At the recent Brattleboro area Chamber of Commerce breakfast, the question came up, "What is the Legislature doing for business?"
Because of having to work at my "paying job," I was unable to attend. If I had, I would have had lots to report.
First of all, we are working together with a governor with a shared agenda, to maintain a balanced budget, keep our unemployment rate one of the lowest in the nation, and continue rebuilding our infrastructure after the double whammy of neglect during the Great Recession and devastating damage after Tropical Storm Irene. (For those espousing free market solutions and less government, we're still waiting to hear how the free market helped us out of the recession and cleaned up after the floods.)
What would downtown business look like with Flat Street still full of mud, or would Route 9 between Brattleboro and Bennington still be a fragmented road, impassable across southern Vermont?
What would our neighbors to the west in Wilmington have done without the governor and the Legislature -- and FEMA -- working in concert to help rebuild the devastation in that, and so many other towns ravaged by flood.
Together with the governor we are keeping our unemployment rate low, and creating supports that help businesses grow, and are creating jobs. And, not just jobs, but we are leading the nation in "green jobs." For those of us who believe global climate change is real, and needs to be addressed, these jobs promote economic growth in an environmentally friendly way.
Our Working Lands bill has been supporting the role of agriculture, dairy and diverse other agricultural efforts. Agriculture continues to thrive in Vermont and is creating jobs that will take us into a more food secure future, with local produce and value added products.
In concert with the administration, we are addressing the crisis health insurance companies dumped on us by charging higher and higher premiums , while delivering less and less benefit. Juxtaposed with the federal Affordable Care Act, Green Mountain Care is meeting our goals of controlling costs and increasing access- and eventually better outcomes.
We are maintaining a balanced budget ... again. A budget that doesn't raise broad based taxes and still maintains our commitment to our Vermont neighbors in need -- children, the disabled and the elderly.
And, right here in downtown Brattleboro, without the governor and his team working in close accord with the Mesabi team of local investors, the Brooks House would still be languishing and dragging down the rest of the downtown with it.
The collaboration between the governor and the Legislature again has produced positive results with ongoing support for affordable, workforce housing, and conservation. This provides housing for the generation coming up and conserves land for generations to come.
And, let's not forget the Robert H. Gibson River Garden and Latchis Building, and imagine where they would be without the support from state funding, and support from the governor and the Legislature.
For those who might dismiss these efforts, just try and imagine what the local economy would look like without these supports -- starting with the Brooks House, mentioned again because of the governor's strong work "encouraging" Vermont Technical College and Vermont Community College to move to Brooks House and provide anchor tenants for the project.
Another perspective worth mentioning is that many of us in the Legislature use the lens of the triple bottom line in assessing our progress. Along with profit and loss, we are mindful of the social and environmental impact of our policies and practices.
That's also why many of us align with Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility more so than the traditional Chamber of Commerce. While the VCC still has more members at 1,500 statewide, VBSR is growing steadily and gaining, with now more than 1,000 members statewide.
That's why when we are asked what we are doing for business, our answer is more than jobs and profits. It includes how we are protecting our environment, and providing the social services and arts that add to quality of life.
All of this and more, create fertile ground for maintaining a local economy -- and growing it into the future.
So, thanks for asking.
Mike Mrowicki represents Windham 4 District (Putney,Dummerston, Westminster) in the House of Representatives. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.