Community Forum: Government needs to revive economy

This week’s writer is Bruce Lisman, a resident of Shelburne and the founder of Campaign for Vermont.
I believe that economic growth and shared prosperity is the best way forward for Vermonters. A dynamic and broad-based economy offers a cure for issues of poverty, hunger and upward mobility. It can provide the resources to protect and enhance our environment and improve our infrastructure. Vermont can be an economic powerhouse of its own definition.
Vermont’s economy is stagnant. The demographics of our state are broadly known and are negative. Those demographics have already impacted our public education system, our state college system, our work force, and the half of our counties experiencing population declines. It isn’t pretty and can get worse unless we do things differently.
History doesn’t have to be a guide to the future and in America, solutions often come on the heels of creativity and innovation. That isn’t usually a government’s domain, but it sure can work hard to create conditions that encourage innovation and growth.
Campaign for Vermont issued a strategic plan that offers essential building blocks for a renewed economy. It’s comprehensive and takes the long view and requires hard work and human-sized solutions for human-sized problems. This would include:
•  A competent, transparent and accountable government — one that is in a continual state of improvement.
•  A strategic plan that highlights goals and steps to reach those goals with an accompanying strategic budget that would define the cost of achieving those goals.
•  Budget growth that more closely relates to available resources, making policy decisions more predictable.  
•  Reform of our education system — of quality, governance and funding.
•  The inclusion of affordability as an essential theme in state governance.
With a “platform for growth” in place, there is significantly greater leverage for economic renewal strategies, which would include:
•  Building a broad-based and lasting coalition in support of a more dynamic economy and shared prosperity.
•  Bringing coherence, efficiency, simplicity and funding for economic development agencies.
•  Building a calling effort on our largest employers that will illuminate their needs and wants while building strong relationships.
•  Reimagining the importance of our considerable number of small businesses, and create a better understanding of who they are and how we can truly help them.
•  Training, improving and enlarging our workforce — it’s the true lynchpin of shared prosperity.
•  Broadening the definition of manufacturing, provide a broader array of support for those that make things here, and become the state of “efficient manufacturing.”
•  Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and eliminating the benefit cliffs, and thereby providing true economic resources for working class Vermonters — Presidents Obama and Reagan have endorsed this program’s value.
•  Redefining the value of our extensive higher education industry and focus on retaining the 43,000 students who annually attend our colleges.
•  Better connecting the links between ideas to patents and patents to revenue and revenue to jobs.
Vermont can do better. Vermonters deserve better. Vermont will do better if we coalesce around the need for economic renewal and share prosperity.

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