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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.

Tying public spending to any measure of economic growth is a double whammy for Vermonters in bad times: When the economy slows, it takes state spending down with it. So Vermonters not only have to deal with job and income losses during a recession, they also get hurt by a reduction in state services just when they need them most. Nevertheless, the governor has proposed restricting state General Fund spending growth to the average growth rate of wages over the prior six years. Given the countercyclical nature of public investment—spend more when the economy is slow, reduce spending and save when the economy picks up-  concerns that the state budget is growing too fast are overblown. Read more
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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