Roper: Two prominent young people leave Vermont

By Rob Roper

This past spring the Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce surveyed 500 young professionals, primarily Burlington area residents between the ages of 22 and 34, and learned that over 40% intend to leave Vermont. Now we can put some faces on those statistics. Taylor Dobbs, 29, a prominent reporter who worked for VPR and most recently Seven Days, has decamped with his wife, an educator, for North Carolina. Ben Jickling, 25, a two-term independent Representative from Brookfield, is leaving to take a job with a medical software company in Wisconsin. Both were lifelong Vermonters.

Rob Roper

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

North Carolina and Wisconsin have something in common beyond new, young residents from the Green Mountain State. Over the past decade, both dramatically rejected their historical progressive economic policy paths and fully embraced lower taxes and limited, smaller government.

In 2010, Republicans took control of North Carolina’s legislature for the first time in 140 years. Two years later, they established supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature and elected a Republican governor, Pat McCrory. These Republicans then enacted a dramatic package of tax and regulatory reform in 2013, including (but not limited to) lowering and flattening the income tax from 7.75% to 5.75%, fully exempting Social Security from the state income tax, fully repealing the estate tax, capping the gasoline tax, and reducing the corporate income tax from 6.9% to 3% over three years.

In 2010, Wisconsin Republicans also took both chambers of their legislature from the Democrats and elected Gov. Scott Walker. They, too, set out on a bold course of economic reforms, most notably making Wisconsin a “right to work” state (North Carolina has been a Right to Work state since 1947), but also instituting roughly $8.5 billion in tax cuts, including $3.56 billion in property tax cuts, as well as shrinking and restructuring state government.

The results speak for themselves. A recent study of North Carolina measuring six areas of economic growth (growth in real GDP, employment, real GDP per capita, real personal income per capita, employment per capita, and worker productivity) showed that between 2014-17, the period after the NCGOP tax cuts and economic reforms kicked in, North Carolina’s economy outperformed the nation and the Southeast in all six categories.

In Wisconsin, after Walker left office due to an election loss in 2018, the state was taking in record revenues, running a budget surplus of over $660 million, unemployment was at record lows, and more people were working in Wisconsin than ever before.

It is important to note: This is what the states Vermont’s young people are leaving us for have to offer.

It’s also important to note what these states do not have. Neither Wisconsin nor North Carolina has a universal, publicly funded preschool program. Neither has a paid family leave law (though both state’s legislatures have recently debated the policy). Both states have a minimum wage of not $15 an hour, but the federally allowed minimum of $7.25. Neither state is bribing young people to move there with $10,000 checks.

Yes, it’s ironic that Ben Jickling voted to stick Vermont with a $15 minimum wage just before bolting for a better, more lucrative career opportunity in a state with a minimum wage of less than half that. And who would have guessed after reading Talyor Dobbs’ work for the past six or seven years that he’d blow off our progressive utopia for a state with over 140 official Confederate monuments. But, even for these most politically conscious citizens, career and affordable housing are apparently what’s really important.

Anyone’s decision to leave one state for another must be deeply personal, and the reasons for doing so multiple and varied, so I won’t presume motives beyond what Jickling and Dobbs revealed publicly. But here’s what we do know about these two examples: Vermont’s high minimum wage, universal pre-K program, green energy policies, etc. did not keep these young people here, and the complete and utter lack of these policies in their newly adopted states was not a deterrent to their moving in. So, if these are the ideas our lawmakers are working on to keep young people here and attract more, perhaps they should seriously rethink that strategy.

Few people in Vermont were in a better position to know what our politicians are doing and not doing to stop our demographic slide than these two young men. They took that knowledge, gauged their future, and left for states that are doing things very differently. It turns out a good job in Jickling’s case and affordable housing/cost of living in Dobbs’ case are more attractive than any bouquet of government programs and handouts.

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

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Dwight Burdette

32 thoughts on “Roper: Two prominent young people leave Vermont

  1. Coming late to this conversation I want to share the following. First, Taylor Dobbs, what part of NC did you move to? I’m going to guess Asheville for its known draw of Liberals. We visited Asheville (my wife and I live in Johnson City) and it felt just like Burlington complete with street people trying to pass themselves off as buskers, and I was almost run over by a woman with a Hillary for President bumper sticker on her car. There are a large number of U.S. citizens relocating to the South, including TN. The locals are afraid that these new comers will want to alter the character of the area. Sound familiar? I tell them we moved here for the conservative lifestyle and like it just the way it is. People’s daily exchanges with each other include yes ma’am, thank you sir, and have a blessed day. There are churches on almost every corner and an abundance of Trump for President signs.

