Advocates weigh-in on Scott's budget proposals

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Advocates weigh-in on Scott's budget proposals

Tue, 01/26/2021 - 5:16pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Several community and business organizations have weighed in on Governor Scott's budget address, in which he outlined his plan for spending $6.8 billion. The governor has proposed using $210 million in one-time money on one-time initiatives. Much of that funding is going toward state technology upgrades, housing investments and economic opportunity.

Governor Scott Proposes Funding Increase for Vermont Housing & Conservation Board

In his Fiscal Year 2022 budget address delivered today, Governor Scott proposed a $20 million increase in funding to the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB). The funding would support the well-documented need to create more housing across the state and to accelerate Vermont’s economic recovery while also addressing community needs highlighted by the pandemic.

Gus Seelig, Executive Director of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, said, “VHCB is poised to continue our partnership working with the Scott Administration and the Legislature to address housing and rural development across the state. There is much need and many opportunities to continue our response to the economic pressures brought on by COVID-19. These investments can make Vermont stronger and more resilient in the long-term.”

Housing and Health, a new report by the Center for Global Health Equity at Dartmouth College and Vermont Legal Aid, relied on interviews with more than 70 leaders from health systems, social service agencies, town and city governments, and communities across Vermont to conclude that “Addressing  housing as a priority of the immediate pandemic recovery will position Vermont to lay the foundation for other improvements in population health.”

The rising costs of housing driven by the lack of supply highlight the importance of taking decisive steps to build our rural economy by supporting innovative solutions coming from local, community-based groups. The Vermont Housing & Conservation Board has a strong track record over more than 30 years working with organizations across the state to address Vermont’s identified needs.        

NFIB: Small Business Reacts to Gov. Phil Scott’s Budget Address

$10 Million in Vermont budget adjustment will provide help sooner rather than later

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the state’s leading small business advocacy association, reacted today to Governor Phil Scott’s budget address. The following comments are from NFIB’s Vermont State Director Shawn Shouldice:

“As the Vermont General Assembly gets down to work, members of NFIB appreciate Governor Phil Scott’s acknowledgment of the struggles of small business in his budget adjustment address and his focus on putting Vermont on a road to economic recovery.

“The Governor absolutely hit the nail on the head when he said small businesses need help now. Dedicating $10 million in the budget adjustment act will go a long way to provide a lifeline to Vermont’s job creators sooner rather than later.”

Public Assets Institute Statement on Gov. Phil Scott’s Jan. 26, 2021 Budget Address

Over the past year Gov. Phil Scott has recognized that many Vermonters needed help to meet their basic needs during the pandemic. His administration deserves credit for applying the power of state government, with the help of billions of dollars in federal aid, to meet those needs.

The governor acknowledged in his Budget Address today that many Vermonters were struggling even before the pandemic. Our State of Working Vermont 2020 report notes that many Vermonters—especially Black and brown Vermonters, low-income Vermonters, and Vermonters with disabilities—had not recovered from the Great Recession when the pandemic-driven recession began last year.

Federal aid has helped thousands of Vermonters and Vermont businesses make ends meet over this last year. It also allowed the state to spend money on things that have historically received inadequate investment, such as affordable housing, higher education, and child care. But instead of cautioning that this is one-time money that shouldn’t set the standard for budgets to come, the governor and Legislature should chart a course to continue to meet not only Vermonters’ basic needs, such as food, but also those needs that it took a global pandemic to reveal and address.

The goal cannot be to return to business as usual, or to the systemic inequities that harm many Vermonters. We need to aim higher and live up to the statutory goals of the state budget—”to address the needs of the people of Vermont in a way that advances human dignity and equity.”

Vermont has the resources to do this, but it also takes the will of our leaders. We cannot get there by aiming only at the governor’s goal of minimal budget growth. In fact, that priority insures we won’t get there.

Statements from Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) and Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV) on Governor Scott’s 2021 Budget Address 

The Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) and Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV) applaud a number of Governor Scott’s proposals in his 2021 budget address, particularly a suite of proposals to significantly increase funding for programs that will benefit Vermont’s people, environment, and communities.

