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Governor Scott presents balanced budget, no tax or fee hike

January 24, 2018

Vermont Business Magazine

Governor Phil Scott delivered his budget address Tuesday afternoon. He started out by mentioning the Patriots victory in the AFC Championship game on Sunday, which received some applause and a few laughs. He mentioned the game, he said, so that lawmakers would have something to applaud as he stood before the joint session of the Legislature. But he did get more applause during his remarks, including for a plan to phase out the tax on Social Security, which came early in the speech, and another when he began speaking about public education cost containment, which came relatively late.

Generally, Scott reaffirmed his commitment to no new taxes and fees and a budget constrained by the average growth in the economy.
In this case, that growth rate will produce a budget increase of 2.2 percent percent. This would result in state funding of $3.867 million for fiscal year 2019, or an increase of $82 million over last year. The Legislature ultimately will write and pass a budget, with input from the Administration. But once passed the governor would have the choice to either sign it into law, or, as he did last year, veto the bill.

This is the second consecutive year Scott has proposed a budget that does not raise a single tax or fee. But unlike last year when he suggested sweeping changes in how education is funded, this year he made more modest proposals. These included investments to expand Vermont’s workforce, expand homeownership, improve health and provide tax relief to Vermonters by exempting military pensions from state income tax, as well as the phasing out state taxes on Social Security income for low and moderate-income households.

In an effort to bring more people to Vermont to offset the state's demographic problems, he wants the state to use high-tech methods, as Google and Amazon and Facebook do, to identify people interested in Vermont. To do this Scott wants to use the upgraded ThinkVermont.com website, likely in conjection with the new Vermont Life magazine and its platforms, including social media.

He also wants to add some modest incentives to economic development and downtown housing.

In his address, Scott called on the Legislature to continue to work with him to put “all ideas on the table” to reform the Education Fund to ensure Vermonters do not see an increase in statewide property tax rates and to eliminate inefficiencies in the system that are preventing additional investments in more, and better, educational opportunities for kids. Earlier this month, the Administration identified 18 reforms that would close the projected deficit, update the funding formula, and sustain longer-term savings.

The governor’s budget address also detailed key performance indicators the Administration will use to measure the effectiveness of state investments and work.

To evaluate the impact state investments and initiatives on the economy, the Administration will measure the size of the workforce, growth in the number – and size – of employers and regional wage growth.

To track progress on affordability, the Administration will measure the percent of household income spent on taxes, fees, housing (including utility bills) and healthcare.

Finally, to assess the impact on protecting the most vulnerable and helping lift Vermonters out of poverty, the Administration will measure and report the percent of households below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, the rate of homelessness, level of kindergarten readiness and access to affordable health care.

A transcript of Governor Scott’s 2018 budget address follows:

WCAX video of Governor Scott's Budget Address January 23 2018

Governor Phil Scott FY 2019 Budget Address

Madam Speaker, Mr. President, Mr. Chief Justice, Members of the General Assembly and fellow Vermonters.

Three weeks ago, I shared with you my agenda for the session ahead, and my vision for the future of our state. A future filled with endless potential, a growing workforce, a stronger economy, and where no Vermonter must look elsewhere for prosperity.

I’m confident, together, we can make this future a reality.

But that success is dependent upon restoring our fiscal foundation, having the courage to confront the challenges we face and spending only what Vermonters can afford.

Today I present to you a balanced budget that makes strategic investments to grow the economy, make Vermont more affordable and protect the most vulnerable.

And for the second consecutive year, it does not raise taxes or fees.
In the past, we’ve set spending levels based only on revenue projections, without considering wage growth or whether spending is growing faster than taxpayers can actually afford.

So last year, I asked my administration to develop a Growth Rate Calculation – a six-year rolling average of wage growth to ensure the state budget does not grow faster than wages. This year, that growth rate is 2.36 percent.

Let’s get right to the bottom line:

$3,785,000,000 is what we agreed to spend in state dollars this fiscal year.

Total spending proposed in my budget for next year is $3,867,000,000.
This is an increase of $82 million – reached without exceeding the growth rate calculation or raising any taxes or fees.

Too many hardworking Vermonters face the same problem the state budget faces: Expenses and costs growing faster than income. Except unlike us, they can’t tax anyone to make up the difference.

And we know it’s not just taxes. It’s utility bills, healthcare costs and other necessities that also make it harder for many Vermonters to get ahead – and too many aren’t even getting by. As a matter of principle, I don’t believe any of these costs should be growing faster than wages. Especially the costs we in this Chamber can influence.

But if we work together, we can provide relief and greater opportunity to those we serve.

That’s what this budget does.

It’s driven by performance indicators, which we’ll use to measure our progress, and report to Vermonters, so they can hold us accountable for our work.

We’ll be able to measure our impact on the economy by the size of our workforce, growth in the number of workers and size of employers, and regional wage growth.

We’ll track our progress in making Vermont more affordable based on the percent of income spent on housing (including utilities), health care, taxes and fees.

And to determine the impact in protecting the most vulnerable and moving folks out of poverty, we’ll report the percent of households who live below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, the rate of homelessness, the number of children ready for kindergarten, and access to affordable healthcare.

These are breakthrough indicators that will tell us if families, children and communities are doing better. And when they are, we will all be better off, with greater resources.

This is the benefit of having a clearly defined strategic plan and a budget that supports this approach.

That’s why this budget prioritizes investments that will get more Vermonters into the workforce, recruit families to our state, create jobs, expand small businesses and grow wages.

It’s why it modernizes our employment growth incentive, provides tax relief for retirees with low incomes, includes new incentives to revitalize homes in our downtowns, and calls on us to work together to transform our education system and how we pay for it.

