May 28, 2015

I am pleased to report that we concluded the session with a sound economic development bill.  While not a comprehensive, long-term strategy for economic growth, the bill includes several provisions that will, indeed, move the economic dial here in Vermont. 

1) Necessary changes to the Vermont Economic Growth Incentive to ensure more Vermont companies are able to take advantage of this program that has more than proved its worth in helping to create jobs;

2) The elimination of the sales tax on prewritten software accessed remotely (cloud tax);

3) A first-time homebuyer down payment assistance program to help young professionals around the state into home ownership through the creation of a revolving loan fund;

4) An economic development branding and marketing initiative to complement and supplement our tourism marketing efforts - including a $200,000 appropriation to create and implement it; 

5) A Vermont-Quebec Enterprise Initiative to recruit and expand into Vermont Canadian businesses interested in a US location - including a $100,000 appropriation to fund the program; and

6) An increase in our Licensed Lender limit from $75,000 to $250,000.

Last year, my former colleague, Democrat Paul Ralston, and I joined together to found a bipartisan political organization focused on electing candidates to the legislature who shared our desire to focus on growing our state's economy.

We then joined Lt. Governor Phil Scott is hosting the first ever "Economy Pitch - Priority One on Day One," on the first day of the legislative session.

As a result of these efforts, it was evident that the debate shifted and attitudes changed a bit this year.

For the first time in recent memory, people from all sides of the political spectrum were discussing ways to grow our economy.  While there continued to be battles over legislation that would put additional burdens onto our small businesses and prevent growth, there was also recognition that the private sector needed our support as well.  And, the economic development bill was a way to do just that.

As I have said many times, this is not a monumental, overarching change in our economic development strategy, but the proposals included are good, sound ones, both in terms of public policy and fiscal policy.  They are modest investments in proven economic growth strategies that will undoubtedly help our state's small businesses and entrepreneurs.