Sen. Richard Westman

Sen. Richard Westman

Vermont’s demographic challenges are, over time, negatively affecting the state in a myriad of ways. They’re affecting our schools, our businesses, our ability to maintain state programs and a host of other issues.

Almost every conversation affecting the state now has a demographic component.

Migration in and out of the state and our loss of population in every county except Chittenden, Franklin and Lamoille comes up all the time. The consequences of our demographic issues are enormous and anecdotally we all have assumptions about the situation.

What we don’t have is a lot of well-thought-out facts about the situation.

The Legislative Joint Fiscal Office “issue brief” on Taxpayer Migration by Age and Income, which came out late last summer, offers some interesting insight into the situation: migration.

The Joint Fiscal Office used IRS tax information from 2011 to 2016 to come up with some of the following insights. We know that, on average, 8,000 to 10,000 taxpayers move in and out of the state each year.

• Over the five-year period from 2011, to 2016 Vermont lost 4,167 taxpayers. That amounts to a loss of about 1.56 percent of all Vermont taxpayers or about 0.31 percent per year during the five years.

• During that period, the state lost 4,099 taxpayers with incomes below $100,000. Thus, the bulk of the loss was among lower- and middle-income taxpayers.

• What was surprising to me was that we gained 126 higher-income taxpayers with incomes over $200,000. The increase was almost entirely younger taxpayers between the ages of 26 and 44.

The briefing asserts: “As incomes rise, Vermont tends to perform better relative to other states” in relationship to keeping those individuals.

• Vermont struggles the most with the narrow cohort of taxpayers aged 45 to 64 with incomes between $25,000 and $75,000. The briefing asserts that this narrow group lost 720 taxpayers.

• Among migrating taxpayers with incomes between $100,000 and $200,000, Vermont lost 194 taxpayers.

• Looking at those migrating taxpayers with over $200,000 in income, Vermont gained 126 taxpayers over the period.

I have to say that, even though the numbers and percentages are small, I was a bit surprised by the numbers.

What did strike me about this, when I thought about it, was how it fits with what I’m seeing and hearing from business. In almost every small business paying middle-income wages and below, we’re seeing “Help Wanted” signs. You can’t go out in any of our communities without seeing help wanted signs.

Almost every small business is feeling the difficulty of finding employees and the data in this briefing speaks to that situation.

Richard Westman, a Republican from Cambridge, represents Lamoille County in the Vermont Senate. Email letters to

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