Letter to the editor: Governor's vetoes discourage younger families
Not quite 20 years ago my daughter, a newly minted teacher, accepted a teaching job in Vermont, and she and her boyfriend, a retail manager, also newly minted, looked for housing. Low pay and high housing and utility costs made the task hard, but they found a place and began their Vermont dream — only because they had two salaries and were willing to delay having children.
I thought of them and their challenges as I read a recent letter to the editor entitled Governor’s Vetoes Preserved the State’s Affordability. In the letter the writer asserts that Governor Scott’s vetoes of the minimum wage bill and the paid family leave bill will keep price inflation down, helping all Vermonters. I wondered how keeping prices down by suppressing wages and making it harder to afford having kids helps Vermonters or helps attract young people to move to Vermont to provide the next generation of taxpayers.
My kids have done well because they have the education and skills that enable them to advance, and the patience to live in less than optimum circumstances while they renovated an old house and literally built their future. But many young people don’t have those assets, and when they learn that there are better paying jobs, paid family leave and affordable child care elsewhere, they vote with their feet.
Last year I attended a legislative budget hearing in Winooski. My reason to be there was to testify for passage of what is now known as Act 76. But I was struck by the testimony of teachers and social workers who testified to their incredible work loads and low wages. One young teacher said she loved her students, loved teaching, but was considering leaving Vermont because she and her husband could not afford to have children of their own. These people were professionals, can you imagine the stress on minimum wage earners? Several social workers brought their clients, who testified to the difficulty of affording housing, utility expenses and child care on minimum wage jobs.
My question to those who would deny livable wages to those who are working in jobs that we deem necessary is, would you live like that? Would you stay in Vermont, or would you seek employment elsewhere? Let’s get real and start structuring our economy so all Vermonters can live and thrive here.