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TRANSCRIPT: Governor Phil Scott Remarks on Affordability and the Challenges Facing Everyday Vermonters

March 27, 2024

Montpelier, Vt. - At his weekly press conference today, Governor Phil Scott addressed the affordability challenges so many Vermonters are facing. Between rising costs, higher taxes, fees and penalties, too many Vermonters and small businesses are struggling to get by.

He was joined by Amanda Shangraw, the owner of a small business in Williamstown, who recently wrote to lawmakers about the difficulty of doing business in our state, and how the decisions in Montpleier have a real impact on people trying to make it in Vermont.

The Governor also encouraged legislators and Vermonters to read an interview that appeared today in Vermont Public, titled “The challenges of living on a fixed income in a state where the taxes keep going up.”

“It's a story about Juanita Nunn, who is selling a piece of her land and moving into a mobile home because she can’t afford to pay the taxes and costs to heat her home,” said Governor Scott. “Juanita has been in that home for over three decades, and it’s been in the family of her late husband since the 1800s. We’re making it too expensive for people like Juanita to live in Vermont. People who’ve spent their whole lives here are struggling. They’re fighting for every penny, and every time Montpelier increases their costs, more and more are forced to give up. These are the people I’m worried about. These are the people I’m fighting for.”

Read the transcript of the Governor and Amanda Shangraw’s remarks as prepared below.

You can watch the press conference by clicking here.

GOVERNOR SCOTT: Good afternoon. When I first ran for office, I said my three priorities which were: to grow the economy, make Vermont more affordable, and protect the most vulnerable.

I know you’ve heard this many times over the years, but I wanted to talk a little more about why I set these in particular and why they’re still my priorities today.

The way I saw it, and still do, is Vermont has more than its fair share of challenges:

We have an aging population, a workforce shortage, and declining student enrollment for decades.

We’ve also lost major employers that were the lifeblood of their communities.

Those losses in workers, students, and jobs have disproportionately impacted communities outside of Chittenden County, creating a gap between Chittenden and pretty much everywhere else in the state.

And yet, most of the spending decisions in Montpelier didn’t take into account this regional inequity.

So, I ran for office and set these priorities as a way to focus on the fundamentals, so we could address these challenges, attract more workers, revitalize communities that have been left behind and give more Vermonters the opportunities they deserve.


Every proposal my team and I have put forward, every budget decision we’ve made, every bill I’ve vetoed have had these challenges and these goals in mind.

Whenever we make a major decision, we start by asking ourselves, does this satisfy at least one of our goals? That’s why we prioritize as a team, so everyone understands the choices on the table, and we can make the best decisions for Vermonters.

I believe this approach is essential to solving our challenges and makes sure Vermonters get the most out of the investments we make. Because it’s their money, and they’ve entrusted us to spend it wisely.

It’s especially important to remember that in years like this one, when we don’t have hundreds of millions of dollars in surplus.


Take this year’s budget for example.

We knew it was going to be a tough year. So, we started with an understanding of how much we had to work with, without raising taxes and fees.

Then we heard from agencies and departments about new initiatives to move us towards our goals and cover additional needs.

As a team, we thought through the benefits and costs and weighed the value of proposals against each other.

What we presented to the Legislature was a balanced budget that grew by 3.57% without raising taxes or fees while still prioritizing housing, public safety, flood recovery, and human services. 

Now as I’ve said, there were more “asks” than available funding. But we prioritized based on all the principles I’ve talked about and made tough decisions based on our fiscal reality.

I believe we owe it to Vermonters to have the courage to make those hard choices instead of asking them to pay more or increase costs that put our economy and their livelihoods at risk.


Unfortunately, the supermajority in the Legislature is taking a different approach.

Every committee appears to be doing its own thing without any spending parameters in place.

They did the same last year, growing the budget more than what was sustainable which added to the level of difficulty when building this year’s budget.

This year, they overspent in the BAA before understanding the full budget picture, so that put them in a $15-million hole before they even started working on the FY25 budget.

