Part I: Budget Impasse

May 20, 2017

This morning I found myself writing an extensive blog post about what the hell has been going on in Montpelier the last three weeks.  Then I tripped over Tuesday’s Rutland Herald.  David Moats, the Pulitzer Prize winning editorial writer for the Herald, gives a critical overview of Governor Scott’s budget veto threats.  I’ll put up Part Two of my blog post tomorrow adding a little granularity to this recounting of the budget standoff, but for now I offer you some of Moats’ “Budget Impasse” piece from earlier this week:

 

“Gov. Phil Scott’s effort to force the Legislature into accepting his proposal for the state to seize a share of teachers’ health care savings is a weirdly disproportionate use of a governor’s veto threat on an issue that didn’t seem to call for it. Scott must have grabbed onto this issue because he had something else in mind.”

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“He says he is out to protect property tax payers, and he has tossed around the number $26 million as the amount that will be saved if the state takes control of negotiating teachers’ health care benefits. The savings will occur when new health care packages take effect next January in response to provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Those savings are a given for school districts around the state, even without state interference. Scott has inserted the state into the process because he wants to get the hands of state government on that money.”

 

“Distrust of local school districts animates this effort. Scott is taken with the notion that it is his job to force voters to spend less on their schools.”

 

“The health care savings that are in store next year are a sum that could well be eliminated from school budgets around the state, even without interference from the state. It would seem, however, that Scott is worried that school boards will not return that money to the taxpayers. They might use it to bolster their educational programs. In other words, he does not trust them to make the judgment that is properly theirs.”

 

“The Vermont School Boards Association supports Scott’s plan. It would be more convenient for the numerous school boards around the state if they didn’t have to negotiate health care packages. And for the state to enter into contract negotiations with teachers might allow the school boards extra clout in dealing with their employees.”

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“Their health care packages are going to be reduced next year whether the state steps in or not. What Scott’s proposal represents is an initial grab onto the teachers’ contracts, based on the mistaken notion that it is the state’s job to get school spending under control.”

 

“That job belongs to voters at town meeting who vote on school budgets. They have been doing a pretty good job. Upward pressure on property taxes continues, as does upward pressure on everything, but it is not disproportionate with the state’s economic growth. That Scott would hold up the Legislature’s entire budget process because he wants to insert the state into teachers’ contract negotiations is evidence of a surprising anti-labor fervor on the part of the mild-mannered governor.”

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Brian Cook of Norwich was at the State House earlier this spring to accept a grant award from the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.  Brian has been spearheading the work to rehabilitate the Root Schoolhouse and the grant will contribute to the rebuilding of the school's foundation.  Congratulations!

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