Public Assets Institute > Policy Areas > Family Economic Security > The middle class needs the governor’s attention

The middle class needs the governor’s attention

Gov. Peter Shumlin mentioned the middle class in his State of the State speech last week—once. That’s exactly the same number of times he mentioned the middle class in his inaugural speech last year; and exactly one time more than he mentioned them in his 2011 Budget Address.

The governor has the opportunity tomorrow when he presents his budget to the people of Vermont, to again speak about the plight of the middle class. He can describe, as he did so eloquently in his acceptance speech following his 2010 election, the anxiety of many middle class Vermonters and tell them how his budget will begin to lift them from their malaise.

As we note in our recent two-page issue brief on the middle class, their incomes have been stagnant for 20 years even as the cost of a college education and health care have risen sharply. It’s not that there hasn’t been income growth in Vermont over those 20 years, it’s just that most of the growth has gone to those at the top.

In the both cases where the governor mentioned the middle class in his major addresses to the Legislature, it was in the context of health care. That’s fair. Rising health care costs are squeezing middle class Vermonters. Having access to decent health care has been an important part of a middle class Vermont family’s life. But many have been forced to accept higher deductibles or even drop their policies altogether in an effort to make their budgets match their incomes.

But rising health care costs are only part of the story of middle class decline in Vermont. In our State of Working Vermont 2011, we point out that the past decade was the worst for Vermont job growth since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping records and that income inequality has been rising over the past three decades.

The good news is that it was public policies that created the problem for the middle class, and our elected officials can reverse those policies to revive the middle class. It just takes the will to do it. The governor can start by explaining to Vermonters tomorrow how his budget is built to bring hope again to middle class Vermonters.


Posted by Paul Cillo on January 11, 2012 at 5:53 pm

2 Responses to “The middle class needs the governor’s attention”

  1. Willem Post says:

    Well, well. Someone finally spoke up.
    I have a spreadsheet and an essay on the subject.
    Send me an email and I will send them to you.

  2. I find the Governor’s reluctance to raise the taxes on the wealthiest Vermonters distressing. This revenue would help accomplish his other goals and be much fairer for the middle class.