These proposed investments include a boost to weatherization funding for low- and moderate-income households, clean transportation options, clean energy, and investments in our public lands. They also support programs that will enhance the economic viability of the state’s downtowns and village centers and promote smart growth in these areas while maintaining our working lands.

Job-Creating, Cost-Cutting Investments in Climate and Clean Energy
“The Governor laid out a series of investments in climate and clean energy programs that will put Vermonters to work, and save people money on their monthly energy bills. These are positive steps forward, and we look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to develop long-term sustainable funding sources to advance these initiatives,” said Lauren Hierl, Executive Director of Vermont Conservation Voters.

  • Weatherization. Governor Scott proposed investing $25 million to weatherize Vermonters’ homes, saving households money on their monthly heating bills, putting people to work in good-paying jobs, and making homes healthier, all while cutting our climate pollution. This is an important down payment towards the needed $1.2 billion required to weatherize an additional 120,000 low- and moderate-income homes over the next decade, in service of reducing climate pollution and avoiding over $1 billion in fossil fuel costs Vermonters are estimated to pay over the next 25 years. 

  • Municipal Energy Innovation. The Governor proposed a $5 million increase in funding for the State Energy Management Program to help towns make efficiency upgrades that save money down the road.

  • Local, Job-Creating Renewable Energy Solutions for Low-Income Vermonters. The Governor also made an important commitment of $10 million towards an initiative to bring affordable, clean energy to those with low and moderate incomes. He noted these “initiatives will lower energy costs for Vermonters and municipalities and move us significantly towards our climate change goals.” 

  • Modern Transportation. The Governor proposed an additional $5 million to boost our Downtown Transportation Fund, as well as 7 new electric public transit busses, 228 Park & Ride spaces, and $5 million to accelerate our transition to electric and more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“We look forward to working with elected officials to ramp up our investments in modern, clean, and efficient infrastructure. These types of investments can help Vermont build back from the pandemic in ways that boost our economy by creating local jobs and helping Vermonters save money—all while doing our part to address the climate crisis,” added Hierl.

Investing in Vermont’s Downtowns, Working Lands, Parks, and Natural Areas

“In today’s budget address, Governor Scott made a strong commitment to supporting key economic revitalization, land conservation, and land use programs that further the state’s smart growth goals,” said VNRC’s Executive Director Brian Shupe. In particular, Shupe cited increased, one-time funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Working Lands Enterprise Fund, State parks, and for programs that support our downtowns and villages. 

  • Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. VHCB was created in the late 1980s, when upward pressure on housing costs and land put housing out of reach for many Vermonters, leading to the subdivision of farms, forests, and natural areas.  “This is the very situation we find ourselves in today, in part due to increased migration to Vermont as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. If ever there was a time to fully fund VHCB, this is the moment,” stated Shupe. 

  • Downtowns & Villages. The Governor proposed $1.75 million in additional funding for the successful downtown tax credit program. “We expect these investments to support housing in and near compact, walkable communities adjacent to historic village centers and downtowns. The benefits to housing in these areas include increased access to work, school, health services, and other opportunities, and climate mitigation through decreased vehicle dependence, Shupe explained. 

VNRC and VCV also applaud the Governor’s proposal to include $5 million in funding for the Better Places placemaking grant program; increased funding in the form of $1.75 million in additional tax credits for development; $5 million for transportation grants in Vermont’s downtowns and villages; and $20 million to clean-up contaminated “brownfield” sites.

“We are pleased to see the Governor’s strong commitment to investing in Vermont’s communities. These expenditures are especially important as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for other health, economic, and environmental challenges that lie ahead,” said Shupe.

  • Working Lands & Parks.  Finally, the proposal to increase funding for the Working Lands Enterprise Board by $3,000,000 and improve outdoor recreation in Vermont’s State Parks also met with the support of VNRC and VCV.  

“The Governor’s budget makes an important statement about the importance of investing in clean energy, the economic viability of our downtowns and working lands, and land conservation,” Shupe said.  “In many instances, this is achieved through investments in existing programs that have served Vermont well for many years.  We hope that this year’s commitment is an indication of long-term support, and that the Legislature will agree to that vision.”