It’s why it expands our mental health capacity, invests in the prevention of illnesses, builds healthier communities, and addresses the health of mothers and babies dealing with addiction.

And it’s why it continues our commitment to cleaner energy, cleaner transportation and cleaner water.

The truth is, for decades, the cost of state government has been designed to grow about 5 percent each year. So, balancing this budget without raising taxes was not easy. It took careful, diligent and difficult work.

So, I want to thank my entire Administration – every secretary, commissioner, director and every hardworking state employee – for their willingness to think differently, to innovate, modernize and make difficult decisions that put the state in a better fiscal position for the future.

***

This includes taking a look at one of the most under-reported fiscal issues we face: Vermont’s long-term debt.

Through the collaborative effort of the Administration, Treasurer and many others, we have one of the best credit ratings in the country – a Triple-A Bond rating. This is good news that saves Vermonters money.
But maintaining this rating is becoming increasingly difficult, so we must face these facts:

First, we’re the only Triple-A state with a shrinking workforce.

Because of this, our per capita debt assigned to every Vermonter has increased since 2013 while its declined in all other Triple-A states.

Additionally, Vermont’s pension liabilities – the money owed retired public employees, including teachers – is the second highest among these same states.

Put simply, the difference between the money we set aside to pay benefits is hundreds of millions of dollars less than it should be. And if we do nothing, these unfunded liabilities will be more than we raise in annual revenue.

It’s time to deal with this issue, head on.

Working with the Treasurer, our retirees and unions, we must prevent future obligations from forcing deep cuts in vital programs and services – jeopardizing the retirement of thousands or impairing our ability to make investments in essential infrastructure.

That’s why my budget devotes $20 million more than required, to pay down these liabilities.

***

We must also do more to ensure the secure retirement of all Vermonters.

With the second oldest population in the nation, 45 percent of Vermonters are either retired or about to retire. And we know many of them do so elsewhere.

There’s a reason approximately 26,000 native born Vermonters live in Florida, and it’s not just the weather because 27,000 native-born Vermonters now live in New Hampshire.

Many folks on fixed incomes want to stay here in Vermont and can’t afford that second home elsewhere. They deserve, as much as anyone, to live with the dignity in retirement they earned through a lifetime of work.

Only five states fully tax social security retirement benefits. Today, I ask you to join me in bringing that number to four, by phasing in the elimination of this tax on seniors living on low and moderate incomes.

***

An important step to a secure retirement is homeownership. I still remember how it felt when we bought our first home.

We couldn’t get a traditional loan, so I worked out a deal with the owner to finance the sale. It was a two-story house in Morrisville, and I worked nights and weekends that summer to convert the second floor to an apartment that we rented to help pay the mortgage.

Perhaps I remember those years more fondly now than I did when I was bringing home fuel oil five gallons at a time because I couldn’t afford to fill the tank. Or waking up at 1:30 a.m. to fill the wood stove to get through the night. Or coming home after a long day’s work to frozen pipes in the crawl space.

I understand the struggles of fixing up an older house because, like many of you, I’ve done it. We worked hard for that first house. It wasn’t perfect, but it was ours and I was proud of it.

Today, many have even greater obstacles as they search to find a home they can afford.

Last year, we came together to bring more new housing to the market, which was a good start.

This year’s budget funds a $1 million housing package to build on that progress.

To help working families achieve the dream of homeownership, it doubles our funding in the Down Payment Assistance Program.
And for the second consecutive year, it increases our investment in downtown and village center tax credits.

But many of the neighborhoods surrounding our downtowns aren’t living up to potential, because the cost to fix up existing housing exceeds the value of the home.

That’s why I propose $625,000 in incentives to help renovate and upgrade existing housing stock. Helping to attract young, working families to communities across the state.

***

As I’ve said, training and attracting people to fill our jobs and our schools, support our businesses and broaden our tax base should be the top priority of every elected official.

In addition to our housing package, there is a lot we can do to grow our workforce.

In my State of the State, I highlighted more than 300 good jobs that businesses need to fill, today. At the same time, nearly 50 percent of Vermonters who graduate from high school don’t go on to college or post-secondary training.

It’s my hope that every Vermonter, regardless of background or interest, has a path to meaningful employment. Whether studying for a PHD, LNA or CDL – all Vermonters deserve the chance to get ahead. So, let’s work together to bridge this gap.

To increase availability of technical and trades education, while working with businesses to fill positions in targeted sectors, I’ll ask you to commit $500,000 to purchase training equipment, fit up new space, and expand adult career and technical education, across the state.

There’s also a lot we can do by redeploying existing resources.

This includes how we support retirement-age Vermonters who want to remain in the workforce. These folks have so much to offer from mentoring young employees to institutional knowledge in virtually
every field. With our workforce challenges, helping those looking to stay engaged and employed is a must.

So, we’ll expand the Senior Community Service Employment Program, and dedicate nearly a third of the Vermont Strong Internship fund to provide training for those seniors who want to return to work.

***

And as we make strides in the battle against opiates, we’ll do more to help Vermonters in recovery find and hold a job – where, through an honest day’s work, they can earn back the trust and self-esteem that addiction took from them.

I’ve directed the Department of Labor to provide employment services directly to those in recovery, through regular hours at Vermont’s Recovery Centers.

This work has already begun. Employment counselors will serve three recovery centers by the end of this Spring, and all of them by the end of the year – at no additional cost to Vermonters.

***

In addition to strengthening our current workforce, we must also expand it.

As you know, we face population trends that – left unaddressed – will continue to result in fewer workers, fewer taxpayers and fewer students in our schools.

That’s why I’ve proposed a $3.2 million investment in a campaign to reverse these trends.

My administration has already begun discussions to gain your support for this funding, so we can set Vermont apart as a state that’s serious about identifying, connecting with and persuading more people to become Vermonters.

