By Guy Page
A House bill now in the Senate Appropriations committee features a laundry list of lawmakers’ economic development ideas.
H159, Community and economic development and workforce revitalization, would:
- Create the Vermont Film and Media Industry Task Force to prepare by Jan. 15 a study of “opportunites to invigorate the industry, attract filmmakers and media entrepreneurs, and promote Vermont as an attractive destination for tourism and for business development.” According to the Vermont Historical Society, a Vermont Film Commission was created by the Legislature in 1995 as a not-for-profit public corporation. It was absorbed into the new Office of Creative Economy in 2011. During this time, Beetle Juice, with Michael Keaton and Geena Davis, What Lies Beneath with Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer, and Me, Myself and Irene with Jim Carrey all featured Vermont film locations.
- Set a minimum wage of $13.75 next January and $15 in January, 2024, with an annual cost-of-living-increase of five percent or the rate of consumer inflation.
- Appropriate $16.5 million of federal recovery funds for Covid-19 related paid sick leave for employees.
- Create a Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Task Force to re-examine a previous state study and deliver recommendations and/or new legislation by next January.
- Direct the Commissioner of Labor to upgrade by 2025 the state unemployment insurance IT system that failed so disastrously during the first round of Covid-19-related claims in 2020.
- Allocate $1 million for the remote worker program, and millions more for other workforce development schemes.
- Create a Sports Betting Study Committee to examine whether and how to regulate sports betting. The bill estimates revenue of up to $10 million by the end of the second year.
The Senate and Gov. Phil Scott both have their own notions about how to spend state money on economic development. Whether all, or indeed any, of the House recommendations above become law remain to be seen.