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While Washington and the rest of the nation sort out the meaning of a Donald Trump presidency, new leaders in Montpelier have an opportunity to address the needs of low- and moderate-income Vermonters for whom a secure middle-class life seems unaffordable and out of reach. A higher minimum wage, access to high-quality child care, an expanded public education system including at least two years of college, and a program to help workers save for retirement can address the affordability problem for Vermonters struggling to make ends meet.

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Vermont closed 2016 with the first year-over-year increase in the labor force in six years. The state’s labor force—people employed and those actively looking for work—grew after the official end of the Great Recession in 2009, then shrank for five straight years. Last month, however, the labor force rose to nearly 345,000, approximately 1,800 more workers than at the end of 2015.

On one level, Gov. Phil Scott’s first budget proposal provides a useful lesson. He showed it’s relatively easy to reduce or eliminate a state budget “gap,” at least on paper. You just move the problem into a different account. But it also could be a useful service if it shifts the budget conversation in Montpelier away from “the gap” and more toward to the purpose of raising and spending public money. We should be talking about how the budget can improve the lives of Vermonters and help them achieve their potential. Read more

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Per-Pupil Education Spending and Tax Rates, Fiscal 2016

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