I entered Vermont's race for governor a year ago with a clear top priority: to get Vermont working. That means making our state more affordable and expanding opportunity for Vermonters.
I approach this challenge the way I approach all challenges: When I see something that's broken, I fix it. When I see success, I replicate it.
This was my approach as Irene recovery officer and the secretary of the Agency of Transportation. Tackling our state's greatest natural disaster in nearly a century was daunting. But with the help of thousands of Vermonters, we innovated and fixed our broken state and built back stronger than Irene found us. That's a model for success that I will build upon.
Today, I see all too clearly what is broken: Too many Vermonters are struggling just to make ends meet because wages are not keeping up with the cost of living.
I also see what is working: investing in people and our communities through education, housing, child care and raising the minimum wage. These investments are growing the economy, transforming lives and increasing middle class affordability.
Let me give you a few examples of my opportunity and affordability agenda.
Communities: Throughout my career, I have been involved in revitalizing downtowns as a way to create economic opportunity and livable wage jobs. A decade ago, downtown Barre was struggling and jobs were scarce. But the state and community leaders were determined to turn Barre around. While I was at the Agency of Transportation, we joined forces with forward-thinking local leaders to invest in downtown Barre. We didn't just fix roads. We joined a multi-pronged effort to invest public dollars to help make Barre a vibrant downtown.
Visit Barre today. It has been transformed. The initial $19 million that we made in public investment in Barre has leveraged an additional $45 million in private investment. Twenty-four new business have opened in Barre since 2011. That means more jobs for Vermonters and communities in which young people can live, work and stay. With my InvestVT plan, we can do this across Vermont.
Innovation: Growth and success in our economy requires continuous innovation, improvement and forward thinking. Vermont needs a leader who will work across sectors to create a 21st century workforce and livable wage jobs that help young people stay in Vermont. My InnovateVT plan will drive innovation in four cutting-edge sectors for the economy of the future: clean energy and efficiency; food, farm and forest production; the tech industry; and advanced manufacturing.
Student affordability and workforce development: Vermont employers continue to tell me they cannot find qualified workers to grow. Right now, two-thirds of the jobs require some form of higher education, yet 40 percent of Vermont students do not go on to receive any kind of post-secondary education. My Vermont Promise plan will provide two years of tuition-free community and technical college. This plan will enable young Vermonters to receive the education and training they need to access jobs that pay well, give families an affordable path to college, and make sure that businesses have the strong workforce they need. Vermont Promise is a win-win-win for our state. It will be a key draw for young Vermonters to stay and work right here.
Family affordability: People working 40 hours per week should not live in poverty. I will ensure that hard-working Vermonters receive a livable wage and don't have to choose between their family and their livelihood. That's why I support raising the minimum wage to a livable wage, expanding early childhood education, and fighting for paid family leave.
Tax fairness: Middle-class families deserve a break. Unlike my opponent, I will support a tax policy that is fair for middle-class families. I will hold the line on sales and income tax rates, and I will not add sales or service taxes that will hurt middle-class Vermonters. I will look to close loopholes that support corporations and the wealthy — like loopholes for lobbyists, limousine rides, and private jets.
I believe that our opportunities outweigh our challenges. I'm confident that we can fix what's broken by investing, innovating and building on our successes. Let's get Vermont working.
Sue Minter is the Democratic candidate for governor. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.