By Bill Moore
The primary election cycle has concluded. The dust from it is still settling. Now it is on to the main event, the November general election. Are you ready yet? Have you decided whom you are going to be supporting? Are you still making up your mind?
As a business advocacy organization, the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce has a direct interest in the goings-on “under the dome.” The Chamber Public Policy Committee, chaired by Jon Skates from Casella Waste Management, meets at least monthly during the legislative sessions and continues to meet when the sessions are over.
The Chamber has a very deliberative process for adopting policy positions. After a very thorough vetting by the Public Policy Committee, recommendations are then made to our board of directors for adoption. The board conducts its own review of the recommendations and then either adopts, rejects or returns items to the committee for any needed changes.
Once adopted, the Chamber makes those policy positions known to our Washington/Orange County legislators and the relevant legislative committees. We communicate directly via traditional mail, email and in person.
As a registered lobbyist, I spend time at the Statehouse meeting with elected officials and presenting testimony related to the Chamber’s policy positions. The Chamber gets involved in the legislative arena because we are an advocacy organization. We represent and advocate for the business community. We identify those issues that we believe will have an impact on the business community, whether that impact is positive or negative.
We are working to create an economic climate that supports enterprise and competition. We believe in a free market economy that will benefit all who live, work and visit Vermont and Central Vermont in particular.
A thriving market economy results in job creation, higher wages, better benefits and better opportunities for employees. A thriving market economy results in more profits for the small businesses that are the backbone of our community. A thriving market economy results in a better return for those large companies that are anchors in our community. A thriving market economy results in lower taxes resulting in more disposable income. Incidentally, “profit” is not a four-letter word. It is the essence of a free market economy.
As a result, we are keenly interested in what happens in November. While we do not have a political action committee, we are very interested in the upcoming elections. Our members are interested in supporting candidates who will help to create pro-business, pro-growth, pro-jobs economy.
Which candidates will support efforts to contain the cost of government that will have a minimal effect on the delivery of services and avoid tax increases? Vermont must replace 11,000 jobs per year simply to maintain the current workforce. Which candidates will provide the leadership necessary to help expand workforce opportunities for Vermonters and encourage economic growth? Are there any candidates that support changes to Act 250 that will allow for reasonable development while still protecting Vermont’s environment?
Who is most likely to identify specific education finance reforms that will provide Vermont students with opportunities for educational excellence without over-burdening taxpayers?
Vermont is under U.S. EPA requirements to clean up Lake Champlain, specifically by reducing phosphorus runoff that causes toxic algae blooms. The estimated cost for Vermont’s share of the clean-up is $25 million per year for the next 20 years. Who has the best solution for financing that clean-up without overburdening the state budget?
These are the types of questions that go to the heart of our ability to push the economy forward. Which candidates will provide the leadership necessary to spur economic growth, encourage new investment by businesses and lead the effort to create good paying jobs for our future?
The Chamber will be watching and listening closely. Will you?
Bill Moore is president and CEO of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.