A Proven Track Record

Through our advocacy, the Vermont Chamber is effecting positive change for member businesses, for Vermont’s economy, and for our state’s overall quality of life.

The Vermont Chamber works with lawmakers and leaders at the state and federal levels to advocate on behalf of our members and businesses across the state. In 2021, significant Vermont Chamber legislative priorities advanced that will help businesses recover from the pandemic. Find them collected below.

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Government Affairs

2022 Success

Economic Relief

Vermont Chamber advocacy secured more than $300 million in economic relief for Vermont businesses, including through a substantial business relief package and subsequent $176 million in state relief for emergency grants and economic recovery assistance. In November and December of 2020, the Vermont Chamber helped secure an additional $75 million for business relief and $11.5 million more for recovery grants.

Tax Savings

Governor Scott signed H.510, a tax relief package, into law on May 27. The bill includes a partial military pension tax exemption which excludes the first $10,000 of federally taxable U.S. military retirement pay from taxable income, and subject to adjusted gross income thresholds and phase outs. Governor Scott issued a signing statement, stressing his disappointment that more of his tax relief proposals were not included in the bill. Governor Scott signed S.53, a tax reform bill which includes single sales factor and corporate minimum, into law on May 31. Once fully implemented, analysts with the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office said that part of the bill could cut corporate taxes by roughly $11 million a year. Finally, an expanded manufacturing tax exemption in the H.738 Miscellaneous Tax bill was signed into law on June 7. The expansion will exempt machinery and equipment used in integrated production operations and all ancillary processes between raw materials and finished goods, as well as manufacturing for packaging and quality assurance. This change will enhance workforce recruitment and retention, modernize facilities, and make Vermont competitive with the 33 other states that have similar exemptions.

Growing the Workforce

The Legislature allocated significant resources toward upskilling and training in S.11, signed on June 8, to better equip Vermont workers for in-demand, high-paying jobs, particularly in healthcare and the trades. Funding was also passed for programs geared toward supporting BIPOC business owners as well as justice-involved individuals, and additional funding was passed for retention incentives for New Americans, recent college graduates, and healthcare educators. The Legislature also allocated just over $3 million for the relocation incentive program, which will offset the moving costs for new workers relocating to Vermont.

Housing

Governor Scott signed S.210 and S.226 into law on June 7. S.226 contains a $15 million investment to develop housing units for the “missing middle income” housing stock. S.210 will focus on rehabilitating dilapidated rental units and building more apartment buildings in downtowns, both of which will increase availability of workforce housing options.

2021 Success

Economic Relief

Vermont Chamber advocacy secured more than $300 million in economic relief for Vermont businesses, including through a substantial business relief package and subsequent $176 million in state relief for emergency grants and economic recovery assistance. In November and December of 2020, the Vermont Chamber helped secure an additional $75 million for business relief and $11.5 million more for recovery grants.

Business Recovery

$38 million was also secured for business recovery programs, including $19 million for Vermont Economic Development Authority forgivable loans, $40 million for Community Recovery and Revitalization Grant Program, and $9 million for Creative Economy Grants. Several provisions in a liquor law modernization bill will be beneficial for the hospitality industry, including moving ready-to-drink cocktails (RTDs) into the wholesale/retail space, permitting first-class licensees to sell RTDs, staggered vs. annual license renewals, and clarification for licensees to participate in the rare and unusual product raffles. $17.7 million of continued savings were secured for health care premiums for small businesses using the Vermont Health Connect.

Economic Relief

Vermont Chamber advocacy secured more than $300 million in economic relief for Vermont businesses, including through a substantial business relief package and subsequent $176 million in state relief for emergency grants and economic recovery assistance. In November and December of 2020, the Vermont Chamber helped secure an additional $75 million for business relief and $11.5 million more for recovery grants.

Taxing PPP Loans Prevented

At the insistence of the Vermont Chamber, the Legislature agreed to exclude 2021 Paycheck Protection Program recipients from tax liability. The Vermont Chamber and other business organizations tirelessly advocated to prevent the Legislature from taxing 2021 PPP loans. Businesses that were impacted by the pandemic and accessed PPP will now avoid a significant tax bill.

Investing in Child Care

A recently issued report by the U.S. Chamber showed that, of states examined, losses averaged $1 billion annually in economic activity due to breakdowns in child care. Even before the pandemic, three out of five of Vermont’s youngest children didn’t have access to child care they needed. The Vermont Chamber continues to advocate for investment in child care and celebrated a recent child care bill that will increase access in Vermont.

Unemployment Insurance Rate Increase Reduced

The Vermont Chamber pushed the Legislature to prevent significant unemployment insurance contribution rate increases for employers forced to furlough employees because of Covid-19. We also helped secure changes to remove 2020, an anomaly year, from consideration when the Department of Labor computes unemployment insurance tax rate schedules. Unemployment insurance tax rates increase when employers lay off workers, penalizing them for that action. However, the pandemic layoffs were due to government restrictions, forcing this recalibration of the formula.

New Montreal Office

A new Business Attraction Investment Program will generate foreign direct investment prospects for Vermont in aerospace, biotechnology and renewable energy and provide Vermont with statewide representation in Québec. The initiative will increase foreign direct investment with Canada and promote cross-border trade and tourism when the border reopens. We helped secure funding for this initiative to strengthen our ties with Québec, promote tourism as we emerge from the pandemic, and attract Canadian companies interested in establishing a footprint in Vermont for contracting opportunities.

Broadband Expansion

There is a connectivity shortfall impacting 70,000 Vermont households that do not have access to federally defined broadband. Covid-19 related restrictions and closures have demonstrated that broadband access is now essential for economic development. The Vermont Chamber continues to advocate for broadband expansion and celebrated $150 million recently allocated toward this goal.

Increased Housing Investment

Vermont produced several thousand homes every year from the 1960s through the 1990s. By 2019, new residential building permits had dropped to 2,080. Aging housing stock, tight supply, and rising prices near employment centers have forced people to make difficult choices about where to live. The Vermont Chamber is advocating to increase new or retrofitted housing units in Vermont while also focusing on creating more housing options for low- and middle-income Vermonters. $190 million was allocated for housing in the recent legislative session.

2021 Win

Attracting New Workers

Legislation was codified and funded with $650,000 to continue the remote worker and worker relocation programs that were successful prior to the pandemic. Qualifying new employees may receive up to $7,500 in relocation expense reimbursement if they become a resident of certain areas in Vermont. The Vermont Chamber recognizes the value of attracting new families to live and work in Vermont and fully supported these programs to improve and expand our statewide workforce.

Alcohol-to-Go

Current pandemic-allowed alcohol-to-go provisions will remain in place until July 2023 for licensees. This extension was a legislative priority identified by the Vermont Chamber and our partner organization, Vermont Independent Restaurants.

Harmful Cloud Tax Prevented

The Vermont Chamber helped businesses avoid a harmful cloud tax. The tax would have cost Vermont’s technology industry at least $14 million annually by fiscal year 2025 and would have damaged the state’s current tech-friendly reputation, while also disincentivizing the recruitment of remote workers. This tax proposal had the potential to negate much of the economic benefit that will be achieved through state investments in broadband infrastructure.

Massive Health Care Savings

Legislation passed that takes advantage of a change in federal health care policy and will result in millions of savings in health care costs for small businesses. Estimates suggest this could result in as much as $17 million in savings. The action is the result of the Legislature and administration responding quickly to a federal change and the Vermont Chamber’s advocacy, which urged them to act to take advantage of these savings in the next health plan year.