That was the recent gas price in Fairfax, roughly two-and-a-half times more than it was two years ago. It’s easy to make excuses for this by blaming the war in Ukraine, supply and demand, the gas tax, or a hangover from COVID-19. Of course they all have influence but what’s not being talked about by Montpelier is the real impacts from the rise in prices. It means less money in the pocket of the retail worker who has to commute for their job. It’s a struggle for the single mom driving her kids to school or child care, on top of her work commute. Our local farmers, loggers, and truck drivers are being further decimated by the cost of diesel that fuels their trucks, tractors, and equipment. It’s early July, but families are already scared of what the cost will be to heat their homes or have their driveway plowed this winter.
The inflation and gas crisis is now the difference in any potential discretionary money for those living on fixed income, who could barely make ends meet two years ago. Many Vermont families, whom studies have shown are already struggling with food insecurities, are making tough choices in the grocery store and often choosing between bread to feed their families or gas to get to work. Even those who are fortunate enough to see a modest increase in their paycheck are seeing it absorbed by crippling inflation and the need to dip into what savings they’ve been able to scrape together.
Per CNBC, families on average have seen a drop in their savings by over 15% and with inflation still soaring, the ability for families to recoup their savings -- let alone save -- is near impossible. The inflation and gas crises of today will compound and severely impact the ability for our friends and family to retire in the future.
But the Legislature isn’t talking about this and the affordability crisis isn’t new. From ever-rising property taxes due to necessary investments in education to skyrocketing child care costs due to changes in labor and state regulations, working families have long been priced-out of Vermont. Our workforce in 2022 is the smallest it’s been in more than two decades. Even though we have nearly 50,000 more people living in Vermont, our workforce has shrunk in size. COVID-19 has only made the situation worse, with nearly 30,000 workers missing from our economy since the pandemic began.
Consider this: less than 8 percent of the more than 1,000 bills introduced in the Vermont Legislature over the past two years even mentioned the words “workforce” or “labor force.” No problem will fix itself until we acknowledge its existence. Sadly, Montpelier is stuck in neutral as one party dominates the conversation and controls the process.
Together, we can change it.
Imagine a Legislature that actually connects with the needs of working Vermonters. Imagine real relief from this worsening affordability crisis; which current representation denies exists. I see the ingenuity of our small business owners, the endless hours put in by our farmers, the endurance of our health care workers, and the young minds shaped by our hardworking teachers. I see a state full of opportunities where, one day, my daughter can afford to live, work, and raise a family of her own.
That’s why I’m running for the Vermont House of Representatives. I will be a voice for our working families, Vermont small businesses, and both Fairfax and Georgia; I’m not another vote for the far-left supermajority.
If we roll up our sleeves, listen, ask questions, and focus on the fundamentals -- the ability to provide for our family, neighbors, and loved ones -- we can achieve our vision and build a stronger Vermont for all.
I would be honored to have your vote. Let’s get to work.
Ashley Bartley is running for the Vermont House of Representatives to represent Georgia and Fairfax. She lives in Fairfax with her husband Jeff and their two children.