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Friday, Sep 29, 2023

Local Republicans talk economy

On Friday, April 16, local Republicans gathered at 7 p.m. in the Ilsley Public Library to discuss the current situation of the Vermont economy with Bruce Lisman, retired chairman of JP Morgan’s global equity division.

Lewis Burridge, Addison County chair for the Vermont Republican Party, presided over the meeting, which began with the attendees reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Burridge then presented his views on the current budget and proposed reforms.

“We do not have a balanced budget,” said Burridge. “[Governor Jim Douglas] has presented a program which will cut the deficit about in half. We’re just treading water, we haven’t come up with anything further. To solve the problem with just more taxes would be a negative action because that’s one of our problems right now. We’re not offering competitive conditions to foreign investors. All of our people who are educated in the technical arenas in finance or banking have to go someplace else because we don’t have much [growth] here. I just think we don’t have our act together.”

Eighty-nine-year old Burridge, who has been involved with the Vermont Republican Party since 1985, also applied his extensive experience to the process of finding a solution, stressing bipartisanship.

“What we are looking at are solutions,” said Burridge. “We’re not looking at Republicans and Democrats. One reason for having speakers like we have tonight is to get another view from outside of Vermont, not people who have a vested Vermont interest.”

Burridge introduced Lisman, who then demonstrated that he is an avid optimist who believes the current market is trending toward bullish.

“I see the outline of a monster recovery,” said Lisman. “Manufacturing is coming back to America. We can become our own version of an economic powerhouse without abandoning values that we hold dear [like] kindness to others, helping and protecting people, [and] the other traits that we capture, [such as] the notion of a Vermonter as being frugal, practical and balanced.”

Lisman offered sound practical advice that had been considered by Vermonters before, rather than revolutionary new ideas.

“[We need] technological innovation,” said Lisman. “That’s the fuel for productivity. [We need to] declare that economic prosperity is of a first magnitude importance to the welfare of the state, and it is the only answer to what ails some of our citizens. [We need] government transparency because it re-enfranchises those who pay their taxes. Measuring the effectiveness of spending programs bringing accountability to government is a true measure of democracy, especially in a high tax state. [We need to] treat taxpayers with respect and fairness, the way Vermonters would treat their neighbors.”
There was a general consensus amongst all the attendees of the meeting that tax rates were too high, and that something ought to be done about it. Lisman said that the current high taxes reflect increased program costs and cited a $150 million difference in Vermont’s tax revenues, which he places at 2004-2005 levels, and its spending, at 2008 levels. Raising taxes is a part of the state’s struggle to bridge the gap.

“I would say any program that was formed after 2004 was based on assumptions that were largely delusional,” said Lisman. “To imagine that we were sustainable was to imagine that the stock market would go up forever, and that I could fly.”

Even though cutting back on spending is an important part of addressing the state’s budgetary woes, Lisman stressed continued support for the state’s economic assets, particularly creating strong local businesses and farms and promoting dairy and forest products, education, tourism, quarrying, housing and the insurance industries.

Lisman reminded the crowd of Vermont’s potential.

“We have economic clusters, we have a huge per capita higher education industry, we have a huge per capita hospital care industry, we have a highly educated population, and we are in a state where information flows freely and quickly.”