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Secretary Kurrle: Military Pensions: We Need to Stop Making it Easy for Highly Skilled Job Seekers to Choose Anywhere but Vermont

February 2, 2022

The following remarks were delivered by Agency of Commerce & Community Development Secretary Lindsay Kurrle at a February 2, 2022 bipartisan press conference to support eliminating the state income tax on military retirement pay.

Secretary Kurrle: As you’ve heard, this tax relief package has a lot of benefits both to existing Vermonters and potential new residents.

The military pension and survivors benefits tax exemption dually serve to acknowledge the contributions of all who serve in our armed forces and as a tool we can use in recruiting critically needed workers to our state.

Not a week goes by that I don’t have a conversation with an employer or employer member organization where workforce (rather the lack of) isn’t raised. Employers are not only unable to grow and expand their operations, they are also challenged to meet current operational demands due to excessive job vacancies.

Wondering where we are going to find enough people to fill the thousands of job vacancies, that stretch through every single sector in our state is what keeps me up at night. It’s what keeps employers up at night.

Education and training are important, but alone are not going to solve our challenges. Especially when we don’t have enough people to educate and train! We have to recruit more working age people to our state.

We have deployed a variety of programs intended to help Vermonters find jobs or better jobs, and we have used a variety of tools to attract new workers to our state. There is no one silver bullet. We must use every tool in the recruitment toolbox.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, approximately 200,000 women and men leave U.S. military service and return to life as civilians, each year. They have an important decision to make as they approach their separation date and plan for transitioning to civilian life. Where can they find good jobs in affordable and safe communities? Vermont is an attractive place to live and work, but we lack tax policy needed to compete with neighboring states.

How do we know this matters? We know this matters because my colleagues at the Vermont Department of Labor’s Workforce Development Division, in partnership with the VT National Guard, have initiated targeted recruitment efforts at Fort Drum in northern New York, by actively working with exiting service members and new veterans, who are at the height of their career and are able to offer Vermont employers some of the best work ethic, work product, skills and experience that we could ask for.

They know the military pension and survivors benefits tax exemption is an important tool that is missing from our recruitment toolbox that would no doubt help us recruit critically needed talent to our state. You heard Commissioner Bolio say Vermont is one of only three states that fully taxes military pensions. People have choices. We need this tool to bolster recruitment programs that are currently in place, and to support broadening the efforts.

We need to stop making it easy for highly skilled job seekers to choose anywhere but Vermont.