Here’s what makes this approach different:

First, we’ll focus on those most likely to move to Vermont: People who lived here but left, who came here for college, who vacation or do business here, and maybe even those who haven’t been here before, but share our values and want to raise their family in the safest and healthiest state in the country.

Second, we recognize that traditional marketing isn’t enough. So, we’ll speak directly with them in a personalized way.

Finally, we must provide the right information to those looking to move to Vermont. We can do this by creating a gateway portal of information on jobs, schools, housing and recreation. Imagine how likely you might be to move, if right when you started to consider it you received all the information you needed to make it a reality.

Our plan will train Department of Labor employees to provide all the knowledge someone needs from the moment they first Think Vermont.”

In contrast, past efforts have relied on traditional marketing strategies, which cast a wide net hoping as many people as possible will see the content.

These efforts aren’t working in today’s competitive world. In 2018, the technology exists to identify people who want to hear our story. So, let’s use these tools coupled with direct contact to close the deal.
Companies use these strategies around the globe because the technology exists to better identify potential customers and deliver them the right message, on the right platform, at the right time.

These techniques will help us identify “could be Vermonters” and specifically target the most realistic prospects – using tax dollars more efficiently and with a higher, and more measurable, success rate.

There’s no question, this approach is different. But I urge you to listen to the science and success stories, and commit the investment needed to make this strategy work.

***

Many of our larger businesses have the resources to recruit and relocate the workforce they need, but smaller businesses simply do not.

We can help, first, by becoming a conduit between our schools and our employers to help locate the workers they need to stay competitive, helping keep more of our college graduates here in Vermont.

Additionally, we can invest in a public-private partnership that uses a recruiter to place out-of-state workers with our small businesses.
This budget directs $100,000 to help the Department of Labor begin this work.

***

With new investments, innovation and redeploying existing resources, we can strengthen our economy.

Vermont ranks as one of the top states for the number of start-ups, but we rank last among the 25 smallest states in helping those businesses scale up, succeed, and grow.

That’s in part because our current tools cannot keep pace with the marketplace.

Here’s an example:

Recently, the Agency of Commerce was approached by an entrepreneur needing $100,000 in quick capital to buy a local business being forced to close.

The need was immediate to prevent foreclosure. Unfortunately, the restrictions of our existing programs couldn’t get it done. This deal would have saved 40 jobs.

With more flexibility, we could have helped. So, I propose investing $400,000 in a ThinkVermont Innovation Fund to help small businesses and entrepreneurs finance scalable opportunities faster.

***

We can also attract more entrepreneurs in a way that expands our workforce and our economy by modernizing the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive (VEGI). Over the last decade, this program has helped generate thousands of jobs, and brought in more state revenue.

I’ll propose enhancements to VEGI that make it more accessible to small businesses and B-Corporations – companies committed to social and environmental goals, as well as a profitable bottom line.

This would be the first incentive of its kind for B-Corps, making Vermont the destination for mission-driven businesses and attracting the mission-driven millennials we need for our future.

***

We will also help nurture our cybersecurity industry and grow this workforce, while better protecting Vermont’s data and systems from cyber threats.

With a $600,000 investment and a partnership with Norwich University, we can establish a Security Operations Center that provides round-the-clock monitoring and protection against cyber-attacks.

By working with students from Norwich, this partnership will also build a deep bench of experienced cybersecurity professionals to support our workforce goals.

***

Our work to address climate change and meet our clean energy and clean water goals also present real opportunities to strengthen the economy.

Focusing on chimneys and tailpipes – the two greatest sources of emissions – we can stimulate more economic investment and job creation, just like we’ve done with solar energy.

Here are just a few examples.

Our Clean Energy Plan identified wood heat as a critical way to achieve Vermont’s goal of 90 percent renewable energy by 2050. So, at the recommendation of my Climate Action Commission, we will invest $300,000 to help homeowners replace old, non-EPA certified wood stoves with modern efficient ones.

This improves air quality, in and outside the home, saves folks money by reducing what they burn, and supports local shops and our forest products economy.

To help make electric vehicles more affordable and to meet my Administration’s goal to double the number of renewable energy vehicles in Vermont by 2022, this year, we will draw down $1.8 million from our Volkswagen settlement to electrify our system – making Vermont more accessible to electric vehicles for both residents and visitors.

Additionally, my Administration will work on solutions to encourage less expensive charging rates at times when its most beneficial to our electric grid.

And while all this is going on, we’re exploring how to make Vermont the nation’s leading manufacturer of battery storage technology.
My point is this: Environmental innovation can also be economic innovation, and we can’t do one without the other.

***

Here’s another example of how my administration is looking at things differently. The key to cleaning up our lakes and waterways is reducing the amount of phosphorous flowing into them.

Right now, we’re using a 20th Century strategy, building infrastructure to capture phosphorous. Its estimated to cost taxpayers more than a billion dollars over the next 20 years, which doesn’t even include maintenance and upgrade costs.

I believe there is a more innovative solution – one that creates economic growth by generating revenue and jobs and could be exported to places struggling with this very same challenge.

There is a large market for phosphorous in the energy, fertilizer and compost industries, and manufacturers purchase phosphorous and raw organic materials for their products.

My administration is exploring how the State can help create a commercial enterprise that captures a large amount of Vermont’s excess phosphorous and convert it to a wholesale or retail product.
We’ll soon be looking to harness the imagination and competitive nature of entrepreneurs, scientists and inventors, seeking proposals for the most efficient and commercially viable ways to segregate, process, package and sell phosphorous.

This is the kind of creative thinking we need to solve this problem, and I invite you to join with us in this effort.

