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Testimony to House Commerce re: Jobs Bill

Testimony to House Commerce
Andrea Cohen, Executive Director
Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility  
February 11, 2011

Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee again so soon.   Since we testified almost a month ago you have been presented with the outline of a jobs proposal and we appreciate the opportunity to provide our initial impressions.  

On Jan 12th we shared with the committee our member survey results regarding the greatest contributors to the success of our member businesses, and the greatest obstacles:
The greatest contributor to the success of VBSR member businesses is the “Vermont brand and quality of life”.  That was followed by retaining/attracting a skilled workforce, networking and peer support, and government accessibility.  (Note: “Tax incentives” were ranked last of the 19 choices offered).
The greatest barrier to the success of VBSR member businesses is the cost of providing health insurance (70% gave it a “4” or “5).   That was followed by the availability of affordable housing, state economic development priorities, and telecommunications infrastructure.  (Taxes and affordable childcare tied for next place).  

Our comments on the initial ACCD jobs proposal follow from this feedback.  Overall, we are very encouraged by most of what has been outlined—we believe it is a great start that builds on our strengths and supports our Vermont grown businesses.   
We understand that other high priority issues for our economic health such as health care reform and development of a robust telecommunication infrastructure will be addressed in other bills but please let the record show that those issues are of critical concern to our members.

Elements that we support:

  • Creative economy via position in ACCD
  • Expanding entrepreneur mentoring
  • Ag. diversification (VEDA)
  • GAP Certification assistance matching fund
  • “Made in Vermont” branding
  • Meat Cutters Apprenticeship
  • Local Foods supply/demand
  • Farm to School grants
  • Slaughterhouse capacity
  • Monitoring Farm to Plate Plan
  • State Internship Program (make sure they are paid internships, and build on current programs)
  • Career readiness
  • Vermont neighborhood program
  • Long range economic planning

Some of the elements that we have questions about:

  • Is 180 days a long enough employment period to qualify for the income tax credit (for Veterans and Long Term Unemployed)?
  • STEM Tax credit—why not give the tuition assistance directly to the individual?  (model this on the program that provided tuition assistance to nurses).  Also, isn’t $5000 much more than any tax that would be due for a recent grad?
  • VTP- Adding a 5% health care allowance- is this only for the businesses that actually offers a generous health care package?

Things we would like to see addressed in this or other bills:

  • State government purchasing preference to support local and socially responsible businesses (e.g. those that offer good wages and benefits)
  • Increased efforts to increase the availability of affordable housing
  • Increased transparency and accountability in all appropriations and tax expenditures (to private and nonprofit sectors

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