Chamber Made Column

Chamber Made Column

Chamber Made Column

Politics Are Difficult 

Chamber Made Column, Jan. 13, 2018

These Next Few Months May Drive Us All Crazy

It would be trite to say what a difference a day makes, when yesterday the temperatures topped into the 50s and we are shivering today. There has been quite a bit of cold weather thus far this winter. I was able to ponder this climatic freeze and many other issues while I was basking in the relative warmth of Minneapolis over New Year’s during my holiday vacation.

By basking, I mean that our temperatures, oddly, were at least five to 10 degrees warmer than Vermont during my entire stay. I was shocked to see how unprepared Minnesotans, particularly those in the Twin Cities, are for the snow, however. They don’t even use snow tires and damn near have a traffic-control crisis if two inches falls! My daughter and I kept on shooting curious glances between ourselves during our trip. It goes to show you how hardy we are in these parts.

That hardiness will come in handy in the months ahead as the legislative session promises a real roller coaster ride with all the concerns before them. In addition to facing an anticipated $45-million shortfall, we have to worry about what monies may or may not come from Washington, as tax reform and health care changes may mean millions of dollars less coming to Vermont.

While the nation’s capital wages an embarrassing battle upon itself, our state legislators are trying to make order from this horrific mess, not even knowing at this point where the dollars are going to land. As our chamber hosts its first legislative breakfast on Monday, Jan. 29, at 8 a.m., at the St. Johnsbury House, I think our poor local legislators will need GPS to navigate this challenging and harrowing road ahead.

Although I can’t speak about what we should do about the chaos in Washington, I can suggest what we should do here in the Green Mountain State. In times of peril, it is imperative we stick to our guns, maintaining the priorities and values we have always held.

While Washington continues to argue over whether climate change is real, we protect our environment in Vermont, as that is our biggest treasure and resource and generates hundreds of millions in tax revenues and more than 40,000 hospitality-related jobs. We also take care of our own, to the extent we can, regarding health care, because the money our fellow Vermonters save in insurance premiums goes right back into our state economy, in bills paid, cars purchased and items bought.

And we, once and for all, most acknowledge that if we spend money out-of-state or online for purchases, that our taxes will be higher, because the money is leaving Vermont at the speed of light. If we are all comfortable paying more in taxes and cutting necessary services, we should continue this buying practice. So many other concerns of import, whether it is education funding or affordable housing, come back to the fact that we need money to fund these projects.

This weekend, as I pore over more legislative updates, trying to reach some clarity on the road ahead, I am reminded of the drivers in Minnesota slip-sliding in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and just hope we have the traction and know-how to get through this legislative session.

(Darcie McCann is the executive director of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber.)

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