Public Assets Institute > Policy Areas > Education > Vermont’s a great place to raise kids – for now

Vermont’s a great place to raise kids – for now

A new study ranked Vermont the #1 state to raise healthy kids. That’s the good news. Vermont often ranks high on quality of life surveys (here, here and here, for example). The question is: Can Vermont stay on top if it continues to cut state services and postpone investments?

The study looked at three broad categories: 1) kids’ health and access to health care; 2) kids’ nutrition, physical activity and obesity; and 3) kids’ oral health. Vermont ranked #1, #1 and #5 respectively.

Vermont made the choice to invest in children’s health, and it’s paid off – both in terms of the impact on kids’ actual health and on Vermont’s reputation for citizens’ well-being. There’s a lesson here.

It’s not by accident that Vermont tops so many of these quality-of-life lists. It’s the result of decades of thoughtful policy about how best to protect and facilitate a way of life that depends on a healthy environment, a welcoming culture, and a commitment to its citizens.

But a decade of austerity budgeting puts both the reality and reputation of the state at risk. Since the Great Recession, Montpelier has slashed funding for housing programs, cut cash assistance to the most vulnerable families, and reduced policy and planning staff.

At the same time, political leaders have openly acknowledged the need for more resources to clean up Lake Champlain, provide more affordable housing, increase the child care subsidy, and invest in education.

The Senate just passed a state budget plan that makes some good investments in child care and mental health care and homeless shelters, but it does so by raising property taxes. The House’s version included $17 million in cuts to state government. These plans may have moved through respective chambers with consensus, but neither of them do enough to move the state forward.

Recently, the One Vermont coalition offered a plan to political leaders that would lower taxes for most Vermonters while closing loopholes for higher-income taxpayers. By making the tax system fairer and more up-to-date, the state can find the savings it needs to make strategic investments in Vermont’s future without cuts to services or increases in property taxes.

These smart investments work. Vermont is the healthiest place in the nation for kids to grow up. Now we need to ensure they also have high-quality, affordable child care, education that prepares them to succeed, and water free from toxic algae to swim in.

Posted by Stephanie Yu on May 2, 2017 at 1:44 pm

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