***

I think most are aware that a larger workforce and a stronger economy are essential to generating the revenue we need to maintain the public investments we value. So too is ensuring we get the most value out of every dollar we spend to protect our most vulnerable.

I’d like to give thanks to our Agency of Human Services for its work to identify how to improve operations, find savings and efficiencies, repurpose existing resources and reduce overhead, while making progress modernizing systems and management to strengthen our social safety net.

This allowed us to balance the need for affordability while protecting services for those who need it most.

Thanks to that work, we can invest $7.8 million in new initiatives. Efforts that not only seek to tackle some of our toughest challenges, from opioids to mental health, but also focus on prevention, which will reduce healthcare spending in the long-run.

To start, we will invest $500,000 in two prevention initiatives.

First, we’ll focus on the dental health of our kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control, poor dental hygiene leads to missed school, diminished classroom performance and serious health complications.

To strengthen children’s health, while reducing long-term healthcare costs, we will begin rolling out a statewide school-based dental health program.

Next, we’ll pilot a voluntary universal home visits program for pregnant women and babies. This initiative will provide three home visits for the first 16 weeks after birth, and it’s modeled on programs we know improve the health of babies and mothers, while lowering costs.

We propose to launch this program in two high-impact regions this year, and if proven successful, expand statewide.

At the recommendation of my Opioid Coordination Council, this program will provide additional care for mothers suffering from substance abuse – beginning during pregnancy and through the child’s second year.

Programs like CHARM in Chittenden County have demonstrated the tremendous value this type of support brings to moms and infants faced with addiction.

I’m also proposing to invest $500,000 more to help the Department of Children and Families provide additional supports to children impacted by the opioid epidemic.

These children are the true victims of our struggle with addiction, and so long as I’m governor, we will not turn our backs or a blind eye to them. Because there’s hope for a better future and we owe it to them to make it a reality.

This focus on community-based prevention isn’t a function for government alone.

In fact, Rise Vermont – a movement created and led by Northwestern Medical Center, its surrounding communities and state partners like the Department of Health – has empowered its residents to make healthier choices, encouraging exercise and eating better to reduce chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Rise Vermont is outcome-focused, evidenced-based, and it’s working. That’s because Vermonters are involved in their own health. It’s tailored to meet each community’s prevention needs. So, I’m pleased Rise Vermont, with the support of OneCare, is expanding this model statewide.

Coupled with the state’s existing prevention initiatives and those I’ve asked you to support today, Rise Vermont will improve health and continue our transition to a prevention-focused model of healthcare that lowers costs and builds upon our reputation as the nation’s healthiest state.

***

Together, we’ve made improving our response to the mental health needs of Vermonters a priority – and getting them help as quickly as possible leads to better outcomes and more effective use of resources.

That’s why this budget proposes nearly half a million dollars to put outreach workers in targeted areas throughout the state, getting people the care they need, when they need it, and reducing some of the strain on our emergency rooms.

We also need to ensure adequate facilities for those suffering from mental illness.

To address our most pressing mental healthcare needs, I have requested $6.4 million for two facility upgrades – replacing the temporary secure residential facility in Middlesex and creating a forensics unit at the Northwest State Correctional Facility.

This is the first phase of our strategic plan to address an issue state government has grappled with for decades, and will better meet patients’ needs while saving taxpayers millions of dollars.

***

As I said, it’s no easy task to present a balanced budget without raising taxes or fees.

We must recognize that investments to grow the economy and make Vermont more affordable are essential to a future where our classrooms are full of kids, and students graduate with greater opportunity.

Where every community – every county – thrives.

Where we have a cleaner environment, safer and healthier neighborhoods;

And a future where we’ve restored our fiscal fundamentals, and no longer face revenue shortfalls year after year.

Across Vermont, many school boards have been working to manage budgets, mitigate tax increases and provide students more value for every dollar of the $1.6 billion we currently spend.

We all want every child, regardless of district, to receive the best education possible. But we must be honest about whether we’re achieving that vision.

The Brigham decision and Act 60 were both about equal access to education funding. But after two decades, opportunities, outcomes and funding remain alarmingly unequal.

We have some schools offering a wide range of foreign languages, environmental studies, coding, cutting-edge science, technology and engineering classes. Not to mention, sports, drama and music programs. And we have other schools that can’t offer any of these opportunities.

We have districts which trimmed programs for kids to restrain budget growth to one, two or three percent each year, only to learn their tax rates are going up eight, nine or 10 percent because others have increased spending dramatically.

We have statewide test results that suggest the substantial increase in education spending over the last 20 years has not closed the achievement gaps in our schools.

And, year after year, Vermonters have endured property tax rate increases they cannot afford.

It’s time to accept reality.

Due to the steady decrease in student population, the current funding mechanism is weakening the very system it was meant to strengthen.
With only 76,000 students in an education infrastructure built for well over 100,000, inefficiency prevents us from investing more in educational programs for our kids even as taxes skyrocket.

Friends, for our kids, communities, educators, economy and our future, we must do better.

We know the challenge. We’re losing, on average, six workers from our workforce and three students from our schools, every single day.
It’s why the Legislature passed Act 46, which – through difficult discussions – has positioned many districts to take the next essential steps. But we must accelerate this work.

Our goal should be to reach an agreement this session that meets the following objectives:

First, we must contain costs to eliminate the current deficit and achieve savings that will expand over time and prevent costs from growing faster than wages.

Second, we must establish a statewide funding system that is fully transparent, easily understood and truly equitable for every child.

Third, we need to provide districts the flexibility, tools and incentives they need to make sure consolidations improve outcomes for children and save money.

And finally, working with school boards, superintendents and unions, we should chart a course that steadily moves us from an average of 1 adult for every 4 students to having 1 adult for every 5 students, over the next 5 years – using the natural retirement and attrition of the current workforce.

