VEGI: A step in the wrong direction

Sometime this week, the state senate will take up S.138, an economic development bill that includes a taxpayer-funded incentive for businesses to create crappy jobs.

Tough assessment? I don’t think so. The bill allows employers to pay its workers less and still qualify for state job-creation incentives. Currently, cash awards from the Vermont Employment Growth Incentive program (VEGI) require that employers pay at least $14.64 per hour. S.138 would lower that minimum to $13.00 per hour — the Joint Fiscal Office’s standard for a “livable wage.”

Well, that’s the livable wage with significant caveats. VTDigger’s Erin Mansfield:

The $13 per hour figure assumes two adults living together in a two-bedroom home, who share expenses, have no children, and have employers that pay 80 percent of health insurance costs.

Problem: that description doesn’t apply to an awful lot of working Vermonters. The consequence: those state-funded jobs leave full-time workers poor enough to “qualify for thousands of dollars in annual assistance,” according to economist Tom Kavet in a report to the legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office.

So we’d be paying companies to put workers on public assistance. This is… progress?

The downward expansion of VEGI is “expected to cost the state between $10 million and $25 million.” Your Tax Dollars At Work.

Kavet’s report leaves no doubt about the dubious value of that public investment:

The Shumlin administration’s plans, Kavet said, “serve to diminish the public return on investment from this program by lowering standards, eliminating basic fiscal controls, or allowing public subsidies when they would not previously have been allowed.”

Commerce Secretary Pat Moulton defends the proposal with the kind of language you usually expect to hear in Texas or Mississippi:

Moulton said she would rather employ a Vermonter at $13.50 per hour than let the jobs go elsewhere. Employees can move up from lower-paying jobs, she said.

“We’re competing globally for jobs. We’re competing regionally for jobs,” Moulton said.

I understand the harsh economic realities of our troubled times, but if you ask me, this is a bad idea. I don’t want my tax money being spent to underwrite dead-end jobs. And I’d love to know what kind of corporate lobbying went into this ill-considered proposal.

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3 thoughts on “VEGI: A step in the wrong direction

  1. Walter Carpenter

    “Moulton should spend more time looking at Stenger and the big Q.” Or in working a low-wage job and being forced to live on it to see what it is like.

    Reply

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