There cannot be an organization more out of touch with the public, or with the circumstances surrounding their environment, than the Vermont NEA, the union representing our teachers.
There is little to no understanding that its members are teaching fewer students, or that the property tax burden is too much for Vermonters, or that the union has any role in trying to make our schools better and more affordable.
Clarification of this blindness came this week when the union turned its nose up at the proposal to collectively bargain with the state to reduce health care costs, something that would have saved roughly $28 million.
It is a unique circumstance. Under the Affordable Care Act, the teachers union can no longer keep its “Cadillac” health care plan, it has to switch to plans carried by Vermont Health Connect. It’s something that has to happen by November of this year, which means that all 60 local supervisory unions are involved in the same negotiation.
That sort of collective opportunity has never before been an option. Gov. Phil Scott, along with the state’s school boards, saw the opportunity for what it is, which is a way to reduce costs. School boards and the teachers union have repeatedly marked health care as one of reasons it’s been difficult to keep spending down. This was the chance to do something about it.
The Vermont Education Health Initiative [VEHI], the non-profit that has drawn up benefit plans for our school districts for the last 20 years, was tasked with the need to figure out how this transfer could be made. It did so, offering a handful of options that
would produce considerable savings, yet lower the premium costs for the teachers.
Here’s one proposal: If 85 percent of all Vermont’s teachers picked the platinum plan, and if they paid only 14 percent of the premium cost, the teachers would save $4 million in reduced premium costs and the state – the taxpayers – would save $28 million.
This proposal, and others like it, would have hit the reset button on how health care costs for schools would be managed. The governor has not only talked about this need, but tried to formalize the effort as part of a statewide health care contract.
The NEA took the opportunity to blast the governor, the school boards and anyone else who looked favorably on the shift from local to statewide negotiations. But we’re where we are because the leadership of the union wants things to remain as they always have. It thinks it’s better able to use its strength locally than it could statewide.
The union’s leadership criticized the governor’s move as “an assault on collective bargaining” and something “straight out of the Donald Trump and Scott Walker anti-union playbook.”
That’s easy, albeit simplistic, political rhetoric, and something that might play to the membership, but it plays very poorly to the general public, the majority of whom are paid less, get less and could only dream of paying 20 percent of their health care premiums, let alone 14 percent.
Property taxes are a large factor in the cost of living in Vermont, and the lion’s share of that cost comes from the need to pay for our schools. Our per-student costs are at the tip-top of the nation’s scale. Our pupilteacher ratio is the nation’s lowest, and
about half the national average. Roughly 80 percent of a school’s costs are labor-based, and part of that cost of labor is health care.
What the union had before it was a way to show Vermonters that it, too, is concerned with costs, and with efficiency, and with the need to be sympathetic to the burden others bear.
It would have cost them almost nothing. Their premiums would be less than they are now. It would place a priority on making better health care choices, something that is being pushed in every other corner of Vermont life.
What the Vermont NEA has done is thumb its nose at Vermonters, preferring to stick the money in its own pocket. That savings could have gone to taxpayers in the form of property tax relief. The savings could have gone into the educational fund and then to the children we’re trying to do a better job of educating. It could have gone to an early education fund that addresses our profound needs to reach children before they enter kindergarten. It could have gone to tuition assistance for students struggling to afford college.
The Vermont NEA gave the stiff arm to any and all of these options. By so doing, it made itself look selfish and apart.
That’s not how you win friends.
As a union, that’s not how you win followers to your cause.
This article was originally published in the St. Albans Messenger and written by Emerson Lynn.