Changing the average ratio by one, would save us well over $100 million each year, once complete. And, we would still have the lowest ratio in the nation.

***

The scope of this challenge means all ideas must be on the table. To start this discussion, my team identified more than a dozen reforms with $75 million in potential savings, which we’ve shared with you.
The fact is, there are multiple paths to achieve the needed savings.

So, I look forward to hearing your ideas as well, and forming the best path to eliminate the existing deficit.

This work must be driven by our vision for the future, not our memories of the past.

Just as we did when we formed union high schools more than a half century ago, if we put what “can be” ahead of what “was,” we can take an enormous step forward.

If we have the courage to discuss all options with civility and respect, and are willing to listen and learn from each other, we can save millions of dollars, invest in creating the best Cradle-to-Career system in the nation, give our kids the brightest possible future, and attract more families to all areas of Vermont.

We started down this path last year, by increasing the appropriation to the Vermont State Colleges and making our child care assistance program available to more families.

We’ll continue these investments this year. And we’ll make more by directing the Vermont Training Program to increase funding to train early childcare professionals… and by investing more in Career Technical Education, and scholarships that will put more members of the National Guard into our colleges and universities.

We know investment in these areas brings long term benefits for our kids, families and economy. But to make more, we must have the courage to reform our K-12 education system, and we must act now.

***

These priorities represent a transformative vision.

Now, I have no doubt that some will contrast our approach with their desire for new or higher taxes, or more expensive mandates on job creators.

Benjamin Franklin said, “there’s a place for everything, and everything has its place.” This is the time, and this is the place to make Vermont more affordable for families and businesses, not less.

As Governor, I’ve spoken to thousands of Vermonters.

To parents trying to give their kids the college education they didn’t have. To small business owners taking a chance on hiring an extra set of hands in a tough economy.

I’ve talked to farmers, truck drivers, servers, electricians, and state employees, who work hard every day to make ends meet, but tell me it’s getting harder.

And I’ve heard older Vermonters brag about their grandkids but wonder if the home they love – the state that gave them so much – will be affordable for those they hope to leave it to.

It’s not bold to spend more than Vermonters can afford, or to experiment with policies our economy cannot sustain.

Instead, let’s make real progress, and ensure the promise of Vermont is achievable for this generation, the next, and the one after that.

Ours is tough work. Many past governors and legislators have been fortunate to lead through economic booms. When the question wasn’t as much about whether to fund an initiative or not, but by how much.

Those were simpler days, and days worth remembering but we must recognize that these days are different.

However, we can do what is truly bold.

We can have the courage to put Vermont on a clear, disciplined path.

We can work to restore our economic foundation. We can expand our workforce, create jobs and make Vermont more affordable for our families and businesses.

And if we do, we will see better days again. Of this, I am certain.



