Tag Archives: VEGI

Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas — UPDATED with more fleas

Hey, you know about the Mylan controversy? Yeah, the company that bought the rights to the EpiPen and then jacked up the price by several gazillion percent? It now charges nearly $500 for a gizmo that probably cost them about three bucks to make.

Well, I’d managed to forget, or suppress, its Vermont connection until I was reminded by recent accounts in VTDigger and the Burlington Free Press. To wit, the Shumlin administration arranged a peculiar land swap in St. Albans to facilitate an expansion of Mylan’s operations here.

A land swap that costs the General Fund about a half million dollars a year.

(That’s about the price tag we “couldn’t afford” to spend on an Ethics Commission. Just sayin’.)

UPDATE: As Auditor Doug Hoffer points out, Mylan is also a beneficiary of the Vermont Employment Growth Initiative (VEGI) program to the tune of $5.7 million. More on this below.

I won’t rehash all the details here; you can check out VTDigger’s 2013 story, which lays it all out in excruciating detail.  I will note one thing before moving on: this turd blossom featured the guy I’m beginning to think of as the Joe Btfsplk of the Shumlin administration.

The idea… was largely the brainchild of Lawrence Miller, the Commerce Secretary.

Mmmyeah, EB-5, the endless Vermont Health Connect reboot, and now Mylan. Quite the resume you’re building, Mr. Miller.

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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.