Difficult Economic Times
Vermont is facing a historic budget deficit. Families, businesses, and individual Vermonters are struggling to make ends meet. At a time when government services and investments are needed more than ever, the decisions being made in Montpelier are making needed services less available. This is the wrong path for our state. It is time for hard choices that are realistic about what needs to be done to move our state forward and out of the difficult budget situation we face.
Vermont's economy must be strengthened and diversified for the long term. And we must not forget that Vermonters are not just taxpayers -- they also depend on the state for a wide range of services. An economy like this means difficult choices and shared sacrifices. We must have an honest and open conversation about our budgetary choices and their implications.
We Are All In This Together
During my years in the State House, I have seen many examples of creative ways to balance the need to support services and cut spending. Faced with a similar budget crisis in 1991, Governor Snelling, myself (as leader of the Senate), and then Speaker Ralph Wright, developed a plan to spread the pain of the recession evenly through a roughly equal balance of temporary tax increases and budget reductions. In contrast to the slash-and-burn approach exercised by Governor Douglas, we acknowledged that balancing the budget through spending cuts alone places the entire burden of the crisis on those receiving government services. Under Governor Snelling's approach, Vermonters faced temporarily higher taxes. Our neediest neighbors were protected, state services we all depended on were maintained, and the state continued to invest in our economic future.
Everyone contributed to the solution.
The promise of the tax increase being temporary was kept. Vermonters facing the temporary increase did not leave the state. In time, our economy recovered and expanded. The situation today calls for the same combination of realism and optimism, and for leaders who champion the principle of shared sacrifice producing shared rewards. I am willing to be one of these champions, and as Governor, I will ask all Vermonters to pitch in and move us toward a brighter future.
A Bright Future
I am confident that, if we take this balanced approach, Vermont will emerge from this recession with an economy that is ready to expand. We must not let the politically-motivated, anti-government agenda of Reagan, Bush, and Douglas control us -- especially when all the facts tell us that their fear-based message is not true. Seeking to increase revenues in times of recession makes sense, especially when you consider the impact on Vermonters of cuts that go beyond the fat to the muscle and bone. Relying on budget cuts alone will leave us weaker in the years to come as the nation emerges from this recession.
Economic development in our state can and must rely on the true economic engine of our state's economy -- small businesses. Whether they focus on the emerging "green" technologies, other high-tech areas, or new areas of agricultural and food processing, we must support these businesses by ensuring we have a strong state infrastructure, a high-quality educational system and well-trained workers. By supporting these kinds of businesses, we will create even more opportunities for all Vermonters.
If we are honest and straightforward about the challenges we face, and if we are creative and forward thinking in our solutions, Vermont's economy can survive this budget crisis and thrive in the new century. I am ready to provide the leadership we need to find realistic, optimistic solutions to lead our state forward.