    There I much poverty around here, but the government intrusion is minimal. There are lots of People of Color and it’s so refreshing to be exposed to people other than white Liberals in VT. From what I’ve witnessed, and what people have told me, racism ended down here decades ago. The only place it exists is in the minds of Liberals. Unfortunately you see the weak attempted intrusions of Liberalism, but I don’t think it will spread into this area in my lifetime.

    VTDigger stopped publishing my comments months ago as they apparently don’t like to read the truth. I still read it once in a while to see how foolish Liberalism in Vermont has become. We are so glad we moved here where outdoor recreation abounds and the cost of living is low.

  2. My children are in their 30s and live in Florida. I tried to GIVE them my 2000 sf home, on 10 acres, with a barn. Their reply was “thanks, Dad, but I can’t afford to live in Vermont”

  3. I tried to open a small business in Vermont, it crushed me! Before I ever sold anything the city of Burlington was there taking money out of my coffers!
    It was ridiculous, my little shop failed having paid nearly $1,200 in taxes on $500 in sales (my timing on opening couldn’t have been worse, but it was compounded by a display tax that didn’t care if I sold anything.
    F&#! Vermont… greedy, useless government.

    I just started a business in Nevada… it’s already succeeding…

  4. These guys did what some CEOs do, take a company with a good name, milk it for all it is worth, bankrupt it, make billions doing it, then move on to make their next billion. And I have no doubt these two hate big CEOs for that reason.

  5. After spending 13+ years in N.C. and recently moving to Ma. I can understand some of the desire to relocate. I can say that ” you can shovel snow but you can’t shovel water!”
    Be careful where in the state you move to. Clean water is not a Carolina priority. Gen X and the hog lagoons are just a few of the state’s priorities over it’s residents.
    Be careful with the school district you choose. County priorities for schools appear stronger in the condensed areas. Rural schools are not getting a fair % of the state budget.
    Plenty of entry level positions available, but try working and living on this pay scale.
    Don’t be surprised by the number of Carolinians getting state and federal assistance, most of the agriculture families depend on some.
    Everyone is capable of doing some research, I suggest you do your homework first. I am totally comfortable with mine and wish you well.

  6. John this summed it up for my family:

    ““It’s a great place to visit but I don’t want to live there””

    We flew into logan (BTV is too expensive to fly into, plus no direct flight and with children direct flights are a godsend) Visited my folks and family in all of New England. My wife’s folks still live in Northern VT and we had a great time visiting but don’t miss living in Vermont one bit. I got to see one of the few college buddies I have still in VT, which was great. The cost of living and opportunities are just all around much better elsewhere. We will visit again next year as well, and will probably include Vermont in our family rounds, but will once again return to our productive life in the South East. Our dollar goes about 30% further down here.

    Both North and South Carolina are fantastic places to live. Neither are nanny states either.

  7. Is anyone really surprised that 2 talented people left to improve their financial situation? While Vermont is a beautiful bucolic state, one cannot eat beauty. Unfortunately, there will be no end to the stupidity in Montpelier as long as flat landers run the show.

  8. You’ve now written about me three times without inquiring about literally anything. There’s a word for that: Hack

    • Glad you’re really staying in Vermont.It seems that the only young people staying are the poor and uneducated.

      See ya at Starbucks?

    • Once you get to North Carolina try not to poison it with your liberalism! Liberalism like cancer can kill the host!!

    • Taylor, please don’t become a ‘hack’ in order to criticize a ‘hack’. Please, tell us, where is the various commentary incorrect. What are we missing?

    • Taylor, why the name calling? I thought liberals were all about tolerance?! I forgot, liberals are only tolerant when you agree with them. What exactly is printed about you and not true? I believe it’s called journalism when research is conducted and the results are published. Seems like you may have been able to get a job at Vt “digger” they too are just a mouthpiece for the left. Isn’t it ironic, the far left policies you spew are the exact reason you were forced to move to a place with more opportunity, and you still don’t get it.

