An Economy that Works for all Vermonters and all of Vermont begins with Economic Justice

Growing a robust economy that increases job opportunities for all, and making Vermont hospitable for new businesses are vital parts of what we must do, to be sure. But concurrent with jobs creation, we must fix the inequities that threaten the middle class and keep people impoverished.  In order to have economic development we must also have economic justice:

  • Raise the minimum wage to a living wage of $15 per hour

  • Enact equal pay for equal work and close the gender wage gap

  • Pass a paid family leave bill, so Vermonters are not faced with losing a job to care for a newborn or loved one

  • Deliver high speed internet to all Vermont communities, because the world runs on the internet and Vermont must have it to compete

  • Get caught up on investments in affordable housing so that families and older Vermonters aren’t continually priced out of their homes

Economic Justice starts at the State House

As governor, I will lead the way to correct the economic inequities that are eroding the middle class and driving more and more of our people into poverty.

Raise the minimum wage: No amount of hard work can magically turn $7.25/hour into a living wage.  It’s no wonder so many families are overwhelmed, even when working two or more jobs. Vermont cannot wait for the U.S. Congress to act. We must lead the way for the country, as we have done so many times before, and do what is right.  I will work with the legislature to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, and get us on track for $15 per hour.

End pay discrimination against women – pass equal pay for equal work:  More than half our population is women, two thirds of Vermont’s women work, and 25,000 of them are head of household.  While census data shows we’ve made a little progress in the last decade – women now earn 86% of what men do, compared to 77% ten years ago – it’s not enough. Not by a long shot. Pay equality in Vermont is a moral issue, as well as an economic one. As governor, I will end the entrenched discrimination against women and deliver pay equality.

Affordable daycare: without it, we deny women opportunity: When women and families struggle to find affordable daycare, Vermont pays the price in work and family disruption, lost productivity, and diminished family resources – which in turn hurts our economy. I will increase the pay threshold for childcare subsidies so more women and families are eligible. And I will end the income cliff that currently disqualifies women and families that exceed the pay threshold by even $1. I will also appoint a taskforce to study the development of a statewide network of daycare facilities, funded with a combination of state, federal and private investing.  

Paid family medical leave:  Many Vermont women fall below the poverty threshold when they lose a job after the birth of a child. We must end this insidious form of gender discrimination by passing a paid family leave law to guarantee paid time off for the birth of a child or care of an elder parent or family member.  As governor, I will make sure no Vermonter ever again has to face the impossible choice of holding onto a job or caring for a loved one.

High speed internet – we cannot miss out on the electricity of our age

I spent eight years at Google, working from the top floor of an old bread factory right here in White River Junction, to manage the roll-out of high speed internet to underserved rural and urban communities all across this country. As governor, I will deliver high speed internet to every community in Vermont.  It’s been promised by every sitting governor of the last decade, but never done. We can wait no longer. The world works on the internet. It is an essential infrastructure for businesses to operate, entrepreneurs to innovate, and for our children to participate in the modern era – not to mention do their homework at night. And it’s essential for displaced workers and workers in transition to find new work and new opportunities.

When I served in the Senate ten years ago, I wrote legislation that paved the way for internet providers to deliver connectivity to Vermont, helping transition us away from old-fashioned telephone dial-up service. Now we must advance again, and replace outmoded radio tower and satellite coverage – which is slow, of limited capacity, and constantly subject to weather interruptions – with fast, reliable high-speed fiber optic cable.

Businesses that are online grow 40% faster than those that are not (BCG Report, The Connected World: The $4.2 Trillion Opportunity, March 2012). Yet only about half of Vermont businesses are online. I will lead an initiative to bring all Vermont businesses online, which will increase revenue across the state.

Further, while at Google, I encountered new technology that is faster and less expensive to install. We’re perfectly poised to use it here in Vermont.

Half a century ago, Victory, Vermont was the last town in the U.S. to get electricity in 1964. The same cannot be allowed to happen with broadband. I will not let Vermont be left in the dark again.

Economic justice and empowering people out of poverty: it’s the right thing to do, and it’s also good business

When we allow Vermonters to slip into poverty, we are wasting our greatest resource – our people.  When I was appointed by President Clinton to run Americorps*VISTA, the 6,000 person federal anti-poverty program, I implemented job training and micro-lending programs that made a profound impact in impoverished communities all across the country.  I will do the same here in Vermont. Traditional bank loans are often unattainable for low-income people, yet studies show that micro-lending has among the lowest default rates of any loans.  When new businesses develop organically, by the people and for the people who actually live in our communities, they have a ripple effect. I’ve seen it happen in my home base at White River Junction, which 20 years ago was a rundown former rail hub. Like so many of our downtowns, it was full of potential, awaiting rebirth.

We must strengthen incentives to invest in affordable housing for our young people and elders

As we revitalize our downtowns, we need to increase affordable housing to retain our young people and offer alternatives to our elders. Research indicates that young people prefer urban environments with amenities in walking distance, so they can work and shop without a car.  Similarly, baby boomers in their retirement years increasingly seek the same thing – freedom from the upkeep of a house and yard, and easy access to health care, libraries and amenities.

We can expand housing options for both groups concurrently, attracting investors and developers through Low Income Housing Tax Credits and other tax incentives, while using the transfer tax to fully fund the Vermont House Conservation Fund. As governor, I would also streamline the permitting process to make financing and building faster and more efficient for investors.

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