Tag Archives: S.138

Logrolling In Our Time, Bespoke Contracts Edition

Here’s me doing something I never thought I’d do: recommending a story on the right-wing website Vermont Watchdog that I believe is an actual scoop of some importance.

Vermont Watchdog, for those just joining us, is the Montpelier outpost of a conservative journalistic enterprise that gets its money from the Usual Suspects, i.e. the Kochs et al. The site’s usual content is vastly overblown at best, completely off the mark at worst. But this time, VTW’s Bruce Parker got hold of something.

Business development groups in Vermont are demanding to know how a $100,000 appropriation for fostering business with Quebec was awarded exclusively to Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce, according to emails obtained by Vermont Watchdog.

The appropriation in question was included in S.138, an economic development bill that passed the Legislature this year. The bill’s language does not mention LCRCC; it simply says the $100,000 will go to the state Agency of Commerce and Community Development “to implement a targeted marketing and business expansion initiative for Quebec-based businesses…”

One could reasonably infer that once the bill was signed into law, ACCD would fashion a means of using the money for the intended purpose. But apparently there was a backdoor deal to simply hand the 100 G’s over to the LCRCC, whose Executive Director, Tom Torti, held high positions in the Dean and Douglas administrations, and was recently referred to by Seven Days’ Paul Heintz as one of “the state’s traditional power brokers,” whose counsel, sez Heintz, would be invaluable to potential candidates for governor.

Continue reading

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.