Chair’s Column: Dear Fellow Members

By Win Smith, Chair and President & CEO, Sugarbush Resort

Dear Fellow Members:

As we discussed at our winter meeting, this election year offers us a great opportunity.  Those running for office will be interested in our support, and we thus have an opportunity to share our views.  All four announced gubernatorial candidates have already contacted me, as perhaps they have you, to meet with them, as have several of those running for the Lieutenant Governor position.  There is no better time to get their ear.

We are all acutely aware of the great assets in our State, which is why we are all located here in the first place.  But we also all know the significant challenges that are facing our State, and each of us needs to take an active leadership role in helping our fellow citizens in Montpelier better understand how to grow our economy, create jobs and develop the business environment that will not only protect jobs, but grow our population and the needed job force in the future.

Speaking from my perspective as an employer and business owner, I will speak to these candidates about the high cost of living in Vermont and how property taxes are making it increasingly unaffordable for many of my employees to stay and work here. I’ll point to the difficulty of finding labor this year for my ski business and let them know that all Vermont ski areas are facing the same issue. I will speak about tax policies that incent people of wealth to move to other states, and why Vermont’s estate tax is a particular problem.  I will reinforce David Coates’ call to address immediately the unfunded pension and health liabilities of our State, out of concern for where inaction will eventually lead us.  I will speak about the adverse effects our Medicaid deficit has had on the State budget, and I will express my support for Act 46 as an important step forward in addressing the high cost of our education as well as its quality, as even it needs adjusting.

These are some of the thoughts I what to share with candidates asking for my support.  They need to know that I love this State, but am concerned about our direction. We cannot continue to grow a State budget at 3.1% a year, which the Governor has just proposed, when revenues are growing at 2%.  And, we no longer can squeeze additional tax revenue from a small number of individuals and businesses.

The Roundtable has a diverse membership and, thus, I recognize that not everyone will share my views.  But I encourage all members to share your views with everyone seeking office this year.  Ears are more open in an election year.

And, finally, please, think Snow!