Governor signs bill to encourage development in downtowns

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Governor signs bill to encourage development in downtowns

Thu, 06/08/2017 - 4:44pm -- tim

Winooski has been one of the beneficiaries of Tax Increment Financing, which allows towns to retain some property taxes to help pay for infrastructure for new development. 

Vermont Business Magazine Joined by legislative leaders at the Downtown and Historic Preservation Conference, Governor Phil Scott signed S135 into law Thursday to expedite state permitting for housing and increase public investment in buildings and infrastructure in state-designated centers, among other pro-growth initiatives. Elements of the law include increasing downtown tax credits by $200,000 to $2.4 million annually, exempting housing projects in state-designated centers from a redundant Act 250 review; and enabling six new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts.

“Simplifying and reducing the cost to develop in areas the state has designated for growth is the best way to build vibrant communities, create jobs and increase the tax base,” Scott said in his prepared remarks. “This bill builds on our success revitalizing Vermont’s downtowns and villages by addressing both funding and permitting challenges that can limit redevelopment opportunities.”

Treasurer Beth Pearce issued the following Statement: “S135 authorizes the Treasurer’s Office to implement the Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan, a retirement program for Vermonters who lack access to employer-sponsored savings plans. This voluntary program will expand opportunity for more Vermont citizens to be better prepared for retirement, strengthening the economic vitality of our state. I look forward to working with businesses, and other stakeholders, to implement a program that works for all Vermonters. I applaud Speaker Mitzi Johnson, President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe, the Chairs of the House and Senate Economic Development Committees, and other legislators who worked hard to pass this initiative during the legislative session. I also want to thank Governor Scott and his Administration for supporting this proposal as it advanced into law. Every Vermonter should have the opportunity to achieve a lifetime of financial well being – this law moves the Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan one step closer to achieving that goal.”

The law sets up a multiple employer program (MEP) that will be available to small businesses, those that employ 50 or fewer employees, and individuals who cannot access to a retirement savings plan through their employer. The program, Green Mountain Secure Retirement, will give more Vermonters access to secure retirement savings.

“Vermont is home to hundreds of small businesses. Many of which strive to pay good wages and support their employees, but one area where many business owners struggle to compete is in benefits offerings,” said Jen Kimmich, Co-owner of the Alchemist and Chair of the Board of Main Street Alliance of Vermont. “Green Mountain Secure Retirement will help level the playing field for Vermont’s small employers and set our state economy on a path to economic wellbeing.”

In Vermont, 104,000 workers lack retirement savings. This can strain the state’s economy because more older Vermonters are relying on public assistance or working well beyond retirement age. Public Retirement programs are a simple, straightforward solution to addressing this problem. Studies have shown that employees are more likely to save when they have access to a retirement plan at work. By connecting Vermont’s small employers to a vetted retirement product, Green Mountain Secure Retirement, will spell greater economic security for more Vermonters.

“Green Mountain Secure Retirement takes the guesswork and administrative hassle out of selecting a retirement product for employees and small business owners themselves,” Kimmich said.

The new law does the following, making this the most effective economic development bill in recent years: 

  • Makes development in state-designated centers faster and more affordable by increasing the downtown tax credits by $200,000 to $2.4 million annually, exempting housing projects in state-designated centers from a redundant Act 250 review; and enabling six new Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts;
  • Expands the existing affordable housing tax credit to captive insurance companies, thereby incentivizing our captives to invest in growing Vermont's affordable housing stock;
  • Supports rural economic development with Rural Economic Development Infrastructure Districts;
  • Directs the state to study and implement the Green Mountain Secure Retirement Plan, a voluntary retirement program for businesses with 50 or fewer employees;
  • Creates a Career Pathways Coordinator position at the Agency of Education to develop stronger career pathways in our schools and technical centers;
  • Establishes a Heating Fuel and Service Workforce Training Pilot Project to work towards filling the workforce supply gap in this industry;
  • Repeals the sunset on the sales tax exemption for aircraft parts to support the emerging Vermont-Quebec aerospace corridor; and
  • Makes Vermont more affordable by reducing employers’ contributions to the worker’s compensation fund.  

Currently Vermont has 23 downtowns and 123 villages that participate in the state’s designation program. Once designated, communities receive training and technical assistance to support the local revitalization process as well as priority consideration for state grants to help plan and implement a range of public improvements. Developers in these designated areas receive Act 250 benefits, reduced permit fees and tax incentives to rehabilitate historic buildings and build new ones.

In the past year, the state-designated downtown communities have documented nearly $90 million in public and private investment, nearly 134 new and expanded businesses have opened and more than 290 new jobs have been created within the downtown districts.

The Agency of Commerce and Community Development, in partnership with the Preservation Trust of Vermont, hosts the biennial Downtown and Historic Preservation Conference, which provides a forum to share best practices on how communities of all sizes can support creative economies, attract tech entrepreneurs and develop small business. This year’s keynote address was by Joe Minicozzi who speaks nationally on the benefits of investing in downtowns. His research has proven that Vermont’s historic patterns of development are not only more rewarding for the community culturally, environmentally, and aesthetically, but also financially. 

“I want to thank the Senate Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs and Finance Committees, the House Commerce and Economic Development and Ways and Means Committees, and all legislators who supported this legislation,” said Governor Scott.

The law was signed on June 8, 2017. Portions of the bill are effective on date of enactment of FY 2018-2019 budget, which the governor has vetoed (SEE STORY). A veto session of the Legislature is scheduled for June 21. VBM

Source: Governor 6.8.2017