By Rob Roper
Yesterday I wrote about progressive Seven Days reporter Taylor Dobbs’ decision to leave Vermont for “red” North Carolina for reasons of affordability. In doing so, I cited several things that North Carolina has done over the past decade — dramatic tax cuts and regulatory reform — that has made its economy such an attractive place for young professionals such as Dobbs, a journalist, and his wife, an educator.
Since the struggle to keep young people in Vermont is a front burner issue these days, and one for which our legislators are desperately seeking solutions (our state bond rating was recently lowered due to demographic/workforce concerns), it is also worth noting some of the things North Carolina has not done over the past decade.
For example, North Carolina does not have a $15 minimum wage. In fact, North Carolina’s minimum wage is the lowest allowable by federal law: $7.25 an hour.
Also, North Carolina does not have a public, universal preschool program. They do have a state-run pre-k program for qualified low income and at-risk kids, but it is not open to everybody.
And, North Carolina does not have a Paid Family Leave program. Though the North Carolina state House did consider a leave program in 2019, it was not taken up by the Senate.
These are all policies Vermont politicians have touted as initiatives Vermont has already adopted, wants to adopt, or says we should expand in order to attract and keep young professionals in our state. We have had universal pre-k since 2007 and are debating expanding the number of hours offered per week. We already have one of the highest state minimum wages in the nation and are debating an even higher one, and Paid Family Leave will be back on the agenda come January.
Well, none of these things kept Dobbs and his wife here in Vermont, nor did their complete absence in North Carolina deter the couple from choosing to move there. The policies were clearly non-factors in deciding where to live and work. So, maybe we in Vermont should consider the possibility that these very expensive propositions are not the answers we are seeking, and will not be effective if adopted.