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VT Gov. Scott's State of the State address focuses on workforce investment

Governor Phil Scott
Pat Bradley
/
WAMC
Vermont Governor Phil Scott (file)

Vermont Governor Phil Scott delivered his State of the State address Wednesday afternoon. His speech was presented to a joint session of the Legislature virtually due to temporary COVID rules limiting in person access to the Statehouse.

Most of the Republican’s speech focused on enhancing workforce development efforts. Scott first acknowledged the virtual nature of the session start and the difficulty of the last two years of the pandemic. But he said there was a silver lining: the state also received billions of dollars in federal aid.

“Over $600 million to transform communities, large and small, across the state. Nearly half of this funding has already been approved for release. And that is on top of the more than $500 million we spent on infrastructure through our typical funding sources,” the governor said. “This has put us on a new path, creating more opportunities for the future than most of us thought possible just a few short years ago. For these reasons I can report to you today that the State of the State is strong and we’re growing stronger every day.”

Governor Scott said the continuing pandemic must not derail efforts to address a fundamental challenge the state faces.

“Statewide we’ve seen our workforce decrease by nearly 30,000 since 2010. The hardest part of addressing our workforce shortage is that it is so intertwined with other big challenges, from affordability and education to our economy and recovery. Each problem makes the others harder to solve, creating a vicious cycle that’s been difficult to break.” Scott added. “Specifically I believe our high cost of living has contributed to a declining workforce and stunted our growth.”

Scott outlined a number of policies and initiatives to reverse the state’s declining workforce trends. He wants more focus on the trades, internships and apprenticeships. He told the legislature workforce initiatives must provide opportunities for families including affordable housing.

“We must recognize housing policy is workforce policy. If you’ll work with me in budget adjustment to allocate $80 million more we can show we are fully committed to this cause.” The governor continued. “And in the budget I will present in two weeks you can expect to see another $100 million. Because it’s time get serious about putting the benefits of a good home and a good investment within the reach of every Vermonter.

Scott said mental health issues must be addressed, tax credits for downtowns must continue to be expanded, and called for reform of Act 250, the state’s environmental land use law.

Near the end of his speech Scott cautioned legislators to focus on work at the statehouse and not be distracted by the upcoming 2022 elections. So far, the Democratic Senate leader and lieutenant governor are running for U.S. House, and other candidates have kicked off statewide campaigns from their perch in Montpelier.

“There’s one thing that could pull this incredible opportunity out of our reach and that’s election year politics," Scott said. "So let’s remember the work done here and across state government isn’t about us. It’s about the people of Vermont. We’re here for them.”

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