by Pat McDonald
Campaign for Vermont (CFV) is a government watchdog and public policy organization, offering innovative policy solutions to seemingly intractable issues facing our state. Over the past year, issues it has tackled include:
- Government conflicts of interest around pension funds.
We discovered that one in three legislators have potential conflicts of interest when it comes to pension reform. In some instances we recommended these legislators refrain from voting on pension issues. Read more.
- A plan for economic recovery.
We proposed a 3-phase approach for not just economic recovery, but economic prosperity. There is no doubt the pandemic has changed things and the economy of tomorrow will not look like the economy of
yesterday. However, our state does have a few strategic advantages as our global economy rebuilds. You can read more about this roadmap here.
- Fueling tourism.
Innovative ideas for a $2.3B industry in Vermont that hold true to our Vermont Values. There is an opportunity for us to finally open our doors to a suddenly mobile workforce. See more.
- Public Employee Compensation.
We discovered that – counter to popular narratives – state employees and teachers are in the top 25% of income earners in Vermont. This calls into question the need to continue public employee benefit offerings at their current level as a mechanism to compete with the private sector. Read more.
In addition to our research, we also strive to keep Vermonters educated about what their government is doing. To this end we host two TV shows in conjunction with ORCA media:
- Vote for Vermont – Watch the latest episodes
- Banter & Beans – Catch up on episodes
We never stop looking for opportunities to make Vermont a better and more welcoming place to live, work, and raise a family. Our goal is to expand Vermont’s middle class. With that in mind, here are a few things on our plate for 2022:
- Solving our Pension Crisis – The towering financial problem
Vermont’s public pension deficit was recently estimated at $4.5B. That equates to nearly $10K in liability for every adult living in the state. We need to solve this now. The legislature has ignored this issue for more than a decade, but they are finally coming around. We testified before the Pension Task Force in December and are hopeful that with sustained pressure they will take meaningful steps towards bringing our public pension systems back into alignment. We would like to work on a second phase of our project on public employee compensation. Specifically, some things we would like to look at are comparing benefits for top rated business to the teachers and state employees, analyzing occupation-specific compensation, and opportunity cost. Find out more.
- Tourism Innovation – 32,000 jobs on the line
We think there is an opportunity to better leverage our existing spending on tourism advertising and as a workforce recruitment tool. Spending on amusements and other experience-economy spending categories grew eight times faster than overall consumer spending between 2014 and 2016. This demonstrates an opportunity to capture a larger economic foothold with the Vermont experience economy. We need financial support to expand our work in this area as we network with experience economy business across the state and provide training and support. Find out more.
- Water Quality – Finally getting pollutants out of our waterways
A number of new technologies are being developed at top universities that can actually remove phosphorous and other pollutants from waterways. This could be a gamechanger for Vermont. Our existing efforts have been focused on simply reducing current runoff, not addressing the existing pollutants that will take decades to remedy without intervention. In addition, there is also an incredible opportunity for these technologies to be commercialized here – securing a foothold in an industry with over $500B in projected revenue by 2028. We need your help to bring this project forward to the legislature and other stakeholders, build consensus, and actually make progress. Find out more.
- Affordable Health Care – Pinpointing where our health care dollars are actually going
Starting in January, 2021 hospitals were required to disclose all standard charges for common procedures across all payer types (cash, private insurance, Medicaid/Medicare). The second iteration of this data is coming next month and we would like to analyze the two years of data to better inform consumers about which hospitals offer the lowest rates for the procedure they are looking for. This analysis would also potentially tell us which procedures hospitals make their margins on and which one’s insurance providers have negotiated down. Find out more.
- Workforce Development – Building a 21st century workforce training system
The work being done by the Vermont State Colleges board of Trustees is key to the future success of our state. There are a few key things that we want to make sure they account for:
- The future workforce needs of the state
- Multiple degree paths – online, night classes, workplace learning, etc.
- As much as possible, look at employer-sponsored programs. A great example of this a partnership nursing certification program between VTC and CVMC.
- Emphasize continuing education, micro-degrees, and certifications focused on up-skilling. This could be a partnership with business’ own training programs.
- Delivery needs to be coordinated with our technical education centers
- Broadband Expansion – Reaching the last mile TODAY not in five years
Rural Vermonters cannot wait any longer for broadband internet. Stories of students driving 30 minutes to use the WiFi signal are heartbreaking and totally avoidable with today’s technology. It’s time for universal broadband NOW. We are concerned that the state’s current effort is rolling out too slowly and with a cost so high that we will run out of funds before we reach the last mile. We want to conduct audits every six months of the state’s progress and cost profile. In addition, we would advocate for solutions that are both lower cost and faster to deploy.
Regarding broadband. Has Vermont investigated satellite network technology for expanding broadband? Currently, this technology is at the brink of major expansion worldwide, hugely increasing access at much lower cost-per-link (see Elon Musk’s work as example). Let’s look at this before investing jillions of dollars in cables, etc.