Statement from Scott Giles, president and CEO, Vermont Student Assistance Corp. on  Governor Phil Scott’s budget calling for additional $500,000 for the Advancement Grant

“We thank Governor Scott for proposing an additional $500,000 in funding for the Advancement Grant program, a vital workforce development tool for Vermonters.

“The Advancement Grant provides adult Vermonters the opportunity to pursue training and credential programs that build job skills needed for a variety of industries and occupations.

“The pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of education and training that all Vermonters must have to fill critical roles in our communities – like health care, mental health, technology, and manufacturing. In fact, all of Vermont’s high-growth, high-wage jobs require education and training after high school. And, as our state recovers, these jobs will be in greater demand and, very importantly, these jobs provide a springboard to higher wages and greater social and economic opportunity.”

Vermont House GOP Leadership React to Governor Scott's Budget Address

The Vermont House Republican Caucus released the following statement regarding Governor Phil Scott's FY2022 budget address:

"Vermont House Republicans were pleased to hear Governor Scott's continued focus on recovering from COVID-19 and growing the economy," said House Minority Leader Pattie McCoy (R-Poultney). "The Governor's proposed budget wisely matches one-time revenues with one-time expenditures, and makes critical investments in our physical and technological infrastructure, as well as economic development.

"Further, Governor Scott's commitment to not raising taxes on Vermonters during an economic downturn is a position widely shared by House Republicans. We look forward to working with the Governor and his team this legislative session to achieve our shared goals of building a better and brighter future for Vermont."

Vermont Housing Finance Agency

Energy and housing leaders applauded Governor Phil Scott’s announcement today in his budget address to invest $25 million in weatherization, which will be leveraged to generate $68 million for projects across the state. Especially for low- and moderate-income Vermonters, weatherization makes housing more affordable by improving the energy efficiency of a home or building. The result is improved health of residents, greater comfort from cold and heat, reduced energy costs, and lower carbon emissions.

A significant portion of the investment – $16 million – will go to the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) for the purposes of supporting low- and moderate-income Vermonters, both homeowners and renters, with high energy burdens.

“We are grateful to Governor Scott for making this significant investment in home affordability through weatherization,” said Maura Collins, Executive Director of VHFA. “This proposal will make a meaningful impact for thousands of families for years to come. VHFA intends to maximize the use of these State dollars, and seek additional federal monies, to invest in communities across Vermont. By working with our weatherization partners on the frontlines, VHFA can deploy flexible funding to make home improvements quickly and effectively, support small contractors, and lift up our neighborhoods, especially in rural areas of Vermont.”

“We applaud Governor Scott’s proposal – it’s a game-changer for weatherization in Vermont,” said Neale Lunderville, President & CEO of VGS (Vermont Gas), and a champion of weatherization to reduce carbon, increase savings, and create greater equity for all Vermonters. “This proposal is innovative, actionable, and sets the framework for future funding opportunities. All Vermonters, regardless of their socio-economic status, deserve an affordable, comfortable and healthy home, and weatherization is a way to achieve greater energy equity in our state. Weatherization improvements have the added benefit of increasing home values that, over time, will help more Vermonters build wealth.”

The Governor’s proposal, in part, grew out of work initiated by the Energy Action Network (EAN) as part of its 2020 Annual Summit, which challenged collaborative teams to explore creative solutions to tough energy challenges, including weatherization at scale.

“I’m very proud of the groundbreaking work by our EAN members,” said Jared Duval, EAN Executive Director. “Today’s announcement will allow us to make meaningful progress toward Vermont’s emissions reduction commitments while investing in a more equitable energy future.”

Lunderville added: “Our weatherization ideas are the product of many hands over the past five months. I want to thank the weatherization team members for their hard work and dedication to this important initiative for low- and moderate-income Vermonters. There’s a lot of work ahead and we’ve got a strong team to keep our momentum strong.”

