The Vermont Natural Resources Council (VNRC) and Vermont Conservation Voters (VCV) applaud a number of Governor Scott’s proposals in his 2021 budget address, particularly a suite of proposals to significantly increase funding for programs that will benefit Vermont’s people, environment, and communities.
These proposed investments include a boost to weatherization funding for low- and moderate-income households, clean transportation options, clean energy, and investments in our public lands. They also support programs that will enhance the economic viability of the state’s downtowns and village centers and promote smart growth in these areas while maintaining our working lands.
Job-Creating, Cost-Cutting Investments in Climate and Clean Energy
“The Governor laid out a series of investments in climate and clean energy programs that will put Vermonters to work, and save people money on their monthly energy bills. These are positive steps forward, and we look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to develop long-term sustainable funding sources to advance these initiatives,” said Lauren Hierl, Executive Director of Vermont Conservation Voters.
- Weatherization. Governor Scott proposed investing $25 million to weatherize Vermonters’ homes, saving households money on their monthly heating bills, putting people to work in good-paying jobs, and making homes healthier, all while cutting our climate pollution. This is an important down payment towards the needed $1.2 billion required to weatherize an additional 120,000 low- and moderate-income homes over the next decade, in service of reducing climate pollution and avoiding over $1 billion in fossil fuel costs Vermonters are estimated to pay over the next 25 years.
- Municipal Energy Innovation. The Governor proposed a $5 million increase in funding for the State Energy Management Program to help towns make efficiency upgrades that save money down the road.
- Local, Job-Creating Renewable Energy Solutions for Low-Income Vermonters. The Governor also made an important commitment of $10 million towards an initiative to bring affordable, clean energy to those with low and moderate incomes. He noted these “initiatives will lower energy costs for Vermonters and municipalities and move us significantly towards our climate change goals.”
- Modern Transportation. The Governor proposed an additional $5 million to boost our Downtown Transportation Fund, as well as 7 new electric public transit busses, 228 Park & Ride spaces, and $5 million to accelerate our transition to electric and more fuel-efficient vehicles.
“We look forward to working with elected officials to ramp up our investments in modern, clean, and efficient infrastructure. These types of investments can help Vermont build back from the pandemic in ways that boost our economy by creating local jobs and helping Vermonters save money—all while doing our part to address the climate crisis,” added Hierl.
Investing in Vermont’s Downtowns, Working Lands, Parks, and Natural Areas
“In today’s budget address, Governor Scott made a strong commitment to supporting key economic revitalization, land conservation, and land use programs that further the state’s smart growth goals,” said VNRC’s Executive Director Brian Shupe. In particular, Shupe cited increased, one-time funding for the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Working Lands Enterprise Fund, State parks, and for programs that support our downtowns and villages.
- Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. VHCB was created in the late 1980s, when upward pressure on housing costs and land put housing out of reach for many Vermonters, leading to the subdivision of farms, forests, and natural areas. “This is the very situation we find ourselves in today, in part due to increased migration to Vermont as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change. If ever there was a time to fully fund VHCB, this is the moment,” stated Shupe.
- Downtowns & Villages. The Governor proposed $1.75 million in additional funding for the successful downtown tax credit program. “We expect these investments to support housing in and near compact, walkable communities adjacent to historic village centers and downtowns. The benefits to housing in these areas include increased access to work, school, health services, and other opportunities, and climate mitigation through decreased vehicle dependence, Shupe explained.
VNRC and VCV also applaud the Governor’s proposal to include $5 million in funding for the Better Places placemaking grant program; increased funding in the form of $1.75 million in additional tax credits for development; $5 million for transportation grants in Vermont’s downtowns and villages; and $20 million to clean-up contaminated “brownfield” sites.
“We are pleased to see the Governor’s strong commitment to investing in Vermont’s communities. These expenditures are especially important as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for other health, economic, and environmental challenges that lie ahead,” said Shupe.
- Working Lands & Parks. Finally, the proposal to increase funding for the Working Lands Enterprise Board by $3,000,000 and improve outdoor recreation in Vermont’s State Parks also met with the support of VNRC and VCV.
“The Governor’s budget makes an important statement about the importance of investing in clean energy, the economic viability of our downtowns and working lands, and land conservation,” Shupe said. “In many instances, this is achieved through investments in existing programs that have served Vermont well for many years. We hope that this year’s commitment is an indication of long-term support, and that the Legislature will agree to that vision.”