To boost the state’s economy, flip our thinking

Even before Congressional Republicans passed the tax overhaul this month that promises to widen the worst income gap between rich and poor since before the Great Depression, there was ample evidence that the economy was leaving too many Vermonters behind. Now, as the President prepares to sign the bill, the task for Vermont’s leaders and policymakers grows urgently clear: They must focus on raising the incomes of low- and moderate-income Vermonters, challenging the message from Washington that wages will rise and prosperity will spread as soon as the economy improves.

“State of Working Vermont 2017,” a report released by Public Assets Institute, documents the reality confronting average Vermonters: while the economy grows, their paychecks do not.

“To get the trend lines moving in the right direction, we need to flip our thinking,” said Paul Cillo, president of Public Assets and one of the report’s authors. “We need to start with the premise that addressing the needs of workers and families is the way to a stronger economy, not than the other way around.”

Among the report’s findings:

  • Wages and incomes are growing fastest for those who already are doing well.
  • After accounting for inflation, for most of the last decade the median Vermont household has lived on less than it did in 2006.
  • Poverty is increasing, and it is highest among Vermonters of color.
  • While nearly all Vermonters have health insurance, housing has grown less affordable and childcare less accessible.

“Income inequality dampens economic growth, reduces upward mobility, and increases poverty,” says Cillo. “But it’s not inevitable. Vermont does not have to follow Washington’s example. We can increase affordable childcare, ensure a higher minimum wage, and reduce barriers to education and employment. Addressing the problems documented in this report will improve life for all Vermonters.”

Public Assets produces the State of Working Vermont each year in conjunction with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. This report highlights how working Vermonters and their families were faring economically at the end of 2016 – the latest year for which most data are available – and how conditions have changed, for better or worse, in recent years. It is based on data released by the U.S. Census, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and other state and federal agencies in 2017.

State of Working Vermont 2017 is published in readable chart book format with brief explanatory text. The report can be viewed or downloaded at www.publicassets.org.

Public Assets Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization in Montpelier that promotes sound state budget and tax policies that benefit all Vermonters. More information is available at www.publicassets.org.

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