In addition to the EAN members quoted above, groups participating in the EAN weatherization team included Efficiency Vermont, Energy Futures Group, NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, Regulatory Assistance Project, Vermont Natural Resources Council, Vermont Public Power Supply Authority, environmental groups, health care organizations, legislators, and individuals with expertise in energy finance, environmental law, and other disciplines.

VHFA is a non-profit agency created in 1974 by the Vermont Legislature to finance and promote affordable housing opportunities for low- and moderate-income Vermonters. Since its inception, the Agency has helped approximately 29,000 Vermont households with affordable mortgages and financed the development of approximately 8,800 affordable rental apartments.

Governor Scott Proposes Investments in Clean Energy Economy, Making the Benefits of Renewable Energy Accessible to All Vermonters

In his annual budget address, Governor Phil Scott today proposed a range of clean energy investments to lower energy burdens and climate pollution while supporting Vermont’s economy. The Governor’s climate economy proposals include $10 million toward an initiative to bring local, renewable energy to those with low and moderate incomes, $5 million to accelerate Vermont’s transition to electric and more fuel-efficient vehicles, and $20 million for weatherization and energy efficiency.

In the following statement, Olivia Campbell Andersen, Renewable Energy Vermont’s Executive Director expressed support, citing the benefits these proposals offer to all Vermonters.

“Every Vermonter, particularly those with the highest energy burdens, must be able to equitably access local solar, electric vehicles, and efficient homes. The Governor’s proposed support for expanding energy efficiency and climate resilience with local renewable energy will save Vermonters money on their energy bills, make their homes more comfortable and reduce climate pollution.

"State energy investments should leverage both private capital and federal funds to lower energy burdens and help grow existing and new businesses to maximize the number of Vermonters served. More than 18,900 hardworking Vermonters are employed in renewable energy, clean transportation, and efficiency jobs, representing 6.1% of Vermont’s workforce. Targeted investments in these sectors will provide immediate economic benefits to communities rebuilding from the devastation of COVID-19.

"The Governor’s proposal will also help more Vermonters access electric vehicles, saving millions of dollars in transportation costs. For every $1 invested in EV incentives Vermonters save more than $3 on gas, car maintenance, and health bills.

"We look forward to working with the Governor and legislators to advance necessary climate budget and policy proposals that expand Vermonters’ ability to make choices about their energy.”

Vermont State Colleges System Applauds Governor’s Proposed Investment in System Transformation

Vermont State Colleges System Chancellor Sophie Zdatny today commented on Governor Phil Scott’s proposal to boost the Vermont State Colleges with a total proposed appropriation of $50 million, $20 million of which is one-time bridge funding to help cover the extraordinary fiscal challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the underlying structural deficit.

“Governor Scott’s proposed fiscal plan will help stabilize the Vermont State College System in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic impacts. For students, future students, faculty, our school host communities and workforce development demands, this is another sign of support from state leaders. We are amidst a serious structural reorganization to unify the college system, improve educational services, and reduce our overall costs and this bridge funding would be another stepping stone on the system modernization path.

The support the VSCS has received from the state in the last two years is incredible and we look forward to continued partnership with the Governor and Legislature as we work to transform our system and position the VSCS for long-term success.”

Joint Statement from Vermont Business Organizations on FY22 Budget Proposal

“Include Grant Funding That Supports Vermont Businesses on the Road to Recovery”

“We were disappointed to learn that despite overwhelming existing need, today’s budget proposal failed to include additional funding for business relief grants. Businesses across Vermont have repeatedly made clear that more financial relief in the form of grants is essential to bridging the gap to a post-pandemic economy, even in the next fiscal year. We urge the Scott Administration and members of the Legislature to work together to include grant funding that supports Vermont businesses on the road to recovery.”

This Statement Is Issued By:

Lake Champlain Chamber of Commerce

Contact: Austin Davis, austin@vermont.org

Vermont Association of Wedding Professionals

Contact: Talena Shannon, talenashannon@gmail.com

Vermont Chamber of Commerce

Contact: Charles Martin, cmartin@vtchamber.com

Vermont Independent Restaurants

Contact: Amy Spear, hello@vtir.org

Vermont Retail & Grocers Association

Contact: Erin Sigrist, erin@vtrga.org