Vermont’s governor expressed optimism in his State of the State address Wednesday — even as he acknowledged very complex challenges ahead in navigating a path out of the pandemic and building a stronger state economy.
“The state of the state is strong,” Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont insisted in his speech, which was delivered to lawmakers virtually rather than in a packed Vermont State House, because of COVID-19 safety protocols.
Watch Gov. Scott's Full State of the State Address
The Republican said the nation can expect additional difficult weeks ahead during the pandemic — referring to a predicted rise in COVID-19 infections from holiday gatherings and the more-transmissible omicron variant.
However, he implored lawmakers and the public to take a long-term view at issues facing the state as it looks to chart a course out of the pandemic. Challenges facing Vermont are complex and multi-faceted, Scott noted.
“Statewide, we’ve seen our workforce decrease by nearly 30,000 since 2010,” he said. “It’s clear that while the pandemic didn’t create this problem, it has made it much, much worse.”
Scott’s many policy goals include a focus on investments that will put housing more within reach for middle income families; that pave pathways for job training, worker recruitment and retention; and that build childcare access and universal after-school and summer programs, to strengthen Vermont’s educational offerings.
With hundreds of millions of dollars in federal recovery money to spend in months and years ahead on areas like building out broadband networks and other infrastructure, Scott said this is a transformational moment.
“We’ve got to work together, so we don’t squander this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to truly transform our state,” the governor said.
While Democrats in leadership in the Legislature have pledged to work with the governor on areas of shared concern, like growing the state’s healthcare workforce, they of course have their own priorities, too.
“We have to protect our climate and our planet,” Sen. Becca Balint, D-Windham County, the Vermont Senate president pro tem said Wednesday as part of a response to the governor’s speech. “We have to push for more accountability in our criminal justice system, and we have to continue to support our teachers — public employees — and make sure their pensions are protected for the future.”
“There are systems of injustice that persist,” added Rep. Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, the speaker of the Vermont House of Representatives, as part of her response to the governor. “And there are gaps in support systems in our communities. We must address these systemic gaps to give all Vermonters — every single one of us — an equal shot at a good life.”
Everyone has a part to play in making Vermont a better place, the governor said to conclude his State of the State address. They can do so through simple steps like volunteering for a nonprofit or reaching out to a friend who may be struggling, the governor said.
“We have a big job ahead of us, but a brighter future is within our grasp,” Gov. Scott said.