Shumlin unveils jobs plan
NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON — Gov. Peter Shumlin unveiled a set of proposals Thursday that he said will boost farming, manufacturing and job training while putting recent military veterans back to work.
Shumlin promised an agriculture renaissance in his inaugural address last month. Agriculture was a key theme in the jobs bill he unveiled Thursday at the Vermont Butter and Cheese Co. in Barre.
“The Agriculture sector remains important to our state – without a doubt – and efforts such as Buy Local and the localvore movement, growth in our specialty food sectors, as well as diversification of our farming community will require more promotion and collaboration,” Shumlin said.
Shumlin’s plan calls for establishing a matching fund program that would help Vermont farmers obtain Good Agricultural Practices certification, obtain needed equipment and make building modifications. A new $1 million program would also be created through the Vermont Economic Development Authority to help interested farmers transition from traditional crops to value-added crops.
Other agriculture-related initiatives announced Thursday include:
• Creating a skilled meat cutter apprentice program to process locally grown meat products.
• Create a local foods coordinator position to coordinate food buyers, such as schools, state agencies and institutions (colleges and hospitals) with farmers and value added producers in Vermont.
• Focus funding on the Farm to Schools program to expand opportunities for Vermont producers to serve Vermont schools locally grown products.
• Authorize the marketing of CSA’s in state office buildings so state employees are aware of opportunities to buy locally grown products and support local farmers.
Shumlin said his jobs package will stimulate manufacturing jobs, provide more job training and internships for young Vermonters, improve access to capital and support efforts to boost downtowns.
He called for a statewide internship program to link college and high school student with employers. He is also seeking a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) tax credit to provide breaks for Vermont companies that hire qualified recent graduates in those areas. The employer could claim 50 percent of expenditures — up to $5,000 a year for each new hire — to go toward relieving a new hire’s debt load.
Other initiatives announced Thursday:
• Allow Vermont companies to earn a tax credit if they bring a vendor, supplier or customer to the state that creates jobs.
• Expand the EB-5 program, which provides visas to foreign investors, to new sectors.
• Reauthorize the Vermont Economic Growth Incentive (VEGI) and expand the program.
“This is one of the most thorough, broad-reaching proposals to create and support good-paying jobs in Vermont that has been proposed in recent memory,” Shumlin said. “Any one of these proposals would be a step in the right direction toward getting Vermont’s back to work. Taken as a package, this jobs bill will stimulate every sector of Vermont’s economy.”
One initiatives are aimed at putting veterans back to work. About 1,500 members of the Vermont National Guard recently returned from a year-long deployment to Afghanistan. A recent report suggested about 30 percent of them are unemployed.
Shumlin said he wants to offer a tax rebate of up to $2,000 for employers that hire a veteran and up to $1,000 for employers who hire a long-term unemployed person.
Democratic House Speaker Shap Smith said he was encouraged by the proposals.
“The bill seeks to strengthen our workforce and grow Vermont businesses while making critical investments across all of our state’s business sectors,” Smith said. “While we are still digesting the details, the overall framework of the jobs bill is promising and the House looks forward to working with the governor and the Senate to maximize the bill’s impact on reinvigorating Vermont’s economy.”
Contact Neal P. Goswami at firstname.lastname@example.org