Douglas outlines broad vision of state’s economic future in address

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(Host) In his Inaugural Address today, Governor Jim Douglas urged lawmakers to take bold steps to help Vermont become a national environmental leader in the 21st century.

As part of the initiative, Douglas wants to attract high-tech companies that are building new types of pollution control equipment.

The Governor also wants to create a public/private partnership to expand high speed Internet coverage throughout the state.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Douglas used his address as an opportunity to outline a broad vision of the state’s economic future. The governor wrapped his new initiatives under the banner of “The Vermont Way Forward.”

It’s a vision to make Vermont the national center of environmental engineering efforts to find solutions to a wide variety of water, air and toxic chemical waste problems.

(Douglas) “Vermont has a legacy of leadership that stretches back to our state’s founding. We’ll take that heritage forward and become a leader in a new economic frontier, a system of continual and substantial growth that harnesses our immeasurable intellectual wealth. To do so, we must bring together advancements in technology and education around the core of our shared environmental ethic.”

(Kinzel) Douglas said statewide access to high speed Internet service is a critical part of Vermont’s economic future. The governor called for a public-private partnership to expand broadband coverage to every part of the state.

Douglas said the issue is too important to wait for the private sector to accomplish this goal on its own:

(Douglas) “Broadband, Internet and wireless cellular are no longer mere conveniences afforded to urbanites and well heeled. They’re a fundamental part of modern life for all Vermonters, as essential as electricity and good roads. This is the technical foundation of the Vermont Way Forward.”

(Kinzel) Although Douglas called rising property tax burdens the most important economic issue facing the state, he didn’t offer any new plans to deal with this issue. Instead he reiterated his call for a cap on local spending.

However he did make it clear that he’ll strongly oppose all efforts to lower property taxes by shifting burdens to another statewide tax. That’s an approach favored by the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

(Douglas) “The oppressive property tax burden is the single greatest threat to Vermonters renowned resolve. We must work together to ease the weight of property taxes on working Vermonters without shifting it to another tax.”

(Kinzel) The governor said he wanted to honor the educational legacy of former senator Robert Stafford, who died last month at the age of 93, by naming regional centers after Stafford that would focus on math, science and technology issues.

For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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