JIM HARRISON of Chittenden, VT (Rutland County) was appointed to the House in 2017 and elected to a new term in 2018. He is the former president of the Vermont Retail & Grocers Association (VRGA), a position he held until the end of 2016 after a 29+ year career with the organization. He has a BS from Cornell University and an MBA from New Hampshire College. Since stepping down from his full-time position with the Association, he has worked part time at Green Mountain Golf Course in Killington, currently serves as Treasurer of the Friends of the Chittenden Public Library, is a member of the Chittenden Historical Society, and is a member of the scholarship selection committee for VRGA. He and his wife, Pat, have lived in North Chittenden since 2006 and the Rutland region for over 30 years. They have two adult children and three grandsons.
In his first term, he has sponsored legislation to improve the state’s economy, improve the efficiency of the legislative process and state government, lower taxes on Social Security benefits, streamline the Act 250 process, consumer protection measures for small businesses and allowing pharmacists to disclose the cash price of prescription drugs, among others. He believes strongly in fiscal responsibility and advancing efforts that will improve the state’s economic future.
You are out on a walk and you see the dark clouds nearby. Do you seek shelter or take a chance on the storm passing by?
Last week there was a fiscal briefing for all new and returning legislators at the State House. While some of the information shared was positive, some should give us pause. And perhaps like being out for a walk with dark clouds appearing overhead, we are taking a bit of a gamble if we don’t change course in some respects.
For the good news, personal income tax receipts, the state’s largest revenue source, was 6% over projections through October (for fiscal year beginning July). However, just like the wind starting to pick up could be a warning, Vermont’s bond rating took a little slip, from AAA to AA+, still a very good rating, but a downgrade, nonetheless.
A statement on the change by Governor Scott highlighted two factors, “While Vermont continues to have the highest overall bond ratings in New England, our transportation bond rating is stable and we’re getting stronger every day, it’s no surprise that Moody’s Investor Services highlighted Vermont’s aging demographics and the unfunded retirement liabilities that have accrued over the last several decades. These are our most significant economic and budgetary challenges. In fact, they foreshadowed this in last year’s report.” State Treasurer Pearce also pointed to the changing demographics of the state as a significant red flag.
The demographic signs are clear:
· There are nearly 30,000 fewer Vermonters under the age of 20 than there were in the year 2000
· There are over 30,000 fewer Vermonters in the working age category of 25 to 45 than there were in 2000
· There are nearly 40,000 more Vermonters 65 or older compared to 2000.
· Outside of Chittenden County, we are just three to four years away from having just one worker for every retiree, child or dependent.
In addition, Vermont has the lowest fertility rate for all 50 states in 2017 as measured in births per 1,000 females age 15-44. Vermont was 49.7 vs a national average of 60.3 (South Dakota was highest at 76.4).
In part due to underfunding pension obligations for state employees and teachers during the 90’s, the catch up payments are taking an increasing share of the budget. In the coming year alone, the General Fund contribution to retiree pensions and benefits is expected to increase by $30 million from $162 million to $192 million, singlehandedly taking any projected revenue increase off the table. Are the annual increases sustainable or is Vermont ready for a pension reform conversation?
Couple that with normal increases in the budget, such as pay hikes and health care costs and you have a shortfall. The committees writing next year’s budget plans will have their work cut out for them.
Where is the silver lining in all this? For starters, recognizing the signs may spur constructive discussion and solutions to our demographic challenges, which is hampering our economic growth. Hoping the dark clouds will pass or business as usual is not an option if we want to brighter future.
The Vermont Legislature will convene on January 9.
Thank you to all who voted in the November 6 General Election and most specifically, the towns of Bridgewater, Chittenden, Killington and Mendon that also supported me for a new term as state representative. I was both honored and humbled to receive a majority of votes in each of the towns.
A combination of hundreds of home visits, meet and greets and the “dump & donut” events provided me with wonderful opportunities to meet, listen and learn from fellow residents. Thank you for sharing suggestions, concerns, kind words and encouragement along the way.
Thanks also to Gina Ottoboni for running a positive and issues oriented campaign. Running for state representative in a rural district comprised of four spread-out towns requires quite a time commitment and I commend her for taking up the challenge.
I look forward to doing my best for you in the new term as your representative.
State Representative for Bridgewater, Chittenden, Killington & Mendon
This Saturday I will be at the following town transfer stations with fresh Jones Donuts from Rutland:
8:00 am-10:00 am – Bridgewater Transfer Station
10:30 am-12:30 pm – Killington Transfer Station
1:00 pm-3:00 pm - Chittenden Transfer Station
Stop by to say hello as our campaign for a new term nears completion and enjoy some of the best donuts in Vermont!
Meet & Greet with Governor Phil Scott
Monday, October 29, 5:30 – 7:00 pm
Mountain Top Inn & Resort, 195 Mountain Top Rd, Chittenden
Jim Harrison, State Representative for Chittenden, Mendon, Killington & Bridgewater
Rutland County Senate Candidates
Brian Collamore, Jim McNeil, Ed Larson
Rutland County Probate Judge Candidate
Butch Shaw, State Representative for Pittsford, Sudbury & Brandon
Hors d’oeuvres provided, cash bar
Thank you Governor Douglas for your support!
I have had the opportunity to get to know Jim Harrison, first as a leader in the state’s retail and grocery community, and now as a member of the Vermont House of Representatives. He is exactly the type of legislator we need in Montpelier and I encourage voters of Bridgewater, Chittenden, Killington and Mendon to support him on Nov. 6.
Jim has always been willing to share the perspective of those he represents with his deep knowledge, clarity and often with a bit of passion. When I served as governor, I valued his input on a wide variety of issues.
He understands the needs of small business, knows the legislative process and has a wealth of experience to bring to the table. He works hard, is willing to talk with others and brings a commonsense approach to issues important to Vermont’s future.
I’m proud to endorse Jim Harrison for a new term as state representative.
James H. Douglas
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