Remarks from 3/9/2016
Thank you. It’s great to be here.
As it should be, this election is about the economy — and building a prosperous Vermont for our children.
Vermonters expect – and deserve – a renewed focus on making Vermont affordable, growing the economy and keeping and creating jobs….Economic development and workforce training starts from day one — an investment in our children is an investment in our future.
-This is something I have been talking about for the last 5 years – and the lack of progress in this area is the reason I am running for governor.
My goal (and probably the goal of everyone on the stage and in this room) is: We want every child to succeed. As you may know…I’m a contractor. I know the value of a solid, well-built foundation. Programs and services in those early years of life are critical to making sure our children can succeed as adults and provide the skills our economy needs…a strong workforce equals a strong economy.
This is an area where we find a lot of agreement. It takes a village to raise a child…you’ve heard the often-used cliche, but it’s so true! We all have a stake in how our children are taught and raised.
I’m someone who learns through listening and physically doing things with my hands…I think the technical terms are “auditory learner” and “hands-on learner.” I like to build things. I can figure something out through trial and error…like most males, I don’t like reading a manual…or a map. Others are the opposite.
The point is that every child is different…but every child deserves to have the same opportunities.
I remember being a kid in Barre. My dad worked in trucking for the state and my mom stayed at home with my two brothers and me. We weren’t rich. We were comfortable. It was great! We had a lot of family around…and a lot of friends and neighbors.
For example, I got my start racing with wooden buggies with my friends down the hill in Barre, and the neighbors would stand at every intersection to make sure we could race down safely.
Unfortunately when I was 11 my father died from injuries he sustained in World War II. But we had a big family…aunts, uncles, cousins…who rallied around us and helped my mother raise my two brothers and me…so my Mom could go to work.
There’s a reason why they say it takes a village to raise a child…because it DOES. But the shape of our villages has changed.
It was different raising my children…
** Talk about how Erica and Rachel (childcare)
And as I said, I learn a lot through listening…
• I talk with Vermonters every single day …. and many are struggling to make ends meet …… one family in the Northeast Kingdom …two working parents and one toddler… told me about the challenges they face in that rural part of our state. The mother said the choices for care in her area were slim. She said there are a handful of home providers, a lot of them first year childcare givers… trying to make a living by staying home with their children… and one licensed facility, which has been known for high staff and child turnover. This family worries every single day about the quality of care their child is receiving. But they can’t afford to have one of them stay at home… so they chose to send their child to the licensed facility which costs over $700 a month, more than their monthly mortgage and electricity combined. The mothers point to me was… if the childcare facility was top quality and her son was receiving the best care and education, she was “ok” with that payment. But the fact of the matter is, it’s not the quality care that they had hoped for their hard-earned $700 a month. Luckily for that family, they can afford to pay that tuition.
But that’s not the case for 90% of the families who need childcare. 90% of the families need subsidies in order to afford it. We’ve all probably seen in the news that Governor Shumlin’s FY’17 budget does not include more money for the child care financial assistance program. That program provides some degree of financial support for child care for 8,500 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 13 years. If in fact DCF needs to resort to a waiting list for these benefits it would be detrimental to the families the child care facilities…and most importantly, the children!
Ruby K Payne, PHD, has demonstrated the need to provide models that enable upward mobility in her books. We need to teach kids the social component and it starts early. As governor, my main focus will be growing Vermont’s economy…and that means giving EVERYONE, from children to adults, the tools they need to succeed. Luckily, we already have some of those tools in our tool chest.
• The family from the Northeast Kingdom is just one example… but after talking and hearing from many families, there is a common theme:
-Childcare is expensive
-In many cases the quality of care is simply not available
-Classrooms or home providers are not at full capacity which drives up costs for families
-Many facilities don’t have pre-school licenses AND
-The daycare facilities can’t afford to hire and retain quality, licensed professionals.
There is no doubt that there is a childcare shortage in Vermont. I believe there are a few reasons for that…and to begin to address these issues….we need to understand our demographic problem here in the state.
1) There are fewer children. We’re educating 20,000 fewer kids in our schools than we were 20 years ago. So it’s harder for childcare providers to enroll enough kids to get by and keep their businesses open.
2) We’re facing a crisis of affordability…which means fewer parents are able to stay at home with their kids. In two-parent households, it’s very likely that both parents have to work. In single-parent households, that challenge is doubled. And it’s not just the parents…it’s the child care providers who struggle with property taxes, utility bills, fees and health care.
