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Saturday, January 29, 2022

VT Gov. Scott’s State of the State address focuses on workforce investment

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Vermont Governor Phil Scott delivered his state of the state address Wednesday afternoon. His speech was brought to a joint session of the legislature virtually due to temporary COVID rules limiting personal access to the state capitol.

Most Republican rhetoric focused on promoting workforce development efforts. Scott first acknowledged the hypothetical nature of the start of the session and the difficulty of the last two years of the pandemic. But there is a silver lining, he said: The state has also received billions of dollars in federal aid.

“More than $600 million to transform communities, large and small, across the state. Nearly half of that funding has been approved for release. That’s on top of the more than $500 million we’ve spent on infrastructure through our model funding sources.” A new path, creating more opportunities for the future than most of us thought possible just a few years ago. It is for these reasons that I can inform you today that the state of the country is strong and that we are getting stronger every day.”

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Governor Scott said the ongoing pandemic should not derail efforts to address the state’s primary challenge.

“Statewide, we’ve seen our workforce decline by nearly 30,000 since 2010. The hardest part about tackling our workforce shortage is that it’s so intertwined with other significant challenges, from affordability and education to our economy and recovery. Every problem makes solving Other issues are more difficult, creating a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.” Scott added. “I specifically think that our high cost of living has contributed to a lower workforce and hampered our growth.”

Scott outlined a number of policies and initiatives to reverse the state’s declining workforce trends. He wants more emphasis on trades, internships, and apprenticeships. He told the legislature that workforce initiatives should provide opportunities for families, including affordable housing.

“We must realize that housing policy is workforce policy. If you’re going to work with me on adjusting the budget for an additional $80 million, we can show that we’re fully committed to the cause.” The governor continued. “And in the budget that I’ll present in two weeks, you can expect to see another $100 million. Because it’s time to get serious about putting the benefits of a good home and a good investment within the reach of every Vermonter.

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Scott said mental health issues must be addressed, tax credits must continue to be expanded to downtown, and he called for reform of Act 250, the state’s environmental land use law.

Near the end of his speech, Scott warned lawmakers to focus on working at State House and not be distracted by the upcoming 2022 elections. So far, the Democratic Senate leader and deputy governor is vying for the US House of Representatives, and other candidates have started campaigning statewide from their headquarters in Montpellier.

“One thing that could pull this amazing opportunity out of our reach is election year politics,” Scott said. “So let’s remember that the work done here and across state government isn’t about us. It’s about the people of Vermont. We’re here for them.”

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