Roper: Refocusing on Vermont after the national election

By Rob Roper

A recent post-election news story contained this quote from a Middlebury voter that, from what I observed, captures the broad reality of where people’s heads have been: “I’ve been so focused on the federal government, I don’t know what’s going on in Vermont.” (VT Digger, 11/7/18) Well, here’s some of what’s been going on. And, yes, Vermonters better refocus their attention to local issues.

Rob Roper

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Two weeks before the November election, the credit rating agency Moody’s downgraded Vermont’s bond rating from Aaa to Aa1 due to our aging demographics and high pension fund liabilities. This will make it more difficult and more expensive for the state to borrow money as we now appear to investors less likely to be able to pay it back. This is another way of saying Vermont has no more tax capacity.

Between August and September, the state labor force declined by over 1000, as did the number of Vermonters employed. ( As UVM economist Art Woolf pointed out, “The latest snapshot from the Vermont Department of Labor showed a decline of 500 jobs in September. … What is concerning is it’s on top of a loss of 700 jobs in August and 1,900 in July.”

And, just last week, a report from the president’s Council of Economic Advisers listed Vermont dead last in the nation for job growth with a 0.9 percent drop in employment, the only state out of all 50 with a negative number. This was not long after Kuerig Dr. Pepper, adding an anecdote to the statistic, announced on Oct. 26 it was laying off 120 Vermont workers, about 10 percent of its local work force.

This is in sharp contrast to the nation as a whole, which mostly has been enjoying an economic boom. Over the last year, for example, while Vermont’s median income fell by 2.4 percent, the national median income increased by 2.5 percent.

We are clearly doing something wrong.

The rest of the nation is demonstrating that tax cuts and the removal of costly regulations lead to economic growth and prosperity. Wages are rising organically as demand for labor increases. Good paying manufacturing jobs, once proclaimed gone for good, are coming back.

Vermont, however, is proving that high taxes and onerous regulations lead to economic stagnation, outmigration, and increased poverty. Will our legislators recognize this fact and change course? Sadly, it doesn’t appear so.

The incoming Legislature is signaling that its priorities will be increasing the cost of doing business (employing workers) with a $15 minimum wage and a new payroll tax to pay for a government-run paid leave insurance program that, were it not mandatory, nobody would buy.

Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV), an environmental group that spent considerably on Vermont elections, is boasting that 20 (out of 30) of the state senators and 93 (out of 150) state representatives that they endorsed won their elections, and that VCV’s efforts gave Democrats and Progressives their new supermajorities. What does VCV want in return? Among other climate change-oriented policies, a carbon tax on Vermonters’ vehicle and home heating fuel. This is a household budget killer that will wreak havoc on the overall economy. (Of note, they are currently rioting in France because of a similar tax.)

Over the past two years, Gov. Phil Scott either vetoed or threatened to veto these policies because they make Vermont a less affordable place to live and work, and he and the House Republicans were largely successful in holding the line on no new taxes and fees. But now there are no longer enough Republicans in the House (just 43 out of 150) or Senate (six out of 30) to sustain such vetoes.

I expect the Democrats and Progressives will argue that the failure to pass the carbon tax, the $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, etc. is more responsible for the poor economic situation we are facing, and not that merely holding the line on taxes and fees was just too little a step in the right direction. Now that the elections are over, I guess we’ll find out who’s right. Are Vermonters paying attention?

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. He lives in Stowe.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Mike Kalasnik

8 thoughts on “Roper: Refocusing on Vermont after the national election

  1. Mr. Roper makes some excellent points. I am sure that organizations like VPIRG and the VNRC are now drooling as they wait for the next legislative session to begin. After the election of President Trump, and as he instituted policies that grew our economy, I watched as Vermont’s economy went nowhere. While I read that the economy in VT was doing well, where were the job postings? The policies being instituted by the left, while making themselves feel good, are doing nothing to grow the State economy and make the lives of the majority of Vermonters better. As an example, the State’s blind environmentalism is going to kill the economy. You are a fool if you believe that the “carbon tax” will be revenue neutral. It will be another state government mouth to feed with no benefit for the average Vermonter. It is so obvious where the State is being led by the Left. I cannot believe the liberal/progressives cannot see this, and that they believe their policies are good for the citizens of Vermont.

    Steve Allen
    Johnson City, TN

  2. How many small businesses will stand up to them. Or just fade away… a proud state that supported small business is gone! It breaks my heart to see what they have done to the hard working proud Vermonters who owned small businesses.

  3. Time to get the popcorn ready, this is going to be fun to watch from the sidelines. I just filled up my gas tank at $1.85/gal and won’t ever have to worry about a carbon tax in my home state. The relief of not having to target on my back affords a much better nights sleep


    • The thing about tiny VT is, it’s not far to a border. I’ll buy my own trucks to transport propane and gas – and dare them to stop me. I’ll have an illegal driving.

      • Yep you can sure do that. For my family of 5 it was just simpler to pack our bags and say goodbye. My wallet sure does like my new property tax bill. Nearly $6,000 in VT now $1200/year. That includes trash pickup at the end of my driveway. My school system is better and I get unlimited school choice. I can expect to easily get 10+ years out of a new car with minimal upkeep costs. It was like getting a tax free 30% raise when we moved.

        Or…. I could go fill up 600lb 100gal LP tank in NY or NH. That’s the largest LP tank you can legally transport full. Been there done that, it gets OLD fast and I had a tractor to lift the tanks up.

        Did I say moving was a heck of a lot easier?

  4. Bob,
    We are clearly doing something wrong?
    Gee, where do I start?

    Vermont is a poor state with a big government, as a percent of Gross State Product
    Other states also are poor, but they have smaller governments

    I should be understood, the government is the most inefficient sector of the economy
    So having a large government makes the whole economy less efficient.

    On top of that, the government operates with other people’s money.
    It has a monopoly, it has no competition, it has no incentive to save money. It does not need to show a profit.

    Handing the government $500 million per year as carbon taxes would make anything touched by the government even worse.

    Vermont needs to restructure and shrink its government relative to the GSP
    Vermont needs to cap annual expenditures, i.e., not a penny more from one year to the next, and no inflation adjust, for at least 10 years.

  5. Over the past two years, Gov. Phil Scott either vetoed or threatened to vetoed policies
    because they make Vermont a less affordable place to live and work ??

    2019 is right around the corner and we have a new gaggle of Liberals waiting to unleash
    there new power to stop any ” Veto Power ” the Governor had ………….

    Hold on to your wallets Vermont, the times they are a changing !!

    • Agree, with a super majority the Governor is nothing but a figure head. The liberal legislature will override what ever Scott vetoes. I believe that more gun control, carbon tax and higher taxes are on the agenda.

Comments are closed.