3) Our population is stagnant…and aging. From 2000 – 2010 the number of Vermonters in the 25-45 age group decreased by 30,000. That’s the working class….the folks who buy homes…have families…put kids in school & childcare…pay taxes…and we now have 30,000 fewer of them. Some families are fortunate enough to have the wide – but local – family network I grew up with who can help. But many don’t have any help nearby.
• I do however, think there is a way to organically take corrective action.But in order to do that we first have to make Vermont affordable again.
• We need to reverse that trend and find meaningful ways to encourage growth of that 25-45 age group.
We need to look at targeted investments like tax incentives and policies that give Vermont a competitive edge in recruiting young talent… and we need to streamline the process for building housing that is truly affordable for young professionals and working families.
• 2nd… When we budget, we need to prioritize investments in pro-growth areas like early education, job-training, higher education…and technical Education.
I’m sure you all have seen the news about the $20 million in surplus education funds.
I want to first say… be wary of those who will promise the sun, moon & stars. Having said that… I do think it makes sense to reinvest savings into programs that work.
I also believe there are other ways to find savings, it doesn’t necessarily mean cuts all the time. Savings can be achieved by thorough review of programs. Again, it’s about leadership and direction. But more importantly, let’s make sure our most vulnerable are receiving the benefits and those who can and should transition, are receiving our help and guidance to do so.
To directly answer the question about whether to spend scarce resources on existing programs proven to be successful or on new ones. Here’s my answer:
In a Scott Administration we will not create or introduce new programs until the ones we have, especially the successful programs that protect our youth and most vulnerable, are fully funded.
In addition to that… in a Scott Administration we will prioritize programs like Dr. Dynasaur. There are functions of state government that are absolutely essential, like Dr. Dynasaur, but there are others areas of state government that are about wants. It’s essential we distinguish those wants and needs and prioritize. We don’t always have to reinvent the wheel — we need to reduce duplication in departments and agencies — we’re a small state and can streamline in a way that saves money and invests in the right places (our kids!)
The answers are simple and literally at our fingertips. We just all need to agree on the mission…which I believe is growing the economy… Here are few other things I think we need to do:
1) Make sure our state budget is one that all Vermonters can afford. We cannot spend more than we’re bringing in. Our economy will never grow if we keep taxing businesses — like our daycares and childcare providers — and individuals — like all of us in this room — to pay for overspending. We must spend wisely, which brings me to point number 2:
2) Set priorities and invest in pro-growth areas. Early ed, higher ed, tech ed, and job training. Act 166, 62 and 132 are huge steps in the right direction. We all know that investing in our youth will set a more successful path for them. Remember — even the most beautiful home will crumble without a solid foundation.
3) Education reform: Always keeping in mind it’s about both cost and quality. Structural reform has to happen. It’s a difficult discussion, but we have to have it. If we don’t, we’ll have to continue to accept rising taxes or compromises in the quality of our children’s education. And I’m not willing to settle for either. We need to encourage more innovation in education. Flexible and individual learning plans, sharing resources, and making better use of technology can help us achieve efficiencies and increase academic opportunities for all students, no matter the learning style. We need to improve Act 46… local control and school choice must be preserved…and consolidation savings should be returned to communities, not Montpelier.
4) State government culture change. In a Scott Administration we will take leadership and management positions seriously. We will empower our state workers, find efficiencies and become partners instead of adversaries to businesses and all Vermonters. We’ll utilize the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. I’ve used this my whole life…
• If we do these things, everyone will prosper. Families will feel more secure with their pocket books, businesses (including our child care providers) will thrive, we will attract businesses and working families to our state… relieving the pressure and burden on us all… our economy will become vibrant.
• If we’re clear about our goals and what we want to achieve, I know we can make Vermont the best state in the nation to run a small business, raise a family and educate our children… That will be my goal as governor.
• I’ve made it a practice in both my political and personal life to treat others the way I expect to be treated…with respect and civility — this is another area where Vermont’s leadership can benefit our country.
• And that’s what I’d like to end on… the importance of leadership.
• There will be some difficult decisions regardless of who is elected… but it’s essential that that we restore the faith and trust that Vermonters used to have in government. We MUST tell the truth; don’t overpromise and always follow through….
• Because in the long run …. with the proper leadership and team chemistry the opportunities are limitless.
• If you give me the opportunity to serve you as Vermont’s next governor…. I will not let you down.