While playing politics is certainly not unusual among leaders under the Golden Dome, last week’s particular effort at political opportunism came as a bit of a surprise to many.

 

We are all acutely aware, as it has been well-documented for several years, that Vermont has a significant challenge with regard to our demographics.  As one of the grayest states in the country and one with one of the lowest birth rates, the Vermont workforce is inevitably decreasing.  As a result, many of us are laser focused on trying to reverse that trend.

 

For some reason, however, last week the President Pro Tem of the Senate, Tim Ashe (D-Chittenden), tried to claim that Governor Phil Scott’s oft-repeated emphasis of this challenge is “just not true.”

 

 

As background, since his Inauguration in January 2017, Governor Scott has spoken about the three numbers that keep him up at night: 6-3-1.

  • 6 = From April 2009 through the day he took office, Vermont had, on average, 6 fewer workers in the labor force each day
  • 3 = From 1997 through the day he took office, on average, 3 fewer students are enrolled in our K-12 schools every day
  • 1 = On average, we have nearly 1 baby born every day exposed to addiction

Last week, Senator Ashe tried to argue that the number used to illustrate our workforce trend of decline was not accurate.  In doing so, his argument was that from January 2016 to December 2017, the workforce grew by an average of 2.3 workers per day.

While this is, indeed, true, in my view, it is completely misleading when documenting a trend, as it is an incredibly small timeframe to use.

As the Governor himself noted, "Cherry picking from a small window to deny the demographic crisis we're seeing is like claiming that a few subzero days in January indicate climate change isn't real (which we know is not accurate) because it's a deliberately imprecise way to try to obscure a clear trend."

In fact, according to the Vermont Department of Labor, over the last three years, our labor force decreased by 1,200 workers; and over the last five years it decreased by 7,000.  Even more illustrative of the trend, since April 2009, our labor force has decreased by 15,450. 

Finally, Pew Charitable Trust indicates in its recent study that by 2040, Vermont’s working age population is expected to decline by over 10%.

These numbers illustrate the challenge.  These numbers are the trend about which we all must agree and we all must understand.  And, most importantly, this trend is the challenge on which we must have a laser focus to address.  Rest assured, I will do all can to ensure we come together to do just that.