitable and that people have access to them,” said Rep. Jill Krowinski, D-Vt. House Speaker.
The governor’s budget proposal now gives legislators a baseline to work off of as they build a budget over the next few months.
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