After more than 200 jobs were eliminated in Vermont over the last two weeks, the Vermont Republican Party is taking political shots at Gov. Peter Shumlin in statements that could be the beginning of the party’s 2014 platform.
IBM laid off more than 100 people Thursday at its Essex Junction location, reports say. Last week, Plasan Carbon Composites announced the closure of its Bennington facility (the operations are moving to Michigan). The cuts create a convenient trend line for the GOP’s political narrative that Shumlin doesn’t do enough to create and keep jobs in Vermont.
Vermont GOP chairman David Sunderland came out with a statement less than three hours after Shumlin’s office confirmed the latest cuts at IBM.
“It is clear the economic troubles in Vermont are deepening,” Sunderland wrote. “What is also clear is that there is absolutely no economic development plan from Gov. Peter Shumlin to reverse that trend.”
Sunderland said Vermont’s unemployment rate – still far below the national average – doesn’t tell the full story.
In 2013, the size of Vermont’s workforce dropped by about 3,300 people. These are people who left the state, retired and were not replaced by younger workers entering the workforce, or simply quit trying to find work. While this helps to make Vermont’s unemployment percentage appear less bleak, it is an ominous sign for our state’s economic future.
Shumlin, in a statement, touted a diverse economy and the state’s low unemployment rate, adding that companies in Vermont “are looking for highly skilled, educated workers like those being affected by this reduction at IBM. We stand ready to offer all of our resources to help find good Vermont job opportunities as soon as possible for those who will face layoffs as quickly as possible.”
The narrative from Republicans, though, is that Shumlin – and Montpelier in general – need to do a better job of preventing the cuts from happening in the first place.
Lt. Gov. Phil Scott didn’t name the governor once in his statement about the cuts, but expressed concern over the state’s economic health.
“The trend of job losses over the last two years is concerning,” he wrote. “In addition, the impending closure of Vermont Yankee” – a closure Shumlin pursued with conviction – “means even more high-paying jobs will disappear from our state. I fear we in Montpelier are simply not doing enough to grow our economy, create high-paying jobs, or make it easier to do business within our borders.”
Economic policy in Vermont has already formed the platform for at least one Republican’s Senate bid. Dustin Degree, a former staffer for then-Gov. Jim Douglas, said current policies drive up the cost of living in Vermont and hurt jobs.