As a result, House Appropriations, on an 8-4 vote, moved forward with a budget that made cuts to some of our shared priorities like housing.

The House budget slashes housing investments that help low income and vulnerable Vermonters which is bizarre. 

It eliminates funding for VHIP, which has probably been our most successful housing initiative lifting people out of homelessness. 

These days, our housing partners are reporting costs over $450,000 per unit that take years to build.

In contrast, the VHIP initiative brings units online in about 100 days at a tenth of the cost.

Another example is Healthy Homes and Mobile Home Improvement programs which help vulnerable Vermonters stay in their home, were cut in half.

And our proposed expansion of the Downtown Village Tax Credit program was eliminated entirely, which has helped smaller, more rural communities across the state add much-needed housing.

Now, when you consider this along with the fact that neither Chamber has yet to pass any reforms to make it easier and less expensive to build housing, and the House is taking up a bill, H.687, which will make it harder and slower to build for most communities. So, it’s difficult to understand how legislative leadership can still say “Housing is a priority.”

Now, I understand the House has housing investments in another bill. But to gut these programs which have proven to have the greatest impact, just doesn’t make sense to me.

What also makes little sense to me is that the other “housing” bill has new and higher taxes and fees with very little to actually generate units.  


Which brings me to my next point, they’re spending a lot of money in other bills keeping them separate from the budget, making it less transparent and more difficult to keep track of.

And to pay for all of it, they’re increasing costs for those who live, work, visit, do business, and invest in Vermont.

If the House is successful, it will make Vermont the highest taxed corporate state in America, not a great marketing strategy to attract businesses to our state.

And not a great strategy to keep employers here, who are already dealing with high costs from property taxes to payroll taxes to utility costs and numerous other mandates, much of which put Vermont at a competitive disadvantage already.

Making this change with the potential for huge consequences took about an hour of the committee’s time with virtually no testimony.

As we’ve seen in other areas, from the pupil weighting changes in Act 127 to the Clean Heat Standard to Raise the Age, there are consequences when we don’t think things through. 

We should be striving to make it easier to do business in Vermont.

Instead, I fear their actions will drive jobs and opportunity away.

And while we proposed an exemption on the property transfer tax to help jumpstart housing, the Legislature is contemplating the opposite. They want to raise the property transfer tax which is paid for by the new owner.

These are just a few examples of taxes and fees on the table right now, totaling over $100 million. 

And as a reminder, that’s on top of the over $240 million property tax headed our way.


It’s safe to say, I’m confused with the direction the Legislature is going.

We hear from Vermonters, every single day, who are more than just concerned. Some are angry and some are just plain scared.

They simply cannot take anymore.

They can’t afford the hundreds of millions in new taxes the Legislature is currently considering or even the Legislature’s $100 million payroll tax coming July 1.

They can’t afford hundreds or thousands of dollars more a year to heat their homes and businesses and also see their electric bills increase as well.

Even things like a 20% hike in DMV fees stretch budgets thin.

I hear over and over from Vermonters. They don’t feel Montpelier is listening to them.

When costs go up, people struggle.

Seniors on fixed incomes have to decide between their prescriptions or heating their homes.

Parents have to decide whether their kids can go to summer camp, play recreational sports, or take up a musical instrument.

We’re asking way too much of Vermonters, and they deserve better.

They’ve had enough.


I’d like to introduce everyone to Amanda Shangraw, a small business owner from Williamstown.

She knows firsthand how hard it can be to grow a business in Vermont.

Last week, she wrote to a group of lawmakers and shared her story. She copied Secretary Kurrle on it who sent it to me.

It’s a powerful example, and it’s one Legislators should really listen to.

So, I invited her today to talk about it because the things we do in this building have a real impact on everyday Vermonters. Amanda…

AMANDA SHANGRAW: My name is Amanda Marie Shangraw, I’m a 3rd generation Vermonter who was born with Severe Dyslexia and ADHD.

