Vermont’s Political Elite Ignore the Struggles of Working Vermonters

Montpelier, VT – In a statement released on Tuesday, Vermont Republicans pledged that with the support of voters in November, they would propose and pass legislation that “… focused on supporting small businesses, creating more and better paying Vermont jobs, making Vermont more affordable, and reducing the property tax burden.” (VT Republicans Comment on State’s Failing Grade for Small Business Friendliness, June 8, 2014).

This statement was issued in reaction to a report by highly respected national magazine The Economist which ranked Vermont among 5 states receiving a grade of ‘F’ for their small business friendliness (Red Tape Blues, The Economist, July 5, 2014). The study was based on interviews with thousands of business owners nationwide — including in Vermont — and ranked states based on their tax codes, regulatory burden, and professional licensing mandates.

In statements reported by The Burlington Free Press (Terri Hallenbeck, An F for Business Friendliness?, The Burlington Free Press, July 9, 2014), Vermont Democrats denied there were any problems with Vermont’s clearly stagnant economy, shrinking workforce, lack of job growth, or affordability for Vermonters.

Given the opportunity to respond to the Vermont Republicans’ statements, Vermont Democratic Party Executive Director Julia Barnes refused to even acknowledge — in any way at all — the concerns of our state’s struggling small businesses highlighted in the independent and non-partisan report. Instead, she once again focused on the narrowly defined and largely misleading state unemployment percentage.

Likewise, Governor Shumlin’s economic development commissioner, Lisa Gosseling (Governor Shumlin did not personally address the study or the statement by the Vermont GOP) also did not acknowledge the problems with Vermont’s small business climate detailed in the independent report. Instead, she chose to attack the validity of the information provided by Vermont small business owners and operators themselves.

The first step in solving a problem is recognizing and accurately defining the problem itself.

It is quite clear that Governor Shumlin and the Vermont Democrats have not yet realized the depth and severity of the crisis their stagnant economy has caused. Their response verifies the worst case scenario — Vermont’s political elite are completely out of touch with the struggles of working families.

Denying clear and independently reported facts prevents them from providing the creative economic leadership and problem solving that Vermonters need and deserve.

To show our commitment to addressing the economic facts and give voice to the working families who are being left behind in this economy, Vermont Republican Chair David Sunderland is extending an invitation to Vermont Democrat Chair Dottie Deans to debate Vermont’s economic crisis head-to-head in a neutral forum moderated by a member, or members, of the Vermont Press Association.

This dialogue would give Vermonters the opportunity to hear Chairwoman Deans explain why denying Vermont’s economic challenges — and the challenges of working families — is their preferred strategy.

The discussion would also allow both the opportunity to explain their ideas for restoring meaningful, long-term economic growth and opportunities in our state; as well as their plans for resolving our state’s deepening crisis of affordability.

Sunderland further proposes that donations be encouraged at the door of the public event and the proceeds be donated to Vermont’s Low Income Heating Energy Assistance Program and the Vermont Foodbank — organizations that have seen demand for services continue to grow in the last four years.


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