Governor Scott kicked off the Legislative session by congratulating Vermonters on their ability to “turn catastrophe into opportunity” in the face of the flooding this past year. He quoted Calvin Coolidge, saying that “the indomitable courage of Vermonters is stronger than ever.”
He called on Legislators to rise above the polarization of our political polarization. The problems the state was facing, he said, were clear. Since 2010, there are 14k fewer kids in our schools, 28k fewer adults age 40-54, and 48k more over the age 65 since 2010.
“Public safety, affordability, and housing are urgent, immediate, and we must address them this session,” he said. “Many see the Vermont we know slipping away” because of rising crime rates. He warned that when repeat offenders are allowed to go free, people start questioning our public institutions.
NOTE: These three issues align with what our November poll found that Vermonters were most concerned about.
He continued on to say that “our crisis of affordability is making it difficult to address public safety as well as other areas like education and health care.” Saying that the 2024 budget was “sobering” he told legislators that his budget would only have a 3% increase. He noted that seniors on social security were only getting a 3.2% increase from the federal government.
“What I hear from Vermonters every day is that they can’t afford to pay more, or even what they are paying, so this year let’s do what’s best for them,” he stated. For 2024, we are looking at a $250M dollar increase in property taxes. This would mean $1k in added tax burden for a family in a $400k house.
According to Scott, to meet current demand and put downward pressure on housing pricing, 6600 units of housing would need to be constructed. The average price of housing units the state is investing in is around $450k per unit. He argued that we need to reform Act 250 in order to bring the cost of housing down and increase the availability of housing stock. Builders have claimed that as much as 25% of the cost of construction is tied up in the permitting process. “If nothing changes, things will continue to get worse,” he warned.
Scott still sees “a path where we can reverse our downward trends… We need to do more of what’s working and be honest about what’s not.” That last comment seemed somewhat pointed at the Legislature.
Speaking to Vermonters, he said “if [an issue] matters to you, now is the time to step up.”