It was an honor to be in the statehouse on Thursday to see the Governor’s State of the State address.
To me it was Governor Shumlin at his best: funny, policy-focused and bold. He talked about economic development successes and recognized the contributions of all sectors, from renewable energy to beer! The recognition of Vermonters in the audience grounded the speech and I was particularly moved by the bravery of the Vermonters who are working hard every day to overcome their addiction to heroin and stood before the general assembly to be recognized.
On the policy front, five policy initiatives stood out:
- Eliminating the double property tax caps in Act 46 - Eliminating these is an important step that will allow the positive aspects of Act 46 to work effectively. By removing these caps we will avoid punishing the taxpayers particularly in many of our poorer districts.
- Restrictions on distribution of opiate pharmaceuticals - I am glad to see a proposal to address this component of the opiate addiction crisis. Vermont must take a comprehensive approach to this health epidemic.
- Divestment from coal companies - This investment approach is long overdue and I agree with the Governor that using the California model is the right approach.
- Responsible legalization of marijuana - I appreciate the Governor’s emphasis on proceeding responsibly as we work towards the legalization of marijuana in Vermont. As the parent of three young children, I completely agree with restricting edibles and using the revenue to focus on enforcement and prevention for minors.
- Providing a clear path for more Vermonters to pursue higher education - With a declining number of high school seniors, we need to make every effort to allow our young people to continue on to higher education without crushing debt.
These initiatives are the right choices for our state in the coming year and I applaud the Governor’s leadership in each of these areas.
However, as my friends in the legislature know, the rubber meets the road in the budget. The Governor’s budget address next week will likely be as sobering as this one was upbeat. I am hopeful that even in these difficult times, it will be one that is both strategic, responsible and reflects our values as Vermonters.
My focus, however, is beyond the next session. I’m sure the Governor would agree there is more work to be done to create a sustainable state and an economy that works for all Vermonters and all of Vermont.