There seems to be substantial momentum toward reform of the Vermont Economic Growth Incentive (VEGI) program. Two committee chairs, Democrat Emilie Kornheiser and Republican Michael Marcotte, worked together to craft H.10, which would require much greater transparency in the program among many other things.
That in itself is pretty unusual — leaders of the two major parties cooperating on a big piece of legislation. But what clinches the deal for me is that the Scott administration actually wrote its own version of H.10. It doesn’t usually bother to do that. I take it as a sign that Team Scott thinks some type of reform is inevitable, and they want to influence the process as much as they can. (Both versions of the bill can be accessed via the House Commerce and Economic Development Committee webpage. Archived hearings are on the committee’s YouTube channel.
VEGI is administered by the Vermont Economic Progress Council, a nine-member body including seven gubernatorial appointees. The administration’s version of H.10 was presented by VEPC Executive Director Abbie Sherman, whose interest was clearly in maintaining the current process as much as possible while making pleasant noises about reform. .
Let’s start with the fact that the administration bill would drop the VEGI name and replace it with the decidedly uncatchy Think Vermont Investment Program, or TVIP for short. (Tee-vip? Tuh-vip? Tveep?) When you propose changing the name of an established program, you’re acknowledging that the current name has a bit of stink about it.
Auditor Doug Hoffer, who’s a consistent critic of VEGI because of its lack of transparency and the lack of evidence that it works, is scheduled to testify before House Commerce at 1:00 Wednesday. I’m sure his view will be more comprehensive than mine, but let’s go ahead and take a closer look at VEPC’s version of H.10.Continue reading