There’s their hat. Where’s their cattle?
The Vermont Futures Project (VFP), a spinoff of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, is conducting a statewide tour of what they call “community conversations, and … strategic stakeholder visits in all fourteen counties” to gather input for their 2024 Economic Plan for Vermont. (Side Note: I didn’t think I could loath the term “stakeholder” any more that I do. It’s a nauseating euphemism for “special interest” used by special interests. But “strategic stakeholder” takes the prize.) The prime objective of the VFP is to increase Vermont’s population from where it is now at 645,000 to 820,000 by 2035.
Are they serious?
I don’t say that to mock the objective, I am seriously asking if these people are serious about achieving such a goal. And, after looking through VFP’s recent presentations, videos, and press releases, sadly my conclusion is NO, they are not serious. They are not serious because they are unwilling to identify and call out the root problem causing Vermont’s decades-long economic and population stagnation, which is our radical leftist political establishment and the policies they are putting into practice.
VFP boasts that it is data driven. “How can we use data to support the evolution of Vermont’s economy toward a thriving future full of opportunity for all?” they ask. Well, as I have previously written (See: Vermont’s Legislature Is Blowing Big Bucks on Failed Experiments), there is plenty of data pointing to the fact that the states that are gaining the most population such as Florida, Texas, the Carolinas, and Tennessee are Red States implementing low tax, entrepreneurially friendly policies that give their citizens more freedom to make their own decisions.
The data also shows that the states losing the most population, such as California, New York, Illinois, and Massachusetts, are Blue States that are raising taxes, driving up the cost of day to day living with expensive, nanny state regulations, and micromanaging every aspect of their citizens’ lives from telling them what kind of bags they’re allowed to use in the grocery store, to banning the kinds of vehicles they like to drive. These are states that look an awful lot like Vermont.
So, if you are truly data driven, VFP, and are truly committed to increasing Vermont’s population with an eye toward building a healthy growing economy, how about pointing that out. Loudly.Beyond the data, use your common sense.
VFP rightly notes that the biggest obstacle to population growth is a severe lack of any, let alone affordable, housing. If you can’t find or afford a place to live in a state, odds are you’re not going to live in it. So, what political party’s policies are making it difficult and expensive to build housing in Vermont? Hmmm….
Moreover, productive workers in their prime earning years are simply not going to choose to pay some of the highest property taxes in the country (on the property they can’t afford in the first place) when other states deliver more municipal services for a fraction of the cost. If they’re choosing between a state with a high income tax plus a new payroll tax on their earnings versus one with low income tax rates an no payroll tax, which one do you think they’re going to pick? A state that bans the kind of vehicle you need to do your job, or one that doesn’t? A state that forces you to register and pay a fee to engage in your livelihood versus one that has no such requirement? One with abnormally high health insurance costs versus one with more affordable options? The list goes on and on.
So, instead of pussyfooting around the countryside saying stuff like, “I am looking at the Vermont Climate Action Plan, and seeing a bit of language that really stands out to me, which is Vermont needs to prioritize helping the people who will be most affected by climate change,” per Kevin Chu, VFP’s executive director (Seriously, BARF!), how about an aggressive campaign explaining that no young (or any age for that matter) worker is going to choose to migrate to state that has no affordable housing due primarily to that very climate change oriented governing philosophy and document you just cited.
I understand and to some degree sympathize with members of the Vermont business community’s timidity in this regard. The Democrat/Progressive ruling class is vindictive, and they do at present control the game. The folks behind VFP have some very nice businesses and it would be a shame if something were to, you know, happen to them. But at some point, if you want the bully to stop taking your lunch money, you’ve got to punch him in the nose.
VPF’s website says the next stops on its statewide info-gathering tour will be in Windsor County on September 13, and Caledonia County on September 21. Weirdly, they don’t say where or what time. But should that information ever come to light, I encourage BTL readers to show up and give them an earful. In the meantime, they are asking for input via this survey. Take a minute to look at it and fill it out. Something along the lines of “time to grow a pair.”
Rob Roper is a freelance writer who has been involved with Vermont politics and policy for over 20 years. This article reprinted with permission from Behind the Lines: Rob Roper on Vermont Politics, robertroper.substack.com