Links to media coverage:

Vermont Digger posting, "Structural Problems; Structural Solutions"

Vermont Tiger posting "Governed to Death"

WCAX article

"Gov. Douglas's scathing letter to the Legislature"

Vermont Tiger posting "Tom Licata's War"

Vermont Tiger posting "Anyone Listening?"

Channel 17 Live AT 5:25PM interview

Burlington Free Press vt.Buzz - a political blog

Blog of the National Taxpayers Union

Article written by Tom Licata, posted on Vermont Tiger:

Mark Johson interview 4/21/08

Send email toTom Licata
(802) 658-8624
172 Deforest Road
Burlington, Vermont
Frustrated taxpayers urge job growth
Citizens, legislators debate in lively town forum
By Jason Starr
The Essex Reporter

December 5, 2007

Economic activist Tom Licata presented Vermont’s economy as hurtling toward implosion during a Dec. 5 forum in Essex Junction and said only a long-range plan for job growth and economic development would ensure a viable future.

Representing Vermonters for Economic Health, the Burlington resident led a 45-minute presentation entitled “The Truth You Need to Hear” followed by a lively 45-minute question and discussion period.

About 60 people attended the event at the Holy Family Church, including several state senators and representatives who got an earful from a crowd of opinionated taxpayers.

“I want the economy and my children’s future to be the number one priority (in the Legislature),” said Duncan Harvey, who urged people to sign a petition telling lawmakers to focus on a comprehensive economic plan during the upcoming session.

Harvey verbalized a mood of taxpayer frustration in the room saying issues such as global climate change – which has been a focus of legislators – should be placed on the back burner in light of economic challenges.

Those challenges were detailed in Licata’s presentation. He said Vermont is on the hook for $3.5 billion over the next 10 years in the form of road and bridge needs, new highway construction, Medicaid expenses, bond debt and other liabilities. At the same time, he said, the state is in a “demographic freefall” with the lowest birthrate in the nation and a higher than average exodus of 20- to 34-year-olds.

The root of the problem, according to Licata, is a lack of private sector job growth. From 2000 to 2006, Vermont gained jobs only in government and non-profits – sectors that don’t contribute to the tax base, he said. Private sector jobs, on the other hand, showed no growth over that period.

“There is no private sector job growth and that’s why we’ve been squeezed all these years,” Licata said.

Creating jobs would prevent more young Vermonters from leaving the state, increase tax revenue and make state government more solvent with the need to raise taxes, he argued.

“I think we are at a point in Vermont where we are pretty much taxed out and we need to find other revenue sources,” Licata said.

Sen. Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden County) led a group of state legislators in the room in defending the state’s record on job growth. She pointed to a bill passed last session that provided $12 million over two years for employee training. Mike Quinn, the state’s commissioner for economic development and an Essex Junction resident, said the bill has been a successful investment in Vermont’s workers and existing businesses.

But Colchester businessman James Ehlers believes Vermont is an unattractive state for large businesses. The state’s power service is unpredictable because of the scrutiny on the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant and insurance rates are not competitive with other states, he said. “We are interested in a stable, predictable business environment and that just doesn’t exist here,” he said. The so-called green economy that state leaders have talked about is propped up by government subsidies, he said.

“There are people who haven’t created a job in their life telling us the business climate is great,” Ehlers said. The fiscal challenges facing Vermont are exacerbated by the federal government’s increasing debt and deficits, Licata argued. Increasing taxes to ease the problem, he said, is “fools gold.”

“The hole we’ve dug for ourselves is deeper and more complex, and raising taxes too high can exacerbate our economic problems” by punishing society’s most productive people, Licata said during his presentation.

Licata predicted a difficult upcoming year for the economy.

Shelburne News, April 3, 2008

State financial health scrutinized by Tom Licata at Shelburne forum
"Neverending tax increases are hurting our families, our communities and the Vermont we love. Come be part of thesolution." So said the ad inviting concerned Vermonters to a "Town Meeting Forum" held last week at Shelburne's Town Office. The messenger was Burlington resident Tom Licata. The message was sobering.

According to Licata, a businessperson with an MBA, a background in finance, and a concern for the future of Vermont, if legislators continue on their current path, it will doom the economy of the state. He came loaded for bear: a myriad of statistics and charts to support his theories.


Licata has an analytical mind. A confessed morning person, he likes to read in the mornings. He followed the happenings in Montpelier intently, along with the numbers supplied to the press regarding the state's economic health. "I started compiling numbers....and those numbers didn't make sense." This was the start of Vermonters for Economic Health, a grassroots, citizen-led organization whose mission is to promote economic health and fiscal responsibility. Last week's meeting in Shelburne was the seventh such forum held in the state.

Taxesand trends:

The numbers indicated to Licata that if spending and taxation continues on its present course, in 20 years Vermont will have enough money to pay entitlements and interest on the state's debt - and that is all. In 2000, Vermont was ranked 13th in tax burden out of all the states. In 2006, that rank rose to number three. During roughly the same time, the state's government payroll and employee benefit costs grew 70 percent, and school spending grew from $813 million in 1999 to $1.3 billion in 2007: a 60 percent increase.

Couple this with the lack of job growth in the state's private sector and the issues come into focus. According to Licata, the 2007 Vermont Economy Newsletter reported a loss of 442 private sector jobs, and a gain of 445 government jobs. "Vermont is literally 'eating its own' by replacing taxpaying business with government and non-profit (non-taxpaying) entities," warned Licata. "This results in greater tax burdens on our shrinking private-sector economy and existing residential property taxpaying citizens. Our Legislature then steps in with social assistance to fill this void."

