The Agency of Commerce and Community Development released a draft of Governor Shumlin’s 2011 Jobs Bill Proposal and presented it to the Republican Caucus on Tuesday.
Some of the proposals do not require legislative changes, such as a seasonal workshare program that will allow employers participating in the program to share employees during their off season, a mentoring program designed to help up-and-coming entrepreneurs, a plan to wire all Vermont industrial parks with broadband, and the Governor’s Career Readiness Certificate Program.
The so-called Jobs bill proposes to pay an “incentive of up to $500 when [an] employer hires and retains a new, full-time position, for a long term unemployed individual”. The bill defines a long-term unemployed person as “someone receiving 5 months or more of unemployment benefits”. The amount budgeted for this “incentive” is $25,000 which will only cover 50 people per year.
The bill also seeks to create a “Creative Economy Specialist” that will be part of the Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development, and will be paid for by “$100,000 in reallocated funding from the Vermont Film Commission”. The Film Commission will then be expanded to include the new CES position.
Another position created by the bill will be a “Local Foods Coordinator”. This position will be with the Agency of Agriculture and is intended to “create match making opportunities that result in more locally grown products in Vermont institutions interested in sourcing more local foods.” $125,000 is budgeted for this position.
Other proposals include:
· “Farm to Schools Programs”, with a budget of $75,000, to fund a grant program for local food producers “to serve these markets and Vermont schools seeking to source locally grown products”.
· Another “incentive payment” program called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that pays Vermont college graduates “$1,500 per year if the graduate remains in Vermont for 5 or more years”. Budget: $75,000.
· Large Animal Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program, designed to “re-direct existing dollars to create a loan forgiveness program…patterned after the nursing loan forgiveness program”. Budget: $50,000.
· “Provide matching grant funds for slaughter and meat processing facility improvements”. Another $50,000 budgeted.
· “VAAFM Travel Funds for Federal Farm Bill”. This is meant to “allow the VT Agency of Agriculture to be involved…in the formation, interaction and movement toward passage of the Federal Farm Bill.” Budget: $25,000.
· “Monitoring the Farm to Plate Plan”. $100,000 budgeted for “an annual evaluation of progress” for this program.
The last item in the draft is a proposal that will allow the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund to “apply Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) designation and thereby be eligible to apply for up to $2 million in capitalization for the Flexible Capital Fund.”
House Minority Leader Don Turner (R-Milton) is not convinced that the bill gives the economy what it needs to recover. “It seems like a lot of good ideas, but not a lot of new ideas,” he said. “I don’t see how a $500 incentive payment will give [businesses] the impetus to hire new employees.”
Regarding the VAAFM Travel Funds for the Federal Farm bill, Turner said, “It seems like a lobby for the Federal government.” In order to truly help the economy, Turner continued, “We’ve got to create an atmosphere to induce businesses to create jobs.”