Governor challenges legislator pooh-poohing Labor Force problem

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Governor challenges legislator pooh-poohing Labor Force problem

Fri, 02/02/2018 - 10:24am -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Governor Phil Scott issued the following statement late last night regarding, what he called, attempts by legislators to deny Vermont’s demographic crisis. The last two calendar years have shown a net gain in the Labor Force after a steep decline from 2009. Vermont suffered a delayed reaction to the Great Recession of 2008-2009. For 61 consecutive months, from December 2011 to January 2016, Vermont did not gain a single worker. In its worst year since the recession, 2012, Vermont's Labor Force lost 3,950 workers. The last two years have been a rollercoaster, but there has been a net gain in both: 2016, 950 workers; 2017, 650.

Seven Days quoted Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) on Thursday as saying that Scott's ongoing claim that the state is losing 6 workers a day is "just not true.” Using data supplied by the Legislature’s economist, Ashe said it showed the labor force actually grew by an average of 2.3 (actually 2.19) workers per day from January 2016 to December 2017. Ashe said that while the Labor Force issue isn't solved and should be taken seriously, the positive economic trend regarding the Labor Force is expected to continue.

The governor disputed that assessment. (For the seven years in question, 2011-2017, there was a total loss of 5.4 workers per day)

Governor Scott: “Fellow Vermonters:

"I was asked by a member of the media (Thursday) at my weekly press conference how I’ve arrived at a calculation I frequently use to highlight our past and present economic and demographic challenges – the phrase I use is ‘6-3-1.’

“For those not aware, this incredible demographic challenge has been pointed out by no fewer than four Governors. The ‘6’ illustrates that from April 2009 to the time I took office, we had, on average, six fewer workers in our workforce every single day. The ‘3’ illustrates that from the start of 1997 to the time I took office, we had, on average, three fewer students enrolled in our K-12 schools every single day. And the ‘1’ illustrates that we saw an average of nearly 1 baby born exposed to addiction every day, in our most recent reporting year (2015).

“Frankly, I was surprised by the question this afternoon, as it has been substantiated numerous times. I have subsequently learned from the press that this inquiry is a direct result of another attempt by legislative leadership — with assistance from their economist — to mislead Vermonters about these facts by intentionally using a smaller timeframe to skew the numbers. I find this deeply disappointing and concerning. 

“Cherry picking from a small window to deny the demographic crisis we’re seeing is like claiming that a few subzero days in January indicate climate change isn’t real (which we know is not accurate), because it’s a deliberately imprecise way to try to obscure a clear trend.

“We don't have time for their political games because we have an immediate need to address this crisis. Frankly, it’s this type of partisanship that has allowed this problem to fester and, as a result, we’re just 3-4 years from having only one worker for every child, retiree and dependent of the state, when you exclude the Burlington area. And we’re 7-8 from that bad dependency ratio when you include the Burlington area.

“And, I hear from businesses and non-profits across every corner of the state who don’t have the workers they need to grow, thrive or just keep their doors open. The only conclusion I can draw as to why legislative leaders would ignore these concerns and deny our extended labor force decline is to justify policies they know will not correct the course.

“The size of our workforce as a percent of population is the crux of every problem we face and addressing it will be the cornerstone of every solution. Expanding the workforce is how we generate revenue to invest in our social safety net, clean water, early education, broadband infrastructure and virtually every other priority of our state.

“This isn't Washington, DC. It’s Vermont and I believe Vermonters want their legislators — regardless of party — to get serious about working with me to grow the economy and make Vermont more affordable.” 

Source: Governor. VTDOL 2.2.2018