Rep. Cynthia Browning: 'Econology?' A legislative perspective
Some have taken to combining economics and ecology into the word "econology."
This can be defined as analyzing economic activity embedded within an ecology, which provides key environmental resources. One way to evaluate what was and was not accomplished in the 2019 Vermont legislative session is through the framework of "econology." Policies can fit together to invest in and to protect key resources and capacities, both environmental and economic.
The legislature identified the last needed source of funding for our Clean Water initiatives by allocating 6 percent of the Rooms and Meals tax revenue to the Clean Water Fund. Significant amounts will be spent to upgrade water and sewer systems throughout the state. These investments protect a key environmental and economic resource and create jobs.
State spending on transportation infrastructure also supports economic activity, and this year some electric charging stations will be provided to support switching to electric vehicles to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The state is increasing investment in expansions of high speed internet, which is now a pre-requisite for development. A framework for regulating the growing hemp and hemp products industry was established to guide the growth of this new industry while protecting consumers and the environment.
The state budget allocates additional revenue to the low income home weatherization program, which both helps vulnerable Vermonters and reduces the use of fossil fuels. We have taken a step to reduce the utilization of single use plastics and polystyrene.
We have invested in our labor force in several ways. The expansion of workforce training programs will help our workers to develop the skills that businesses need. The expansion of the Child Care Financial Assistance Program will support Vermonters who struggle to cover the costs of child care in order to work.
But — there is so much work left to do for our "econology" in the next legislative session in January.
I will be working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the subsidies in the tax code that Vermonters currently provide for the use of fossil fuels. We should explore fully divesting Vermont pension funds from fossil fuel related stocks and bonds. I believe that we should expand the bottle deposit and redemption system to cover more containers to reduce waste and ensure materials get re-used properly. And we must reform Act 250, which regulates development, in a way that properly balances the economy and the ecology.
I will be working to provide better support for Vermont workers through a modest and flexible paid family and medical leave program. I will work to put in place a schedule of additional increases in the minimum wage that ensures that we do not hurt some of the people we are trying to help.
The English prefix "eco" is based on a Greek word for household, which included both a family and the farm through which it gained subsistence. I hope that this brief listing has shown that it might be useful to combine both our economic "household" and our ecological "household" into "econology", so that we are putting in place policies to invest in both households, in the smallest and the largest sense of that word.
I will continue to hold my legislative office hours throughout the rest of the year. The first Saturday of every month I will be at Chauncey's on Route 7A in Arlington from 8 to 9:30 am. The second Saturday I will be at Charlie's Coffee House on Bonnet Street in Manchester, same time. I can be reached at email@example.com or 802.375.9019. I am on Facebook and my website is www.cynthiabrowning.com . Please contact me if you would like a copy of my full final legislative report.
Cynthia Browning represents Arlington, Sandgate and Manchester in the state House of Representatives.
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