All five Democratic candidates have issued economic development packages that come in slightly different wrappings, with different names. Matt Dunne gave us “The Innovation State,” Deb Markowitz is pitching “JumpstartVT,” Peter Shumlin has a “Vision for Vermont,” Susan Bartlett is offering “A Realistic Jobs Plan for Vermont,” and Doug Racine issued “Revitalizing our Economy.”
The plans range in length from three pages (Bartlett’s) to 27 pages (Shumlin’s). Bartlett’s proposal is the only one of the five that is focused solely on job creation initiatives. All of the rest read like soup-to-nuts campaign platforms. Just about every key area of policy — health care, education, broadband, energy and tax policy — is swept into the economic development basket.
And then there’s the other key question: How do you pay for all these initiatives? With the exception of Dunne’s plan to use revenue bonds to pay for broadband expansion and Bartlett’s proposal to borrow $15 million over two years for affordable housing investments (also banking on the state’s bonding capacity), the candidates propose paying for many of the new initiatives with money from old programs.
Because there is some crossover between candidates, we’ve grouped elements of the plans in same and different (“outlier ideas”) categories. We’ve tried to sum up each of the ideas in a paragraph. For readers who want to know more, we’ve included links to the campaign plans and reports from Vtdigger.org, the Burlington Free Press and the Vermont Press Bureau.
Bartlett wants to free up more capital for small businesses by encouraging the Vermont Economic Development Authority to work with local banks to create a lending program for new enterprises. Bartlett also proposes the creation of an Office of Innovation and Intellectual Property for entrepreneurs who need investors and technical and business support. She wants to invest $60 million a year in affordable housing projects to help lift the hard-hit construction trades out of the doldrums.
Dunne points to four types of economic engines that the state needs to encourage in order to develop its economy in the competitive global business environment: new enterprises that will mature and eventually be bought out by bigger companies; the creative economy; tourism based on outdoor recreation; and “slow money” businesses, such as agriculture and food. His plan includes micro-loan programs for new businesses, service scholarships for college students and job training programs in information technology and “next generation” agriculture.
Markowitz wants to “end relationships” with banks that profit from state investments, but refuse to lend money to Vermont businesses; create a tax credit program for businesses that don’t qualify for the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive program; and create tax incentives for Vermonters who want to save to start a business.
Racine is proposing a state property tax credit for new construction that is LEED certified (an internationally recognized green building certification system) or any existing building retrofitted to conform to LEED standards. He is also promoting a permit ombudsmen concept – a single point of contact in each region for businesses that are in the process of obtaining permits.
Shumlin wants to reform the tax system, ensuring that the 1 percent of Vermonters who pay 25 percent of the state’s taxes don’t leave the state. He says he plans to “tweak” the state’s reliance on “primary revenue generators,” i.e., the sales and income tax structure, to encourage economic growth.
On the same page
Bartlett, Shumlin, Dunne and Racine say they want to simplify and consolidate what they say is a cumbersome local and state permit process for businesses.
Markowitz, Shumlin and Racine have cited pre-kindergarten education in their economic development plans as long-term investments.
Same general concept, with a twist
Small business support
Racine would create a revolving loan fund for businesses and encourage community-supported and employee-owned businesses.
Dunne proposes a tax incentive for investors who help to capitalize Vermont companies.
Markowitz supports existing programs such as SCORE, Vermont Small Business Development Centers, micro-lending and the value-added and seal of quality product promotion.
Shumlin and Dunne both propose expanding the Seed Capital Fund.
Reorganization of the Agency of Commerce and Community Development
Bartlett wants to reallocate funding from ACCD to regional economic development corporations, regional planning commissions and other programs. “These dollars need to be at work in the field, not Montpelier.”
Dunne doesn’t address the agency role directly; he focuses on a comprehensive business plan for the state.
Markowitz is proposing an integrated marketing plan coordinated with trade associations.
Racine wants to build an economic development team that cuts across state government, reinstate the ACCD advisory committee and the Jobs Cabinet.
Shumlin is promoting a new marketing plan for Vermont that would include an online help-wanted list for college graduates and a statewide ad messaging campaign that could be adapted for regional businesses.
Health care as an economic development driver
Matt Dunne sees health care costs as a burden for businesses. He wants the state to adopt a self-insurance plan for all Vermonters that would be modeled after programs set up for large corporations that use a single health insurance company. He would redesign the reimbursement system so that doctors are rewarded for care instead of fees for service. He says this new system will cut health care costs for businesses and individuals and stimulate entrepreneurship in the state.
Deb Markowitz says unless the state comes to grips with health care costs, they will stand in the way of “our economic prosperity.” She is a proponent of some of the state’s existing initiatives, including the Blueprint for Health and Catamount Health. Markowitz wants to create a self-insurance program for Vermont, introduce standardized billing and build on state health care reform programs. Markowitz supports the health care exchanges created under the federal Affordable Care Act, which will operate like a public option, giving patients a choice of plans and payment options.
Peter Shumlin says health care costs are crippling the state’s economy. He wants to adopt a Medicare-style, single-payer health care system that would be administered by the state. He cites a study that estimates the administrative savings would be about 5 percent, or between $250 million and $500 million. He wants to create a swipe card with medical records and electronic payment information for every Vermonter.