I was raised by a single widowed mother, Nancy Griffin. My father Barry passed away young of a brain aneurysm. I grew up in poverty in rural East Calais, Vermont. My mother took a job and worked overtime every week until she retired from the United States Postal Service, to support a family of three children by herself. I went to U-32 Middle / High School and continued my education at Johnson State College.

My entire life, I’ve wanted to do good. Start a business and “make something of myself.” I struggled so hard in school that own my teacher advisor warned my mother in my freshman year that the likelihood of me ever getting a diploma was slim, let alone become a contributor to general society, but I took summer school and she worked over time so she could pay for private tutors, to come to our home every day, all summer, every year of my high school career specializing in Orton-Gillingham, so I could eventually learn how to read and write.

In the middle of COVID-19, I met my now husband Peter Shangraw, standing here with us today. He’s a single dad who’s raised two incredible children all on his own. The children’s biological mother has been absent most of their lives, as she has spent the last 20 years struggling with severe addiction. Peter is also a multi-generational Vermonter, who was raised by his Mom, Kay, and his Father, Dennis Shangraw, – he’s one of four boys that all grew up in rural Williamstown, Vermont. Peter’s father was a truck driver, known for his ability to work 80-100 hours a week. Peter’s mother, Kay, was a dedicated nurse until she retired just last year.

Peter and I, by complete accident in the middle of the pandemic started a now, nearly, million-dollar business called Bergamot + Amor in Williamstown, where we hand make luxury leather goods and ship them all over the world. We started our business out of Peter’s garage, but quickly outgrew that space. In 2023, we closed on two abandon properties right downtown in Williamstown, VT on Route 14. The buildings are the last of any historic commercial buildings left in the village and require, what we are now learning, is extensive work to make them up to “current code.”

Peter and I have worked 7 days a week, for the last 3.5 years, 16-hour workdays, while our kids grow up. We have sacrificed taking days off, or any vacations to pay for the buildings in town and their continuous upkeep, with the goal of reviving a small town, and promoting tourism to Vermont in hopes that Williamstown can not only build a better reputation for itself, but also survive post pandemic. 

The taxes that our business is seeing monthly to the state, biweekly in payroll, and built into every transaction we take, on top of increasing property taxes, and the endless permitting and fees to upgrade our building to meet “current fire code,” state code, and ADA compliancy after over 100 years of no upgrades is bankrupting our small business. Since our business started in 2022, we have paid $141,915.73 in taxes to the State of Vermont. That’s a price tag that Peter and I’s take-home salaries combined have yet to meet. We employ eight incredibly smart and motivated Vermonters, some that started with us as kids, making three times what I did at their age, just starting out in the workforce with zero previous job experience ever and who are still considered dependents.

I’m here today because I voted for a large majority of you, and I’m let down and hurting, and I’m defeated just like thousands of other Vermonters and small business owners.

Democrats, Republicans and Progressives alike, and I wanted to look you all in the face and introduce myself, so when you go to vote bills in, such as the new corporate tax bill or raise payroll taxes to support items in the state general fund you have a face to remember and hundreds of others to think about. Not to mention the huge property tax hike we’re facing.

I’m asking you, our state government. How do we survive when we don't have pockets as deep as the big corporations? How do we continue to build back better and lift our community up without having to accept a high interest loan or borrow some crazy amount of money or learn how to write grants? We can't afford to hire additional help, we work non-stop to sustain, between the cost of living constantly increasing and us having to skip our own paychecks to make sure the lights stay on in our workshop, we are drowning. 

I’m reaching out because not only do we need help, but I'm hoping this isn't the first time a small business owner has taken the time to explain how these “small hikes” in taxes are truly killing the working-class Americans and suffocating the American dream, messages and motivational pushes that I was fed for breakfast as a kid, now feel further out of reach than they ever have. I don't want to sit at home and collect food stamps.

I want to work and continue to create jobs and offer housing, and be a part of the solution, not the problem, but we are learning daily, that in this state it’s easier to give up, than to keep fighting. Small businesses all around our state are folding, and I fear we might be next. These taxes are killing us. Please. Stop taxing the middle class, or in a year the middle-class won’t exist.