  9. There is no wisdom in youth or bleeding hearts. It’s impossible. VT and all its natural, beautiful attributes will outlive us all, even the perennial progressives. That’s my only solace.They run the whole show and I see nothing going on to challenge that. That said, where do they get the funds to operate? Is there a single mind left out there to answer that? Even with our huge legacy debt, and even with the additional annual tax increases, they seem to somehow find more money. How much federal $$ does VT receive; who signs for it; how and where is it distributed? Does anyone know?

  10. I don’t know how many people True North reaches but it has to expand anyway. I took the time to write 4 comments to Vermont Digger in the last 2 days. All 4 were rejected because they didn’t want their choir of readers seeing the information that I provided in 3 of those. The media has the population dumbed down through censorship by omission. The media portrays conservatives and/or republicans like dirty people. These progressive elites have ruined this state and the media is complacent. AM radio talk shows are nowhere to be found and I travel the state choosing VPR because that can be heard all over Vermont. WSNO, WDEV and WSKI have all sold out. Burlington still has one conservative station. We are not going to take this stae away from these progressive anti-Americans until the media reaches the masses. VtDigger is a political arm of the left. They let a few conservative commentaries through so they can show how fair they are but they are not fair. They view any ideas not consistent with the left as something to hide. The media is the enemy of the people. Only the free exercise of ideas to educate the masses will turn the tide in the conservatives favor. Until then, what?

    • I’d like to confirm VT Digger’s media bias. It’s staff routinely censor remarks not in line with its covert progressive agenda while it publishes some of the most outlandish ‘hate speech’ I’ve ever witnessed in a not-for-profit news journal.

      • Oh I’ll back you up on that, and it’s interesting what they won’t allow printed, it really exposes their agenda more than what is printed. I can’t tellyou how many times comments have been deleted for the topic of taxing pornography, how many comments are deleted for exposing organizations for being astro turf, for talking about the simple statistical difference in crime between tv and Chicago. For discussing how a young girl can get an abortion without parental consent, but can’t see a movie about abortion because it’s rated r, and they don’t even shoe the actual abortion. And no press organization with any nads has yet to expose them for the propaganda machine they truly are, despite my many examples sent in. People think tv digger is unbiased, that how bad our state is.

        • Keep in mind too, VT Digger partners with Vermont Public Radio, the state’s most ubiquitous media outlet of all. And both are 501(c)(3) non profit corporations receiving significant funding from out-of-state special interest groups. Check out their IRS 990 forms. It’s little wonder many Vermonters think the way they do when nearly 40% of the work-force is employeed in its government, health and education sectors.

        • VT Digger is and always has been faaar left – silencing such voices as Annette Smith, Neil Johnson and James Marc Leas bc they are not part of their donor elite or leftists fringe – one of her mob-members labeled a comment by Benedict Scott ‘Mostly False” whilst ignoring their lefty opinionated colleagues and friends who are generally 100% false. Plus a lengthy list of dissenting commenters who AG has always chafed under -as evidenced by photo of a woman – head sprawled upon a desk – with caption referencing being ‘tired’ of monitoring comment section. Evidence of censorship of prior comment sections are now safely buried by multiple switchings of comment purveyors – unheard of @ other VT online publications and comment sections.

          Following a conversation on the site re censorship or some-such murmerings – VTdigger a reporter arrived to slam the not-so-rich-and-famous also dissenting commenters by notifying that ‘funds from comment section are accepted’…revealing that by knowledge of their names said commenters weren’t giving enough if at all which is their true goal – “Funding” – in that order and primary reason for using full names which other online publications – even comment sections of print papers do not require.

          Holding galas with bedmates and mutually influential political class at well-appointed Monpelier establishments – but also extend invites to “We The ‘little’ People” as cover. Embarked upon a membership drive clearly targeting the rich-and-famous wealthy liberal donor class in VT which VTdigger exclusively panders to as evidenced by the high-end wardrobes and air-brushed photos of ‘members’ thereby proving Ms. Galloway nothing more than an elitist leftwing snob maquerading as a journalist masterfully creating a profitable ‘news service’ edging out the competition using public funding – equally as leftist – but who are dependent upon advertising dollar and print or digital sales for survival.

          ‘News service’ now duitfully serves as little more than stenographers for the Democrat Party in VT. – even called John McLaughery an “ass”. Aand VTDdigger *also receives ad dollars in addition to taxpayer funding now employing the roadkill of the newly conglomerate-owned other papers – nice work if you can get it.