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July 26, 2018
What is This? A Retail Apocalypse 'Near Me': How Local Search Can Revive Your Business
July 25, 2018
EMERGING ISSUE: CORPORATIONS USE THEIR CLOUT TO SHAPE POLICY - SALES TAXES
July 25, 2018
Member of the Month: Keeler's Bay Variety
July 24, 2018
As Amazon Moves to Capture Local Government Spending, Here’s What You Can Do
July 24, 2018
AG: New recreational marijuana law does not legalize selling in any method
July 19, 2018
A Vermont Road Trip: 8 Places to Stop on a Drive Through the Green Mountain State
July 19, 2018
Ten ways to outperform 2017’s Black Friday retail success
July 17, 2018
5 Ways AI is Impacting Retail Marketing
July 17, 2018
Which Federal Employment Laws Apply to My Company?
July 16, 2018
Vt. Economic Rank Depends on the Poll
July 16, 2018
SMALL RETAIL’S BIGGEST CHAMPION
July 13, 2018
Vermont marijuana: How new law compares to Maine, Massachusetts and other states
July 12, 2018
New law curbs abuses by credit card terminal lessors
July 10, 2018
What does the Supreme Court sales tax decision mean for Vermont?
July 10, 2018
Vermont unveils Lake Champlain Tasting Trail
July 6, 2018
Grilling the Chef: Colleen Mahony at the Warren Store
July 5, 2018
Gifford joins Efficiency Vermont partnership
July 2, 2018
Scott sends message to Legislature as budget finally becomes law
June 30, 2018
VRGA brings back Merchant Awards
June 28, 2018
Up to $2,000 available for small businesses
June 28, 2018
Why and how retailers are taking on the role of incubator
June 27, 2018
HOW SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS CAN CHANGE THE FUTURE OF RETAIL
June 27, 2018
KeHE Distributors Announces Hot Products and Seasonal Trends
June 26, 2018
Opinion: Small town Vermont is what summer is all about
June 26, 2018
Vermont Restaurant Week donates more than $23,000 to Vermont Foodbank
June 20, 2018
Member of the Month: Vermont Foodbank
June 20, 2018
Grocers Supply Breaks Ground on 727,600-Square-Foot Distribution Facility in Texas
June 19, 2018
Agriturismo, American style: 8 farm and food experiences in the USA
June 18, 2018
Independent grocers feel competitive pinch
June 15, 2018
R.L. Vallee has plans for Morrisville
June 15, 2018
Hiring Workers Is a Struggle
June 14, 2018
Vermont Foodbank kicks off new gleaning program in Rutland
June 14, 2018
HOW PRICE CAN MAKE OR BREAK YOUR RETAIL BUSINESS
June 13, 2018
New energy efficiency programs will reduce cost of doing business
June 12, 2018
Vermont Retail & Grocers Association Announces 2018 Scholarship Recipients
June 11, 2018
Moore: Don’t Shop Online, Shop Local
June 1, 2018
Need an entry-level job at a store? It can be harder now
May 31, 2018
8 Consumer Trends for 2018
May 29, 2018
Hannaford Commits $500,000 To Child Nutrition
May 29, 2018
Vt. leads nation in local food consumption
May 25, 2018
Craft Brewers And Distributors Both Bitter Over Updated Franchise Bill
May 24, 2018
Legislature Delays Curbside Food Scraps Pick-Up Until 2020
May 23, 2018
Here's What Gov. Phil Scott's Vetoed, So Far
May 16, 2018
Are We Entering The Era Of Social Shopping?
May 16, 2018
Member of the Month: Wallingford Locker
May 16, 2018
Seasonal, Part-year Workers Urged to Check Tax Withholding Amount
May 14, 2018
Baker: From bottom line to value creation and impact
May 14, 2018
Vermont food and fun
May 10, 2018
Economic Survey: Vermont businesses more cautious than rest of US
May 10, 2018
Vermont House approves $15 minimum wage by 2024
May 10, 2018
Citizen Cider Celebrates New Facility in Burlington, Vermont
May 7, 2018
Ways small retailers can thrive in a world of retail giants
May 4, 2018
5 Technologies Reshaping E-Commerce
May 4, 2018
How Target is embracing the human touch to beat the competition
May 3, 2018
Celebrating heritage — and resilience
April 27, 2018
Grocers seek new recipe for success with meal kits, challenging online purveyors
April 26, 2018
PUCF awards more than $134,000 in grants to Vermont nonprofits
April 25, 2018
Mother’s Day Spending to Reach $23.1 Billion
April 25, 2018
House passes bill to simply business creation process
April 24, 2018
RetroMotion Podcast #10 – Joe Fusco, Vice President, Casella Waste Systems
April 24, 2018
Commentary: Revitalizing the workforce in an aging state
April 23, 2018
Paid Memberships Are the New Loyalty in Retail
April 23, 2018
5 Retail Trends to Watch in 2018
April 23, 2018
ServSafe Training Sessions with Training to Excel
April 20, 2018
At J.J. Hapgood, a Dream Dining Spot in the Comfort of a Country Store
April 19, 2018
Member of the Month: Willey's Store
April 19, 2018
Scheuermann: Hotel tax rears its head, again
April 18, 2018
Sigrist: Increasing the minimum wage will hurt the people it’s meant to help
April 18, 2018
Out of order signs pop up at Vermont gas pumps
April 17, 2018
MILK MONEY L3C ANNOUNCES CITY MARKET MEMBER LOAN CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN
April 17, 2018
Hannaford the latest retailer to jump into the meal-kit craze
April 13, 2018
City Market, Onion River Co-op Celebrates Earth Week
April 11, 2018
Vermont lawmakers consider bottle bill amendment
April 10, 2018
Walmart, Target Kill Card Signatures
April 5, 2018
Breathing new life into Northeast Kingdom downtown areas
April 5, 2018
Diverting food from the landfill to hungry people
April 4, 2018
Vermont Town Seeks a Heart, and Soul (Also Milk and Eggs)
April 2, 2018
New City Market among Burlington Business Association annual award winners
April 2, 2018
Contract legislation affects small Vermont breweries
March 29, 2018
Downtown Bennington among those benefiting from $2.9 million in VHCB awards
March 27, 2018
Benson Village Store reopens, Philly-style
March 26, 2018
Vermont job growth for 2017 slower than expected
March 26, 2018
Stay-to-Stay initiative aims to attract working families
March 23, 2018
VRGA's RISE Up Retail Training Program
March 21, 2018
House gives Workforce Development bill unanimous support
March 20, 2018
Member of the Month: Harborside Harvest Market
March 20, 2018
City Market Co-Op grants offer $330,000 to six community organizations
March 20, 2018
Vermont Foodbank welcomes Jeffrey Tieman to board of directors
March 19, 2018
Consumer protection bill clears Senate committee
