The weakening economy

Vermonters have known for some time that our economy has been growing weaker. Rising costs for fuel, health care, housing, and childcare have strained our finances. Paying for bills that keep getting bigger with paychecks that dont is a challenge that too many of us face. In fact, for several years, the vast majority of Vermonters have not seen an increase in income. The legislature began the legislative session by focusing on helping to reduce costs and increase wages for Vermonters. With April news from state economists confirming that we were in a recession, the legislature redoubled its efforts and established the Joint Committee on Economic Recovery and Opportunity. The committee reviewed the legislatures efforts to enhance energy efficiency and affordability, to repair our roads and bridges, and to improve housing opportunities, as well as to reduce health care costs, to stimulate job growth, to strengthen Vermonts economy. It identified a series of investments designed to improve upon this work and passed a package that included the following: Additional bonding for transportation projects: An additional $10 million to help address Vermonts aging roads and bridges, create new jobs, and provide a needed boost to our economy. Additional funding for transportation investments has been a Legislative priority for a long time. Expanded investments in workforce training: Employers continue to look for qualified workers and working Vermonters continue to look for better paying jobs. The legislature funded an additional $1 million for workforce training to help meet the needs of each. Creation of affordable housing: An additional $700,000 was funded for affordable housing through the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. This money will leverage additional funds, resulting in more affordable housing through Vermont, and will create additional needed construction jobs. Expanding energy efficiency: An additional $500,000 was authorized for the Weatherization Program, resulting in good paying green jobs and helping Vermonters reduce their fuel bills. Low or no interest loans for manufactures in high unemployment areas: To preserve jobs in areas hit most hard, the Legislature provided $500,000 to support companies enabling them to maintain jobs and to survive the current recession. Lower rates for home financing: By offering short-term credit to the Vermont Housing Finance Agency and allowing the states moral obligation to VHFAs bonds, the Legislature helped reduce financing rates making housing more affordable. The legislature takes seriously its stewardship of the Vermont economy. The investments it makes now will provide immediate economic support for Vermont families and businesses while keeping an eye to the long term, in maintaining the states capacity to respond to the possibility of even further economic deterioration and in planning for the future. Joan Lenes is the Representative for Chittenden County, District 5-2 in Vermont. Her column appears regularly in the Times Sentinel

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