VBSR’s 2024 Legislative Priorities
VBSR’s mission is to leverage the power of business for positive social and environmental impact. We advance our mission through shared learning, connection-building, and collective action. For over 30 years, we have harnessed the power of the business community to galvanize change in the Vermont State House and drive our state toward a new paradigm—a just, thriving, and transformative economy for all people and the planet.
In support of this vision, each year VBSR selects a few policy priorities to focus on during the annual legislative session. In 2024 these priorities will be:
- Housing: Creating Strong Community Foundations
- Care Economy: Stable Families, Stable Workforce – Building an Economy that Works for Everyone
- Climate and Clean Energy: Building for Our Future
- Healthcare: The Intersection of Economics and Wellbeing
These priorities have been democratically developed, beginning with input from our membership through two separate membership surveys, then with extensive discussion among members of VBSR’s Public Policy Committee, and ultimately the approval of VBSR’s Board of Directors.
Below is an overview of each issue, key legislation, and the proposed level of support. VBSR may serve as either a Champion (steering committee, testify, member mobilization, public support/leadership, staff lobby time), Coalition Member (participate in strategy, mobilize members where possible, track issues, staff lobby time, public support), or Supporter (Public support, track issues for members). In the coming weeks, we will offer more substantive issue briefings on our legislative priorities, along with providing our members tangible ways to engage in the advancement of our policy goals.
The priorities listed below have been democratically developed, beginning with input from our membership through two separate membership surveys, then with extensive discussion among members of VBSR’s Public Policy Committee, and ultimately the approval of our Board of Directors.
Housing: Creating Strong Community Foundations
- VBSR Role – Champion: Steering Committee, testify, member mobilization, public support/leadership, staff lobby time
The nexus between economic stability and housing remains clear. Housing has significant impacts on many sectors of the economy including workforce housing, construction, mortgage brokers, transportation, and heating and cooling, to name a few.
Housing stock continues to decline in Vermont, with a 1.65% decrease in new homes built since 2020. More than one-quarter of our state’s housing structures were built before 1940, and only 0.5% of Vermont’s housing stock was constructed after 2014. These figures highlight a near halt in new development and construction, thus indicating the clear need for new residential structures. VBSR will engage with lawmakers, environmentalists, and municipalities to thoughtfully adjust ACT 250 as a tool for strategic housing growth in downtown centers across Vermont.
The lack of adequate housing stock in Vermont costs both employers and employees. Some households will seek alternative employment opportunities when confronted with long commutes or high-priced markets. In response, employers must offer more competitive wages and benefits to recruit and retain employees and spend more on turnover costs.
VBSR will advocate for state and federal investment to increase Vermont’s housing stock and bolster access to housing for low-to-moderate-income Vermonters. Given the wide-reaching housing shortages, the public sector needs private- and philanthropic-sector support to tackle this challenge.
We will also work to create new supports for communities to develop and fund local housing trusts, improve existing homes via weatherization, and advance zoning and tax reforms to ensure every Vermonter is housed.
Housing: Key Legislation
(photo courtesy Let’s Grow Kids)
Care Economy: Stable Families, Stable Workforce – Building an Economy that Works for Everyone
- VBSR Role – Paid Leave: Champion: Steering Committee, testify, member mobilization, public support/leadership, staff lobby time.
- VBSR Role – Child Care: Coalition Member: Participate in strategy, mobilize members where possible, track issues, staff lobby time, public support.
VBSR has long focused on increasing economic wealth and stability for Vermonters. The care economy consists of paid and unpaid labor and services that support the health and well-being of our state’s residents. It is one of the fastest-growing economic sectors and is a significant driver in employment growth.
Caregiving provides a backbone to our state’s economy and significantly impacts a business’s bottom line. Employees are often forced to leave a job to attend to caregiving responsibilities, while employers are forced by companies to pay the high financial and cultural costs associated with employee turnover. The majority of those leaving their careers to provide care are women. In Vermont, there is a 6% gap in labor force participation between women and men[i] On the national scale, if women participated in the U.S. labor force at the same rate as men, the economy would see roughly $650 billion in additional economic activity annually [ii].
VBSR’s commitment to opportunity and equality across all races and ethnicities will serve as a cornerstone in our advocacy. Generations of systemic racism have created significant health and economic disparities, and public policy centered on the care economy is a proven tool in creating opportunity that has long been suppressed for people of color.
Vermont can create quality jobs by improving the care economy, closing the gender gap, and moving our state toward racial justice.
Care Economy: Key Legislation
(photo by Ben M. Collins)
Climate and Clean Energy: Building for Our Future
- VBSR Role – Coalition Member: Participate in strategy, mobilize members where possible, track issues, staff lobby time, public support.
The impacts of climate change are increasing and interconnected across many sectors of our society. In July of 2023, Vermont saw yet another round of federally declared emergencies as the majority of its counties flooded, causing catastrophic damage to downtown districts and residential neighborhoods. In response, VBSR has taken responsibility for leading our thought partners into designing policies and programs that focus on small business preparedness and resilience in this crisis-laden climate.
Even as we work on resiliency, VBSR continues to advocate to bring mitigation policy to scale. This focus responds to Vermont’s poor rating as the state with the highest per capita emissions in the U.S. Northeast region. Recognizing the urgency in reducing the climate threat, we will continue to work with our allies to move away from fossil fuels and toward a clean energy future. In the wake of yet another climate emergency occurring here in Vermont, we are committed to working with our elected leaders, government agencies, and allies to develop improved climate adaptation and resilience practices, as well as securing financial support for climate impacted businesses. VBSR will apply principles of equity, economic prosperity, and adaptation to our climate justice work.
Climate and Clean Energy: Key Legislation
Healthcare: The Intersection of Economics and Wellbeing
- VBSR Role – Supporter: Public support, track issues for members
Employers help carry the burden of rising costs and poor health outcomes. The health insurance plans available through Vermont Health Connect have been granted the ability to increase premiums by double digits in 2024 to individuals and small employers, creating even more hardship in affording coverage.
Few policy decisions would transform economic development and quality of life like that of a universal, publicly funded healthcare system. Removing the link between healthcare and employment and moving to a universal health system in Vermont effectively widens the range of economic opportunities for both employees and business owners.
Vermont needs to continue working to reduce unnecessary waste in our healthcare system, address the racial and class disparities, and invest in primary and preventive care, including establishing a Universal Primary Care system.
Healthcare: Key Legislation
Interested in learning more? Click here to view the slide deck from the 2023 VBSR Legislative Breakfast and as always, please contact our Public Policy Manager, Kristin Warner at KristinW@vbsr.org with questions, comments, or concerns.