In what may be an encouraging trend, March data released today show that the number of working Vermonters, including those who are self-employed, increased for the sixth consecutive month. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent, a low not seen since 2005. At the same time, Vermont private sector employers reported 800 new non-farm payroll jobs, seasonally adjusted.
By LARRY MANDELL, VTDigger.org, April 17, 2014
“Inequality for All,” the documentary featuring former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, makes one major point: Income disparity between those at the top and everyone else is killing the middle class. If you’re thinking, “Oh, that’s a problem in the rest of the country, not in Vermont,” think again.
I saw the film at the Savoy Theater in Montpelier last week with a group of about 50 others, many of them legislators. Public Assets Institute, of whose board I am the chair, was one of the sponsors of this screening.
As with the governor’s proposed budget, the fiscal 2015 appropriations bill approved by the Vermont House concentrates nearly all spending increases in the Agency of Human Services, education, and the state’s transportation system. The House voted for appropriations totaling $5.59 billion for next year.
Gov. Peter Shumlin pointed to enrollment recently as the education funding problem Vermont faces. “We’re spending too much money for the number of kids we have,” the governor said on Vermont Public Radio.
Policy makers in Montpelier have struggled for years with the decline in the state’s school-age population. But so far all of the solutions have focused on one side of the equation: spending. School consolidation, penalties for districts with above-average budget increases, and tweaking tax rates are all attempts to adjust funding to a shrinking number of children.
In the depths of the recession, Vermont unemployment peaked at 26,200. Since that point, in May 2009, it has steadily declined; by February 2014, more than 13,000 Vermonters had left the unemployment lines. Not all of those people found work, however. Between May 2009 and February 2014, employment in Vermont rose by just 2,750.
MONTPELIER, VT — Public Assets Institute staff, board and strategic partners gathered in the Vermont state house Thursday to launch the group’s second decade campaign: for a Vermont that works for all.
The group celebrated the achievements of its first ten years and recommitted to developing policy proposals for a Vermont that works for all.