Gov. Scott Talks Job Growth, Health Care During Press Briefing at VTC

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People / Aug. 10, 2017 11:33am EDT

By Maegan Winters


Governor Phil Scott takes questions at Vermont Technical College following his weekly press conference last Thursday. (Herald / Dylan Kelley) Governor Phil Scott takes questions at Vermont Technical College following his weekly press conference last Thursday. (Herald / Dylan Kelley) Rolling into town on a motorcycle last Thursday, August 3, Governor Phil Scott held his weekly press conference at the “FreshTracks Road Pitch” event at the Vermont Technical College.

The event was targeted toward motorcyclists who were also distinguished business owners, entrepreneurs, investors, or business advisors (see other story).

Before mounting his own Harley- Davidson, donning a black leather jacket, and traveling alongside the other bikers to their next function in Barre, Gov Scott shared a few words with the press about his interest in such an event, and the importance of encouraging young entrepreneurs, particularly those in technical or agricultural trades.

Though the governor could only speak for about 20 minutes, the event’s attendees appreciated his interest in the program.

“I think it’s great that he’s interested in small businesses and young people involved in small businesses,” said Cynthia Ryan, one of the winning presenters that day.

“Getting people from all walks of life [and] different backgrounds together with entrepreneurs and those who have been in business for numerous years, with the expertise to move Vermont forward, is something that I’m interested in,” said Governor Scott.

Youth Needed

He discussed the significance of younger generations being exposed to industries that invest in Vermont’s economy, industries that VTC promotes such as engineering and nursing.

After recalling his own experience at the University of Vermont studying to be a technical education teacher, he explained that his administration was trying to “grow the economy in any way we can.” Adding, “I think the tech industry is one area where we’ve seen tremendous growth over the years.”

Gov. Scott also expressed his concern about the shortage of younger workers interested in going into those trades. The current emphasis on a need for higher education has been recognized as part of the problem of the lack of youth workers, he said, and he argued that higher education does not always have to be a four-year college degree. Higher education could entail anything from an apprenticeship to a two-year program, he said.

No matter the cause, bringing more youth into the state of Vermont was presented as an undoubtedly beneficial action for the economy, a topic discussed numerous times in the governor’s speech.

Three Principles

“When I took office I talked a lot about the economy. In my first day in office, I issued an executive order,” he explained. Scott’s order laid out “three very simple principles about the way we do business.”

These principles, he said, were growing Vermont’s economy, making it more affordable, and taking care of the most vulnerable.

“We have an obligation, a moral obligation to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves,” he stated.

It is through following these three guidelines that the governor believes initiatives will be made purposeful and effective.

Questions from the press covered issues such as the opiate crisis, preparation for shifts in federal funding if Obamacare is repealed, and Act 46, including the struggle some towns are facing with mergers.

Opiate Crisis

On the opiate front, the governor answered, “I think that’s it’s going to the President’s desk at this point, whether to declare this as a crisis across America. I believe that it is. We may be a little ahead of some states, but we’re all far behind on this opiate crisis that we have on our hands.”

He told the crowd that in his first or second day in office he issued another executive order that created an opiate council, directed by Jolinda LaClair, who reports to him weekly.

“We’ve made great strides so far,” the governor said with confidence. “The opiate council, made up of members from all walks of life, will be coming back with some suggestions for legislation in October. I’m looking forward to that report and how we move this forward.”

President Trump has since rejected his opiate commission’s recommendation to declare the crisis a national public health emergency, instead choosing to place increased emphasis on law enforcement.

As to the possibility of repealing Obamacare, Gov. Scott said he signed a letter just last week with 10 other governors requesting this Congress slow down on this approach. He emphasized the urgency of paying attention to the mistakes made when the Affordable Care Act was enacted seven years ago. It is his hope that both parties in Congress can find a beneficial health care replacement for all.

“We’re not going to have any long-lasting health care reform without both sides coming together in some fashion,” he said.

Act 46 Problems

Just before his departure, the governor also gave his opinion on the difficulties of Act 46 and school mergers.

“I know it’s tough,” he said. “The mergers didn’t come easy for some communities. But we have to press forward,” said Scott.

I think we have to acknowledge that we have a problem on our hands. We have 20,000 fewer students than we did 20 years ago. [There are] 86,000 students in our K-12 program and it’s costing us $1.6 billion, which is almost about a third of our budget.”

He believes Vermont must take a different approach and that Act 46, while not perfect, starts a conversation about Vermont’s spending and how we should create a better, more efficient education system.

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