Annual Meeting- Legislator Panel
To cap off a great day of breakouts at the 2023 AGC/VT Annual Meeting we held a panel of legislative leaders to help us understand their priorities on different issues. The topics were similar to the top priorities of the association including workforce development, housing, state budgeting, employer issues and industry protection. The panel spent an hour updating attendees on the plans and challenges to topics introduced by moderator Matt Musgrave expected for the 2024 legislative session.
Speaker of the House, Jill Krowinski, began with one of the toughest questions posed by the moderator which asked her to explain how she planned to "thread the needle" between important must pass budgets/policies such as transportation funding and the needs/wants of other policies that were stood up during COVID with one time funds while tackling inflation in all sectors. She very clearly understood the issues laid before and gave the committee a promising plan of her agenda which would be to take advantage of some surpluses and existing funds that we have to get us through the year. She did stop short of mentioning the need to raise additional revenue for the nearly $8 billion budget but explained they would have to look at all options between raising revenues and cutting budgetary items to achieve their priorities for the session.
Next, we heard from Representative Butch Shaw from the House Transportation committee. Shaw admitted to being a "number guy" and reported on what we had available in different funds ranging from the Infrastructure and Jobs act to the Inflation Reduction act. He explained that they were expecting a budget from the Governor later in June which would show us what to expect in terms of transportation funding. Shaw went on to explain that it would be likely that we will be able to hold on to our state match for Federal funds but we may see some differences in what types of projects are funded. For example: he mentioned that we would likely see less miles of paved road but more funding for bridges which was not based on a funding model but that of the plans of the Agency of Transportation.
We then heard from Senator Randy Brock of the Economic Development and Housing committee. His topic was workforce and his plans the next session. The Senator did a terrific job detailing the challenges of our demographics and tied them to challenges we face such as housing. He spent a great deal of time talking about the gridlock on housing and that the median incomes of Vermonters have long lost the fight to the expense of housing. That single issue he said was paramount to solving those issues. He then explained how we are making Vermont more expensive through taxing and other fees that keep the costs rising for households making us less competitive to other areas.
Last we welcomed Senator Chris Bray, chair of the Natural Resources and Energy committee. Matt Musgrave plainly asked, "How do you plan to "thread the needle" between the needs of Vermonters housing and environmental regulations that preserve our habitats we all agree are important?".. The Senator went on the explain some misconceptions about how policies like Act 250 are perceived and that only through learning what those conceptions or real challenges people face can they seek solutions. The Senator openly invited more people to weigh their concerns and said he appreciates the engagement from this association on issues related to Vermont.
The session and the participation of this group was a testament to the success of our organization. These individuals in leadership positions had less than 30 days to their work at the state house and are being pulled in a million directions at once. They made the time to visit us and show that we are leading in our advocacy work.