          James Marc Leas falsely accused and banned by Anne Galloway and Tom Brown – sidekick by erroneously claiming to be a VTdigger free-lancer:
          F-35 opponent told Pentagon official he was a VTDigger freelancer
          By Tom Brown
          Oct 28 2013 | 123 reader footnotes
          Open Letter to VTDigger Co-Publisher, Anne Galloway: Banned by VTDigger
          September 17, 2014 James Marc Leas

          Are We Ready To Discuss the Bias at VTdigger Yet? (
          submitted 8 months ago by rockart_ridgerunner

          VTdigger and all publically funded news sites should be banned from receiving public funds esp when donations and advertising are also received. There are rules and one of them is against the promotion of a political pov or influencing elections etc.They surely should be able to stand on own two feet by now – if not good riddance!.

          • Corrections and fixed links:
            James Marc Leas [was] falsely accused and banned by Anne Galloway and Tom Brown – sidekick – seemingly duped into writing the s-called “story” as shade for Ms. Galloways’ cave to F35 sponsors as AG was perfectly capable of writing story herself. JML was slandered by Ms. Galloway and patsyed stooge Mr Brown erroneously stating JMC had claimed to be to be a VTdigger free-lancer which remains unproven. In fact a complete falsehood as AG failed to substantiate – slanderous libel alone should have lost VTdigger 501c3 status and it’s *never too late*:
            F-35 opponent told Pentagon official he was a VTDigger freelancer
            By Tom Brown
            Oct 28 2013 | 123 reader footnotes
            Open Letter to VTDigger Co-Publisher, Anne Galloway: Banned by VTDigger
            September 17, 2014 James Marc Leas
            Are We Ready To Discuss the Bias at VTdigger Yet? (
            submitted 8 months ago by rockart_ridgerunner

          • They are clearly a lobbyist group, nothing more. I have sent them money in years past and they still delete and censor comments. There cartoons, questions from the last election, and constant censorship of any idea that’s not bat sh*t Marxist should pretty much show, while they are in “search of the truth” that they’ve never found and are looking in the wrong places….

            but they seem to find the DNC, NOW Prssc money pretty fast. I’m not sure the DNC could have found a better foot soldier than Vermont Digger. People desperately need to read THE SMEAR, by Sheryl Atkison….it ties it all together.

    • I feel,for you having to listen to VPR all the time, very high level propaganda, they totally censored call ins for Keith Stern in the last election.

      • Don’t worry, it only takes 5 mins. before I pop in a CD. I don’t know how anyone can listen to NPR/VPR. They are the blue pill in the matrix, fed to numb the minds of it’s listeners to keep them in their fake world (The Matrix). The red pill was the one of truth which was hard to see. The red pill was the escape from the Matrix. Another analogy is the Borg in Star Trek. They were arch enemies of the Star Flight Command. The Bork traveled space in a cube shaped ship. It’s crew wore a monocular on one eye and received orders from command (similar to liberal talking points). Each crew member was a number (no name) and could never form an individual thought. They were useless without orders from above and they were the enemies of freedom. They would try to destroy anyone or thing in their way to retain power. Seen in this light, both define the progressive/liberal mindset which is control for power, do not allow individual thought, speak talking points only and censor your enemies by omission. These are the arch enemies of free people.

    • I have given up on commenting and even reading Vtdigger for the same reason. The “Commons” is just as bad… So hear I am! keep up the good work!

      • In all honesty I believe digger wants all conservatives to give up commenting. We should all bombard them daily and keep every rejected comment. Then we can present it to the authorities running the 501(c) (3) or bring a class action suit. They operate in the media as a news organization and should be held to be fair and balanced. They are nothing more than an extension of the progressive political movement. A non-profit farce!

        • Vt digger is just a far left political puppet. They dig into their left wing donors pockets and ban folks with a dissenting view. I was banned from digger after I criticized the hypocrisy of one of their big donors. The big donor wanted a carbon tax but manufactures a product made from carbon, owns several big SUVs, homes and goes heli-skiing/boarding, I don’t mind any of these activities but I pointed out the hypocrisy, digger didn’t like a big donor being criticized. Digger should lose their non profit status. Let’s do something about this.

  11. Hey Rob, can you forward this to the ” Genius Mindset ” in Montpelier maybe, just maybe
    they’ll get the hint on why ……………………. Nah, it not on the agenda !!

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