Douglas says permit reform may stimulate job growth

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says it’s critical that lawmakers reach a consensus on permit reform this summer. Douglas says he’s encouraging a House-Senate conference committee to find a compromise in the coming months because he’s very concerned that the issue will become bogged down in partisan politics if it spills into next year’s session.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) Douglas says the need to find a solution to permit reform is highlighted by a new economic report for the state.

The report indicates that Vermont will begin to experience slow economic growth in about nine months, but the growth is not expected to create any new jobs. Douglas says the report presents the state with a sobering outlook for the short term:

(Douglas) “It’s a very slow recovery. It’s what economists call a jobless recovery because unemployment is still quite high even though there’s a sign of life in the stock market and there’s some evidence that new jobs are being created slowly.”

(Kinzel) Given this economic outlook, Douglas says permit reform represents the state’s best opportunity to boost employment:

(Douglas) “We need to create jobs because of the thousands we’ve lost over the last few years. And as I travel around the state hosting jobs summits, I asked employers what are the major obstacles to creating jobs. And far and away the one topic on their minds was the permitting process, the regulations they have to endure. So it’s very important that we provide them opportunities to create jobs, and that’s why the matter is so urgent.”

(Kinzel) Douglas has vowed to call a special legislative session this summer if the House and Senate can agree on a compromise plan. The governor says he’s willing to take this approach because he’s very concerned that the issue will not be settled in next year’s session:

(Douglas) “It’s very difficult, I think, to achieve something that’s challenging a reform in an election year. That’s why I believe that we should do it now to address it while the momentum is still there, while the issue is fresh in everybody’s mind and while we have begun to make some progress toward the end of the session.”

(Kinzel) Douglas is hoping that the permit reform conferees will return to the Statehouse to discuss this issue by the end of the month.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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