Fountain of Youth Not in Vermont

March 4, 2006

The New York Times ran a story about a problem in Vermont that I thought only existed in Italy and Japan: Vermont is now the second “oldest” state behind Maine in its retired population and exodus of young people.

Vermont’s governor, Jim Douglas, is treating the situation like a crisis, allowing illegal immigrants to stay — “The cows need to be milked,” he said — and offering American citizens — young ones — scholarships and other perks to remain in the state.

(Gov. Douglas) proposes making Vermont the “Silicon Valley” of environmental technology companies to lure businesses and workers; giving college scholarships requiring students to stay in Vermont for three years after graduating; relaxing once-sacrosanct environmentally driven building restrictions in some areas to encourage more housing; and campaigning in high schools and elementary schools to encourage students “to focus now on making a plan to stay in Vermont,” said Jason Gibbs, a spokesman for Mr. Douglas.

Here’s why it’s so important to retain young people as the Italians and Japanese, facing a similar crisis, have learned:

While Vermont’s population of young people shrinks, the number of older residents is multiplying because Vermont increasingly attracts retirees from other states. It is now the second-oldest state, behind Maine. Arthur Woolf, an economist at the University of Vermont, said that by 2030, there would be only two working-age Vermonters for every retiree.

Without more working people, Mr. Douglas said, “we won’t have tax revenue for anything other than public education and Medicaid. There’ll be no money for anything else.”

How about some “peach babies” for the good blue state of Vermont?