Vermont Governor Phil Scott delivered his second State of the State address to a joint session of the Vermont House and Senate this afternoon. He renewed his call to keep the state affordable but tasked legislators to do that without raising taxes or fees.
Governor Scott, a Republican, outlined his plans for Vermont during his speech at the Statehouse in Montpelier. He reminded lawmakers that the state has a long history of bipartisan problem solving. “Nationally, we face political divisions and polarization so deep and broad they seem to shake the very foundation of our republic. The challenges we face are great, but none greater than proceeding with the work ahead of us in a manner that Vermonters can be proud of and our fellow Americans can look at as an example of what it means to truly serve the people. The path forward requires each one of us to work together and when we do, our people, our communities, and our values will carry us forward because the state of the state is very strong.”
During his first year in office Scott committed to keep the state affordable for ordinary Vermonters by not raising taxes or fees. He said while that was accomplished, now is not a time for lawmakers to revert to spending the policies of the past. “Well, I’m proud to report that last year we passed a budget that invested in our people and economy, without raising a single tax or fee. We closed a budget gap of more than $60 million, and limited budget growth to just over 1 percent, while wages grew at about 2 percent.
In three weeks I’ll present a budget and I’ll call for continued fiscal discipline because Vermonters still cannot afford higher taxes or fees. And I, along with my administration and members of the legislature, stand ready to prevent taxes and fees from increasing again this year. And just so I’m clear that includes statewide property tax rates.”
Governor Scott focused on the need for workforce development to stem the loss of young people moving to other regions. “Vermont has so much to offer from innovative entrepreneurs and the hardest working people in America to a quality of life that’s unrivaled. And we are known for our commitment to social justice, equal rights and unity. But our costs of living from utilities to housing to taxes remain among the highest in the nation. So, despite our many benefits, these costs deter young people from moving or staying here. This has got to stop. Reversing these trends should be the top priority of every elected official, regardless of party or political beliefs.”
Echoing a State of the State by his predecessor that made national headlines, Scott said Vermont must continue to combat the opioid crisis by expanding on a number of proposals offered by his Opioid Coordination Council. He wants a focus on prevention to control health care costs and he plans to continue environmental and climate change initiatives.
Scott will deliver his budget address in three weeks.
Audio is courtesy of the Statehouse live webstream provided by Vermont Public Radio.