Archive for January, 2009

Facing Insurmountable Opportunities

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Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

This was the challenge as described by Justice John Dooley when he spoke to the membership about the ways in which the Judiciary branch of government is attempting to reduce its spending. Faced with significant cutbacks, and with the low-hanging fruit long gone, they are now closing courthouses, furloughing employees, and reducing work weeks. But, as happens in economic downturns, caseloads are on the increase, which only exacerbates the dilemma.

So the optimist looks for opportunity amid the turmoil. Where are the Mothers of Invention? Where is the genius who will turn chaos into order by changing the paradigm from old to new systems thinking? There are ways in which Vermont can turn itself around, if we only leverage the bold decision-making and strategic visioning that are the hallmarks of the private sector, and apply them to government reorganization itself.

All the Problems Are Short-term

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Monday, January 26th, 2009

At the Roundtable’s membership meeting in mid-January David Coates, one of Vermont’s most respected statesmen and the 2006 recipient of the Roundtable’s Vision Award, presented “Dangerous Trends and the Need for Action” to the membership. At the onset, Coates framed his remarks by saying that there are no long-term problems; Vermont’s problems are all short-term and require immediate attention.  Then he launched into a presentation of heavy commitments – mandatory expenditures and unfunded liabilities- that Vermont has on its books: debt service, retirement plans, other post-retirement benefits, and education funding. Taken in their totality the figures were staggering and implications alarming.

In addition to the data, which couldn’t be disputed, Coates identified various structural issues that prompted the audience to wonder about the fairness of current law and the sustainability of these commitments. Because several programs ~ long held sacred cows ~ are not readily transparent at the local level, including the residential rebate program, education fund, and state employees’ retirement fund, Coates suggested that the state conduct stress testing to illustrate the urgent need for action. And because Vermonters don’t fully understand the complexity or implications of all these funds in the aggregate, there is no informed and objective debate that includes more than the vested interests.

The Roundtable will begin a series of presentations of this information to a variety of audiences throughout the state. Coates’ slides will be posted to the Roundtable’s website at www.vtroundtable.org.

No Joy in Mudville

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Monday, January 26th, 2009

As the Governor concluded his seventh budget address, he admitted that “there is no joy” in making cuts of such magnitude at such a challenging time in our state’ history. Clearly, many of those programs targeted for his axe have been priorities of his administration over the previous three terms.  And he knows full well the consequences of such proposals, if acted upon by the legislature. Vermonters are justified in worrying.

 

However, we have inflicted some of this pain upon ourselves. Our ever- expanding view of the state as beneficent provider has now met head-on with the incontrovertible evidence of Vermont’s fiscal instability and structural deficiencies associated with mandated expenditures and unfunded liabilities. So, now the budget process begins and we must keep our eyes on the ultimate goal to get through this storm intact and positioned for the future.

 

You know, somewhere between the cranky beginning of the ninth month of pregnancy and the exhausted smile when it’s over, the mother-to-be moves beyond denial and realizes with exquisite clarity that there’s only one, messy, and very painful way out. Members of the administration and legislature involved with the budget process have reached that point of clarity as well, and we need to support their efforts to find common ground around uncomfortable decisions. 

 

When there’s no money – no alternative – priorities become clear. Businesses and families deal within that framework every day. State government is now in that same space, and there is no joy at all. For a copy of the Governor’s budget address click on the Roundtable’s homepage (www.vtroundtable.org) .

 

Vermont Business Roundtable Elects New Officers and Directors for 2009

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Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Managing Director William P. Stritzler of Smugglers’ Notch Resort has been elected chair of the Vermont Business Roundtable, and five Vermont CEOs are newly-elected to three year terms on the board of directors. The new directors and officers assumed their roles during the Roundtable’s Annual Membership Meeting on January 14, 2009. Stritzler takes over the position from Timothy R. Volk, president of Kelliher Samets Volk, a Burlington-based marketing firm. Upon taking the helm Stritzler said, “There is much work to be done and the Roundtable is in a unique position to provide leadership on critical issues.” (more…)

Work Supports in Vermont: An Analysis of the Effectiveness of State Policies Supporting Work

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Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Prepared for the Vermont Department for Children and Families by Nancy K. Cauthen, Deputy Director; Kinsey Alden Dinan, Senior Policy Associate; Michelle Chau, Research Analyst

National Center for Children in Poverty
Mailman School of Public Health
Columbia University

Download Report Here

Pre-K Advocacy Organization Applauds Governor’s Call for Increased Investment in Early Education Programs

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Thursday, January 8th, 2009

Pre-k Vermont applauds the Governor statements today to increase the investment in early childhood programs. Research consistently shows the return on investment of state and federal funding for high quality pre-k programs, accessible for all three- and four-year-olds. (more…)

Op-Ed: Opportunity to Restructure State Government Never Better

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Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

Op – Ed by Doug Wacek

In late 2003, Governor Douglas appointed seven private citizens to undertake an independent review of Vermont’s largest employer – state government. As a result, the Vermont Institute on Government Effectiveness was created as a non-profit organization with private funding. Its mission was to recommend ways to improve state government’s overall effectiveness, understanding that this complex organization represented (in 2005) 9,800 employees with 62 business units and annual expenditures in excess of $3.6 billion. (more…)