March 19, 2018
Report looks at child care, the economy and gender equity in Vermont
March 5, 2018
A Small Town Kept Walmart Out. Now It Faces Amazon.
March 5, 2018
Survey: Vermont businesses show mild uptick in economy
March 2, 2018
Tops shoppers help to buy 3 million meals for families in need
March 1, 2018
Stewart's Shops to Invest $50M in New Builds, Rebuilds & Renovations in 2018
March 1, 2018
Vermont Cider Company Launches New Tank Series with Release of Woodchuck Pear Ginger
February 28, 2018
VRGA gets workforce development grant
February 26, 2018
7 retail execs envision the future of stores
February 26, 2018
International fashion retailer H&M to open first Vermont location
February 21, 2018
Vermont Hard Cider and Pabst to End Partnership
February 20, 2018
Red Fox Shop in Wilmington sells local wine, beers, wares Read more: Deerfield Valley News - Red Fox Shop in Wilmington sells local wine beers wares
February 20, 2018
Higher income, healthier groceries
February 20, 2018
How The Home Depot Is Using Tech to Attract Workers
February 19, 2018
Steve Moyer & Patrick Crowl: Minimum wage, a business perspective
February 19, 2018
Commentary: The changing face of retail
February 19, 2018
Sen­ate ad­vances $15 min­i­mum wage bill
February 15, 2018
Commentary: Expanding the labor force is essential
February 15, 2018
WHAT ARE THE KEY FINDINGS OF THE 2018 NATIONAL GROCERY SHOPPERS SURVEY?
February 15, 2018
Member of the Month: The World
February 13, 2018
City Market Recognized with Workplace Awards
February 9, 2018
Retailers, despite store closures, predict higher sales
February 8, 2018
Senate to vote next week on $15 minimum wage hike
February 6, 2018
Richards Group to acquire Centurion Insurance from Mascoma BankRichards Group to acquire Centurion Insurance from Mascoma Bank
February 5, 2018
Governor challenges legislator pooh-poohing Labor Force problem
February 2, 2018
Super Senior: June Waite and Jerrilyn Remillard
February 1, 2018
The changing world of retail: 4 ways to defend against Amazon
January 31, 2018
Lauzon pushes plan to license Barre pot growers
January 31, 2018
Eric Polep to President and Chief Executive Officer J. Polep Distribution Services
January 30, 2018
City Market Signs Sales Agreement with Petra Cliffs
January 29, 2018
Vermont businesses have good reason to hang on to employees
January 29, 2018
Panera Bread on Church St. closing, Outdoor Gear Exchange to expand
January 29, 2018
Neighbors Band Together in Effort to Revive Brownsville Store
January 29, 2018
KeHE Brings On Trend™ Flavors to Winter Fancy Food Show
January 26, 2018
Donovan: Working for Vermont businesses, legislative update
January 25, 2018
Training high on list in Workforce Development Working Group report
January 24, 2018
Governor Scott presents balanced budget, no tax or fee hike
January 23, 2018
Ashe And Scott Spar Over Plan To Raise Minimum Wage To $15 An Hour
January 19, 2018
Natural Foods Co-op Celebrates Expansion
January 19, 2018
28 Retail Marketing Predictions To Watch In 2018
January 18, 2018
50 businesses named as Best Places to Work in Vermont 2018
January 18, 2018
Business growth program open to 20 VT entrepreneurs
January 17, 2018
C-Stores Appeal to Health-Conscious Consumers
January 16, 2018
Member of the Month: Dan & Whit's General Store
January 15, 2018
Walmart raises wages, handing out bonuses
January 11, 2018
Vermont Senate passes, governor expected to sign, bill making pot legal for adults
January 8, 2018
Macy's announces 5,000 job cuts, 7 new store closures
January 5, 2018
Scott wants to attract more workers
January 5, 2018
Progressives renew push for $15 wage as heart of economic agenda
January 4, 2018
Johnson opens session with pitch to pull together on problems
January 2, 2018
Onion River staff not giving up
January 2, 2018
Vt. Lawmakers to talk pot promptly
January 2, 2018
SIAL Canada Launches U.S.-Hosted Buyer Program
January 1, 2018
VRGA Honors Members of 30+ Years
December 28, 2017
2017 business winners and losers
December 28, 2017
Big labor sees growth potential in California pot workers
December 27, 2017
Country Stores Provide Timeless Taste of Vermont
December 26, 2017
Finding new workers crucial to the economy
December 26, 2017
7-Eleven Tries Out Mobile Ordering and Delivery with New App
December 26, 2017
The Evolving Role of Store Associates in an Automated Retail World
December 26, 2017
Retailers Feel Shoppers’ Christmas Cheer
December 20, 2017
Northeast Kingdom Fund provides $63,000 in grants
December 20, 2017
City Market Donates Proceeds from 20th Annual Tree Sale
December 19, 2017
Up to $60,000 available through Local Food Market Development Grant program
December 13, 2017
USA News Group: Vermont likely to legalize pot in 2018
December 13, 2017
Community Bank donates $2,500 to Vermont Foodbank
December 13, 2017
MAKING THE CASE FOR RETAIL AS A CAREER
December 11, 2017
Benson Village Store has new owners
December 8, 2017
How Dollar General Became Rural America’s Store of Choice
December 7, 2017
Independent grocers still challenged after recession
December 4, 2017
Power of One: Brands Building From Focus on Single Ingredient
November 21, 2017
Development Corp. Helps With New Facility for LEDdynamics
November 21, 2017
FINDING PRACTICALITY IN SUSTAINABILITY
November 21, 2017
Vermont’s workforce dilemma
November 20, 2017
MORE THAN 164 MILLION CONSUMERS PLAN TO SHOP OVER THANKSGIVING WEEKEND AND CYBER MONDAY
November 20, 2017
10 RECOMMENDATIONS FOR RECRUITING, HIRING AND RETAINING MILITARY VETERANS
November 17, 2017
5 Ways to Market Your Business for the Holiday Season
November 15, 2017
Real von Trapps competing with modern Vermont hotels
November 15, 2017
Onion River Co-op Past and Present, and a Preview of the New Store
November 14, 2017
Can local businesses compete with Amazon?
November 14, 2017
City Market Opens South End Co-op
November 13, 2017
3SquaresVT Challenge Kicks Off
November 7, 2017
Gifford’s Strode Independent Living receives Efficiency Vermont cash incentive
November 2, 2017
What to expect from the revitalization of the Burlington Town Center
October 31, 2017
$1M to boost local businesses
October 25, 2017
New initiative links education and training to Vermont’s future workforce and economic needs