What demographics say

Part of Licata's presentation focused on the oft-reported statistics on Vermont's population. According to The New England 2020 report released in 2006, Vermont's share of people aged 25-29 was the lowest while its share of people aged 50-54 was the highest in the nation. This trend, says Licata, will have a huge impact on the state's economic health, when coupled with the statistics that show Vermont's young people leaving the state at four times the national average. In 2005, Vermont became the second oldest state in the nation.

What's the fix?

In large part, Licata says, the state needs growth of private sector jobs. With a stronger job base, the tax base for the state is likewise broadened, easing the burden on low-income residents and those who are on fixed incomes. More jobs, and better paying jobs, will create opportunities for young families to return to the state.

The other major factor is to curtail state spending. "We need to encourage a reversal of the decision-making process: Instead of deciding what is needed and then how we can afford it, let's decide what we can afford and then make the difficult decisions required to allocate the available resources," explains Licata. "Persistent spending at 2-3 times above the average Vermonter's income growth is unsustainable and irresponsible."

These are cultural changes that need to take place throughout the state's legislature, says Licata, and soon.

What others say

Rep. George Schiavone, Shelburne resident and a member of Vermont's Republican National Committee Delegation, was on hand for Licata's presentation. "No one out there, Progressive, Democrat, or Republican, is challenging his [Licata's] numbers," Schiavone offered. "He has a good background for studying this, and he believes something can be done. It's not his point to be 'pro or anti', governor or legislator."

"We all know there is a problem," says Mike Yantachka, Chittenden County Democratic Chairperson. "He (Licata) points to a number of programs, from landfills to early education, which cost money: he is right, they do. Is he proposing we do away with them?" Yantachka continued. "The real question is what do we do?" According to Yantachka, many of the problems Licata pinpoints are the result of the current Washington administration's tax cuts, which have pushed the cost of
spending from the federal to the state level.

"It is all a question of how you look at it. The responsibility for the numbers is where we differ."

The next Vermonters for Economic Health forum is scheduled to be held in Bristol. at Mount Abraham Union High School, on Wednesday, April 16, at 7 p.m.. Contact: Tom Licata at 658-8624 for more information.

Anger flares as 50 people discuss state of economy

By Terri Hallenbeck
Free Press Staff Writer

December 6, 2007
ESSEX JUNCTION -- When Tom Licata asked Vermonters to join him to talk about Vermont'seconomy Wednesday night, he lit a fire under some 50 people, many of them angryabout government spending.

Licata, a Burlington resident who started the anti-tax group Vermonters for Economic Health, is urging people to sign a petition calling on the governor and the Legislature to make the state's economy their priority.

"I got angry, and rather than stay angry, I put that anger to use," Licata said in explaining why he launched the group.

Licata found plenty of anger in the crowd that gathered in the Holy Family Church Hall in Essex Junction and engaged in a lively exchange with several legislators who attended.

Before Licata had gone far into his presentation, he found himself in the midst of a debate over school consolidation. Licata lamented that Education Commissioner Richard Cate's proposal, released this week, to force school districts to consolidate, had
received a cool reception from the Legislature.

"Are you asking the Legislature to tell the folks back home that they've got to merge?" asked Sen. Jim Condos, D-Chittenden, reminding Licata that just a few weeks ago Essex, Essex Junction and Westford voted down a school merger.

Robert Maynard of Williston agreed: "Consolidation of school districts has not cut costs," he said. "It's not the silver bullet it appears to be."

Across the room, Leo Maguire of Essex Junction countered: "I'll tell you how many school districts we need in Vermont. One. We need one school district, and you know who's going to decide that? People like you and I."

Licata laid out the pressures facing state government -- from a decrease in federal support to crumbling roads at home. His comments did not align with or against any political party, but he suggested the state is in a financial bind that elected officials are not

In a petition to Gov. Jim Douglas and the Legislature, he states: "Our unsustainable and oppressive tax burdens need to be addressed with a comprehensive, Long-Term Economic Plan."

Duncan Harvey of Essex Junction, who has joined with Licata, said the economy must be elected leaders' main focus when the Legislature convenes next month. "I'm really worried if my grandchildren are going to be seventh-generation Vermonters," he said. "When January comes around, I want the economy and my children's future to be the No. 1 priority."

Licata's presentation ended with the complaint that the needs of the working class are being neglected while politicians pay attention to lobbyists fighting for special interests.

Sen. Diane Snelling, R-Chittenden, took umbrage. "I want you to know the forgotten man doesn't exist," she said.

"Yes he does," came shouts from the crowd, setting off a heated exchange.

Maguire accused the Legislature of spending too much time on global warming and not enough worrying about how much debt the state faces.

"We talk about debt all the time," Snelling responded.

Snelling and other legislators defended efforts to generate jobs in Vermont, saying legislation passed last session will pay for work force training to allow Vermont companies to expand.

Many at the meeting said Vermont needs to do more to make the state business-friendly. James Ehlers of Colchester said the state doesn't offer businesses stability. He cited Vermont Yankee, whose license to operate will soon be up for renewal but which faces strong opposition from some in the state, as an example.

Businesses want more assurance that the state's energy rates will remain stable, he said. "I wouldn't be doing it here if I was starting now. It's too unpredictable."

Maynard, who said he works at IBM, said the company should have established a new manufacturing plant in Essex Junction several years ago, but did it instead in Fishkill, N.Y. The reason, he was told, was that taxes were too high and regulations were too cumbersome in Vermont.

Condos argued that those were not the reasons IBM officials cited.