The Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce is an organization whose mission statement is to “guide, inspire and promote the best interests of the businesses and professionals of the area, and to enhance the economic, cultural, educational and recreational opportunities of its citizens and visitors.” This was re-affirmed during our recently completed strategic planning process. One of the important ways that we set about to accomplish these objectives is through advocacy on the local, state and national levels. The swearing-in of a new governor and the seating of a new General Assembly presents the Chamber with the opportunity to advance the positions of the business community. We believe that adoption of a business agenda will create a climate that will encourage economic growth, lead to investment and reinvestment in Vermont, spur development and create jobs. Through a very deliberative process, our public policy committee has thoroughly vetted our positions and they have been subsequently adopted by our board of directors. We work with a diverse coalition of like-minded groups to advance this agenda. There are several broad policy areas that we work to make a difference in. As would be expected, our tax and budget policy calls for taxes that do not disproportionately burden the business community or one business sector. We support efforts to reduce corporate taxes to encourage private sector growth. We support reliance on property taxes to fund local government. Specifically, we are opposed to local option taxes. We support budgets that limit state government growth to no more than the historic rates of annual inflation. Regarding health care, the Chamber supports policies that maintain and expand personal choice and responsibility regarding health care costs. We believe in bringing price competition to providers and additional insurance carriers to the market. We support policies that ensure quality and promote efficiency throughout Vermont’s health care system. We oppose measures that would require businesses to finance health care. We endorse methods that will eliminate or reduce the cost shift in health care pricing. Our position on energy supports: policies that encourage reliable and affordable electricity and fuels for heating and transportation; rates that are competitive and are cognizant of the cost to businesses of all sizes; and energy conservation and use of renewables without shifting costs. The Chamber supports permitting policies that: simplify and streamline the permitting process; create a permit process that is more predictable and less subjective; and reduce the numbers of appeals, and reimburses the prevailing party for direct and indirect costs associated with fighting those appeals. On transportation, the Chamber supports policies which recognize that many forms of Vermont transportation infrastructure are vital to the Vermont economy. We believe that transportation money should be used exclusively for transportation projects. We support policies that will expand private sector delivery of transportation projects. We believe that the state must leverage federal funds to ensure that needed projects get completed. Education and the funding of education are vital to a strong economy. The Chamber supports policies that return Vermont per-pupil spending to no more than 130 percent of the national average. We support reducing property taxes by increasing the pupil-to-teacher ratio. We also believe that students should have the option of attending any elementary or secondary school. We believe that a reduction in employer and business mandates will encourage business expansion and job creation. The Chamber supports policies that hold business and employer mandates to a minimum. Policies should eliminate unnecessary and additional paperwork and reports that consume precious time and resources. Finally, the Chamber neither seeks nor accepts government grants. The Chamber generally supports reduction of publicly funded grant programs. The Chamber does, however, occasionally endorse worthy applicants for grants that may be available to them through existing programs. The Central Vermont Chamber has confidence that adoption of measures that follow our recommendations will result in a stronger economy. That stronger economy will lead to more investment in the state, more job creation, higher wages, and a better quality of life for all who live and work in Vermont. What do you think? William Moore is president of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.