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Public Assets Institute, PO Box 942, Montpelier, Vermont 05601.


Update August 2007

In this issue:
-- Food Stamp Anniversary
-- Economic Development Shake Up
-- Household Affordability Study
-- Vermont's Public Structures Spotlight
-- Child Poverty in Vermont?

Food Stamp Anniversary
The anniversary of the 1977 Food Stamp Act provides an opportunity to celebrate our democracy at its best. The successes of the program, a bipartisan effort first championed by Senator Bob Dole (R-Kansas) and George McGovern (D-South Dakota), exemplify our shared power as a nation to attack problems we are helpless to solve as individuals or even as community or charitable organizations.

This short video by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities documents how Food Stamps have helped alleviate the severe hunger and malnutrition that existed in parts of our country in the 1960s and before.

Economic Development Shake Up
The Commission on the Future of Economic Development (CFED), created in 2006 and charged with planning Vermont's economic future, accomplished little in its first year. But new appointments, new staffing, and new funding this year may breathe life into the old body.

A year ago, the legislature took economic development planning away from the Vermont Economic Progress Council (VEPC), whose functions included implementing policies already in place, such as giving tax credits to business. The lawmakers wanted a body that could look afresh at economic planning and include a broader spectrum of stakeholders beyond the business community -- agriculture, social services, the arts, housing, and many others. That new body was the CFED.

To further those goals, this year the legislature revised the statute that created the CFED, adding two new members appointed jointly by the Speaker of the House and the President Pro-Tem of the Senate. Two existing ex-officio positions -- currently occupied by Commerce Agency Secretary Kevin Dorn and VEPC Executive Director Fred Kenney--became non-voting members.

The legislative leaders appointed Barbara Grimes, General Manager for Burlington Electric Department, and Will Patten, Executive Director of Vermont Businesses of Social Responsibility. Governor Jim Douglas promoted former board member Carl Spangler to Chair following the resignation of Douglas appointee, EHV Weidman Vice President John Goodrich in May; the governor appointed Dan Kurzman to fill Spangler's vacated seat. Following David Bradbury's resignation as Executive Director in June, the CFED hired the Snelling Center to provide staff support. (see board member bios)

The legislature appropriated $150,000 for the CFED's operations this year and directed $4,000 to be used for videotaping the meetings for broadcast on community access TV. PAI initiated this sunshine project earlier this year with a Vermont Community Foundation grant; 14 stations regularly air the monthly meetings. The CFED is also planning a series of public meetings around the state.

You can follow the CFED's work on our website or local community access TV (check local listings for dates and times); direct comments and questions to the CFED through the commission's web site (; or communicate with Snelling Center contact Glenn McRae at or 802-859-3090 x 308. Doug Hoffer will continue to monitor and report on the CFED's activities for PAI and bring ideas to it meetings that are aimed at making Vermont a place where all can prosper.

Household Affordability Study
PAI is working with an independent researcher this summer to study how property taxes affect home ownership and affordability in Vermont. We're talking to homeowners who report they have sold or moved out of their homes -- or think they will have to -- because of overly burdensome property taxes.

If you, or someone you know, has lost or sold a home, or considered selling because of property taxes, please call us at (802) 223-6677 or email us at Your participation in our confidential study will help inform the public debate on the affordability of homeownership in Vermont.

Vermont's Public Structures Spotlight
The recent tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis-St. Paul reminds us that we take our public structures for granted, using them every day but giving them little notice until they fail. In Vermont, according to the Agency of Transportation, the state is not meeting its goals to limit the number of "structurally deficient" bridges on state and interstate highways. Without additional funding, the agency projects these goals will remain out of reach.

Generally, however, both the extent and quality of Vermont's public structures - our physical structures like highways and parks, organizational structures like courts and town government, and community structures such as schools, libraries, and health services - are good. But they need adequate ongoing funding if Vermont is to remain a great place to live.

In each Update, we will spotlight one of our state's public structures and provide some quick facts to help you become better acquainted with it. In this Update, PAI takes a look at the our state parks operated by the State Parks Division of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation in the Agency of Natural Resources.

Child Poverty in Vermont?
Shocking as it may seem, the number of children living in poverty in Vermont has increased in recent years, to 15% according to data compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In response to this troubling trend, the legislature formed the Vermont Child Poverty Council. The council is charged with reducing the number of children living in poverty in Vermont by half in the next 10 years.

The Council held its first meeting on July 25. Vermont Department of Children and Families Commissioner Steve Dale, a Council member, presented state data on child poverty. Anne Foley, a senior adviser at the Connecticut Office of Policy Management, spoke about a similar effort initiated in 2004 in Connecticut. And PAI's Paul Cillo urged members to move quickly to bring proposals for action to the 2008 legislative session; he offered assistance in doing so.

The Council, co-chaired by Senator Doug Racine (D-Chittenden) and Representative Ann Pugh (D-South Burlington), will begin its 10-year project by holding public hearings in all 14 Vermont counties this fall. The Council's next meetings are scheduled for August 22 and September 13, both at 9:30 a.m. at the State House in Montpelier. For more information or to sign up to testify, call (800) 322-5616 or (802) 828-2231.
Child Poverty Council Agenda
Article: Council organizes to attack childhood poverty
Editorial: Poverty has no place in anyone's childhood

Total personal income in Vermont increased by an average of 5.6% a year from 1996 to 2006. Vermonters' school taxes over the same period increased an average of 3.5% a year.
Data source: Vermont Tax Dept.

Public Structures Spotlight:
State Parks Division, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation (Agency of Natural Resources)
FY-07 Actual Expenses: $7,186,541 million (64% labor and benefits, 33% operating expenses, 3% grants distributed)
Employees: 36 full time, 280 seasonal
Managed properties: 2292 campsites (in 41 campgrounds), 29 beaches, 38 picnic areas, 27 cabins, and 9 housekeeping cottages
Visitors (2006): 672,927 total (47% day use, 53% camping); (62% Vermonters, 38% nonresidents)
FY-07 Actual Revenues: $7,229,792 million (51% user fees, 34% ski area land leases, 15% general fund)
see charts
Source: Craig Whipple, Director of State Parks, Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation

Save the Date
for the Public Assets Institute
and Voices for Vermont's Children
Fall Conference
October 23, 2007

Job Opening
Senior Fiscal Analyst: The Public Assets Institute (PAI) seeks a Senior Fiscal Analyst to work independently and collaboratively conducting in-depth research and analysis of state fiscal issues and to communicate effectively about these issues orally and in writing.
Full job announcement

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Public Assets Institute, PO Box 942, Montpelier, Vermont 05601.