by Betsy Bishop Despite the reported rancor around the budget in the 2018 legislative session, the Vermont Chamber had a very successful year, proving that the Republican Administration and the Democratic leaders of the Legislature can work together for the betterment of Vermont’s economy. It’s important that our elected leaders continue to find progress in this area because according to the recent VPR/PBS poll, the economy is the top issue for Vermonters. That means they want better job opportunities with competitive wages and flexible benefits as well as a place they can afford to live, increasing their purchasing power. Our elected leaders joined forces this past session resulting in the following successes for business.Economic Development & WorkforceSecured ongoing funding for Economic Development marketingSecured new funding for economic development grants to help small businessesMaintained funding for the Vermont Training ProgramAdded a focus to the older worker task force to include addressing flexibility to keep this population in the workforceAddressed workforce needs with an incentive to attract remote workersPassed an initiative to market the state’s airports as economic driversPassed legislation to allow more companies to manage their own efficiency programsTourismRequired for short term rentals to comply with tax and health laws of other lodging establishmentsMaintained tourism funding of $3 millionMaintained current nutritional requirements for children’s menusStopped an effort to increase the rooms and meals tax and implement an occupancy taxTax PolicyReduced the top marginal income tax ratesRepealed the tax on social security benefits for low and middle-income VermontersMaintained current tax levels without a carbon tax, an increase in the rooms and meals tax, an occupancy tax, or an additional fee for registering a businessLabor PolicyPassed an initiative to allow more flexibility with job applicants by banning salary historyPassed new legislation protecting workers from sexual harassment in the workplaceOtherSecured approval for Association Health Plans to operate in VermontProvided regulation to allow Lyft and Uber to operate more broadly in VermontMaintained current minimum wage, tip wage and paid family leave policiesSupported current best practices for business contracts that also protect consumersSupported a regulatory system for using chemicals in businesses that relies upon federal regulations rather than a patchwork system in different statesWhile we had many successes, we did have a few setbacks as we saw an increase in the non-residential property tax and stricter regulations for acquiring stormwater permits.The Vermont Chamber’s four-person lobbying team is supported through the dues of our 1,500-member businesses and countless other businesses that rely upon our work. When voting this year, remember that balanced policy is key to providing economic vitality and it’s clear to the Vermont Chamber that this goal is desired by all sides of the political spectrum.Betsy Bishop, of East Montpelier, is the president of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, whose mission is focused on creating an economic climate conducive to business growth while enhancing Vermont’s quality of life.