By Brent Addleman | The Center Square
Vermont is on a new path, Gov. Phil Scott said Wednesday during the annual State of the State address.
Speaking to members of the state Senate and House of Representatives, Scott said that due to the infusion of federal funding over the past year, Vermont is in a unique position.
“There is no doubt the last 21 months have been difficult,” Scott said. “But if we are willing to make the most of the silver linings, there is much to be gained. Thanks to the work of our Congressional Delegation – especially Senator Leahy – we’ve received billions in federal aid. And with that aid, we came together to fund significant needs.”
Scott talked about how that federal funding parlayed into the highest vaccination rates in the country, and passed “historical investments in housing, broadband, climate change, water and sewer and economic recovery” with more than $600 million invested to transform the state.
“I am pleased to report that nearly half of this funding has already been approved for release, with public servants in just about every agency moving projects forward every day,” Scott said. “And that is on top of the more than $500 million we spent on infrastructure through our typical funding sources.”
Scott said the investments reverse “decades of economic inequity” across the state, and puts Vermont “on a new path, creating more opportunities for the future than most of us thought possible just a few short years ago.”
Calling the state “strong,” Scott said Vermont continues to strengthen each day “so that every new generation in ever county and every community is healthier, better educated, and more secure and prosperous than those who came before.”
The governor said the state must continue to navigate its way out of the pandemic, and residents have “to learn to manage life with this virus” and not “let it derail us from addressing our most fundamental challenges.”
Scott talked about how the pandemic has affected the workforce in the state, which has seen a 30,000 worker decline over the past 11 years.
“It’s clear that while the pandemic didn’t create this problem, it has made it much, much worse,” Scott said.
The governor discussed the workforce shortage as it is “intertwined with other big challenges.” Scott called for the Legislature to address affordability and education amid economic recovery, and a high cost of living that has “contributed to a decline workforce and stunted our growth.”
The workforce issue, the governor said, is tied to education and “fewer workers and fewer students mean our businesses struggle to fill the jobs they need to survive.”
Scott then proclaimed “this is the moment we’ve been waiting for and working towards.”
“We’ve been making headway on these issues for the last five years, putting ourselves in a position to reverse our workforce trends, revitalize every county in our state, and secure the future we’ve envisioned,” Scott said.
The governor said he wants to continue to work with the Legislature to create a Vermont with good jobs, good schools, and affordable housing.
“I am more optimistic than I have ever been that this future is within our grasp,” the governor said. “But we have got to work together, so we do not squander this once-in-a-life time opportunity to truly transform our state.
Scott said the future relies on answers to problems in workforce development for training and recruitment, and also childcare, tax policy, housing, healthcare, infrastructure and climate change.
“We must reverse our workforce trends,” Scott said. “And just so we are clear, for any legislation to have my support, it cannot make this problem worse.”