October 24, 2017
Amazon's Stealth Takeover of Vermont
October 24, 2017
C&S WHOLESALE GROCERS RESPONDS AFTER HURRICANE MARIA AND CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES
October 23, 2017
Governor Scott launches ThinkVermont to grow economy
October 23, 2017
The Place to Live, Work, and Shop
October 20, 2017
Vermont businesses credit 25 percent of sales to Amazon
October 19, 2017
Target comes to University Mall
October 19, 2017
City Market donates $30,000 to support the Vermont food system
October 18, 2017
Shelburne's Village Wine and Coffee to Expand
October 17, 2017
VERMONT AGENCY OF COMMERCE AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT RECEIVES $325,600 GRANT FOR SMALL BUSINESS EXPORTING
October 12, 2017
Governor calls for 'sense of urgency' for expanding Vermont’s workforce
October 11, 2017
Donovan: Protecting Vermonters after Equifax
October 6, 2017
Vermont ranks in top five for energy efficiency
October 6, 2017
What Section 179 Expensing Means for Your Business
October 5, 2017
Scott signs proclamation designating October as Employee Ownership Month
October 2, 2017
2017-2018 Windham Region CEDS Update
October 2, 2017
Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England closes on significant acquisition of new territory in Northeast
September 27, 2017
SNAP Is an Important Public-Private Partnership
September 22, 2017
Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets Announces Over $1M in Available Grant Funds
September 6, 2017
Amid federal uncertainty, state employer regulations on the rise
September 4, 2017
Stormwater permits could be costly for some
September 1, 2017
Chicago-area soda tax may carry political price for backers
August 8, 2017
Governor Announces Formation of Interagency Committee on Chemical Management
August 1, 2017
Washington Post: Sobering news for $15 minimum-wage boosters
August 1, 2017
Vermont Department of Taxes Launches a Listening Tour for Small Businesses
July 26, 2017
NYT: Who Wants to Run the Mom-and-Pop Market? Almost No One
July 25, 2017
Retailers Welcome Move Toward More Balanced Overtime Update
July 19, 2017
America’s Retail Champion of the Year
June 26, 2017
Harpoon releases 2017 PMC Beer
May 3, 2017
J. Polep Announces Their Recent Acquisition
March 13, 2017
11th Annual Vermont Organics Recycling Summit
February 14, 2017
PRESIDENT TRUMP SIGNS 1ST EXECUTIVE ORDER ON ACA
January 18, 2017
Vermont Health Connect Announces Key Dates for Open Enrollment
January 11, 2017
Retailers Say U.S. Supreme Court Should Rule in Favor of Free Speech on Credit Card Fees
December 22, 2016
BUSINESSES NEED TIME TO REGROUP
December 15, 2016
Internet-tax case could change online shopping
December 12, 2016
650 Grocery Bags of Healthy Food to Central Vermonters
December 9, 2016
Hunger Mountain Co-op's Annual Holiday Grocery Pack
December 5, 2016
Predicting Where Retailers Will Focus Their Energy in 2017
November 28, 2016
Retailers Made Black Friday Irresistible for Consumers with Great Deals, Online and In-Store
November 22, 2016
C&S Charities Donates 1.7 million to Pediatric Cancer and Childhood Hunger
November 21, 2016
5 Ways To Convert Holiday Shoppers Into Loyal Customers
November 18, 2016
137.4 Million Consumers Plan to Shop Thanksgiving Weekend
November 14, 2016
Mandatory Bag Reuse Program Huge Success at Vermont Specialty Food Market
November 9, 2016
Top 25 retail industry websites
November 2, 2016
NOVEMBER 2016 MEMBER SPOTLIGHT
October 21, 2016
Members Supporting Local Food Sales
October 4, 2016
National Retail Federation Forecasts Holiday Sales to Increase 3.6%
September 27, 2016
ImageTek Labels Expands Digital Printing Capabilities With Jetrion 4900M-330
September 23, 2016
Meat Grinding Record Keeping Requirement
September 22, 2016
Halloween Spending to Reach $8.4 Billion, Highest in Survey History
September 21, 2016
Farrell Distributing along with Leunig’s Bistro & 12 local restaurants to raise money for the UVMMC Breast Care Center
September 19, 2016
Dick Barnes Recognized for Long-term Service to Vermont
August 29, 2016
Survey Finds Seven in 10 Small Retailers ‘Overwhelmed’ By Government Regulations, Mandates
August 23, 2016
Cabot partnership to help Food, Farms & Forests Fund
August 11, 2016
Vermont will not enforce GE Food Labeling Law
August 2, 2016
Woodstock Farmers’ Market Gold Barn Honoree
July 26, 2016
National Retail Federation Upgrades 2016 Economic Forecast
July 21, 2016
Back-to-School and College Spending to Reach $75.8 Billion
July 1, 2016
NRF Welcomes Appeals Court Ruling Against Disputed Credit Card Swipe Fee Settlement
June 30, 2016
Vermont’s earned sick leave law
June 16, 2016
2016 Scholarship Recipients Named
June 15, 2016
City Market considers next phase of expansion
May 26, 2016
Congressman Welch Honored as NRF Legislator of the Year
May 25, 2016
NRF Recognizes Legislators of the Year
May 16, 2016
#ShopNaked at the Woodstock Farmers Market
May 13, 2016
Walmart suing Visa over chip card
May 11, 2016
From Seeds To Sweets, Small Businesses Are A Winning Formula In Lamoille County
May 11, 2016
City Market Job Opening - Director of Operations
May 5, 2016
Sherman and Trombley of Stowe Mercantile are VRGA Persons of the Year
April 27, 2016
Americans to Spoil Mom this Mother's Day
April 11, 2016
The House passes a resolution honoring Bethany Berger
April 4, 2016
A Hannaford Supermarkets program surpasses 2 significant milestones
March 30, 2016
A Vanilla shortage?
March 18, 2016
Vermont Pickle on Local 22 & Local 44
March 10, 2016
Best Bagger 2016
March 7, 2016
Onion River Co-op partners with Mansfield Cooperative to save Underhill Country Store
March 7, 2016
14 Vermont businesses receive $14,000 to attend national trade shows
March 1, 2016
Bethany Berger takes home 2nd place!
February 26, 2016
Only ONE booth left!
December 4, 2015
It's Scholarship Time!
October 6, 2015
Gubernatorial Candidates to Judge Vermont Bagging Championship
July 22, 2015
Three Vermont Businesses named America’s Retail Champions
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Vermont Retail & Grocers Association
963 Paine Turnpike North
Berlin, VT 05602

Telephone: 802-839-1928
Fax: 802-839-1927
Email: info@vtrga.org