ICYMI Gov. Scott's Administration Exposes Democrat's Opposition to Better, More Efficient Government
Gov. Scott's Administration Exposes Democrat's Opposition to Better, More Efficient Government
Montpelier, Vt. -- Governor Scott and his administration are continuing to fight for reforms that make state government more efficient, productive and valuable -- like the Governor's proposal to unite and modernize the departments of liquor and lottery. In a recent media interview the Governor's chief of staff squared off with Rep. Helen Head (D-South Burlington), chairwoman of the committee that is currently blocking this commonsense change. Watch the entire debate here: http://www.vpt.org/show/22517/114
"The following editorial recently appeared in the St. Albans Messenger. It is a stark reminder of how much petty political resistance, and old government thinking, Governor Scott and Vermont's Republican legislators face in their work to modernize state government and put the economic progress and affordability of our state ahead of partisan politics. We have confidence, however, that Governor Scott's positive and forward looking leadership, his laser focus on the economy and affordability and his common sense approach to making state government more efficient and productive will carry the day." -- Jeff Bartley, Executive Director of the Vermont Republican Party
Why would Dems allow themselves to look so petty?
By the St. Albans Messenger
The Democratically-controlled Legislature hasn’t learned to pick its battles with “affordability” governor Phil Scott. They keep giving him political gifts and, in so doing, make themselves look petty.
The pettiness took full flower on Wednesday. The House voted 82-63 to rescind the governor’s executive order to merge the Lottery Commission with the Department of Liquor Control. The merger, putting both operations under the same roof, would have saved $500,000 annually. The vote to oppose the governor was a straight party line vote. And the reason for their opposition?
The merger wasn’t their idea.
It was suggested that the governor hadn’t really provided all the necessary details as to exactly how the merger would work, and how the savings would materialize, and who would do what, and when, and to whom, and for how much. It’s such a complicated thought process that the Democrats are considering the need for a summer study committee.
If that happens, it would be the second summer study committee dealing with the state’s liquor control department.
Here’s what the public hears: The governor wants to merge two very small departments into one because the efficiencies of working out of one building instead of two saves Vermont’s taxpayers $500,000. The Democrats are opposed to saving $500,000 and don’t have a suggestion as to move forward, other than to repeat another summer study.
That’s a lousy message for Democrats to leave with their constituents. It’s not something that can be explained away because most Vermonters have little to no contact with either department. All they know is that the Democrats turned down a proposal that would have saved the taxpayers $500,000 each year. Is a half million dollars in annual savings inconsequential to Democrats?
If the Democrats think they have ideas that would save more, or ideas that would save more and improve operations beyond what the governor proposed, they should have said so. They did not. The message they left was purely partisan: If it’s not our idea, it won’t be considered.
It’s such an odd issue for House Democrats to use to define themselves or their legislative record. They’ve just passed the state budget by avote of 143-1. They figured out how to maintain services, bridge a $70 million shortfall, and, in so doing, not raise taxes. It was their defining moment, one of the best we’ve seen in years. Why allow the pettiness of opposing the governor’s proposed merger sully the good work they’ve accomplished?
Perception, as Marshall McLuhan told us, is the biggest part of reality. When people perceive legislators to be small-minded and partisan that perception clouds the complete image, and cannot be segregated according to topic.
The Democratic leadership should not have allowed that to happen. If they have a better way, share it. They know as well as anyone that if the need is there, ways can be found to make an idea work.
But for the Democrats to pick up their ball and run home, just because the game isn’t completely under their control, shows them to be less than what they are. That’s an image that needs correcting.(Note: This editorial by Emerson Lynn first appeared in the St. Albans Messenger on April 13th; www.samessenger.com)
For Immediate Release:
April 6, 2017
Tim Schaffer, Communications Director
Vermont Republican Party
“Earlier today, the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs voted along party lines against Governor Scott’s Executive Order. The Governor’s Executive Order would create a unified Department of Liquor and Lottery and eliminate duplicative processes, improve accountability, and realize cost savings while maximizing revenue for the State.
"By not passing this Executive Order, Vermont Democrats, specifically Representatives Helen Head and Thomas Stevens, have decided to reject an effort that will make government more efficient and potentially reduces taxes.
“Governor Scott and Vermont Republicans remain committed and are steadfast in our efforts to address the affordability crisis and grow Vermont’s economy. Unfortunately, Vermont Democrats would rather continue to show the operations of Montpelier while wasting taxpayer funds on a study that will join the others on the dusty shelf.”
Last week, Montpelier turned the page after an eight-year spell of overspending and financial irresponsibility. Since 2009, the House Republican Caucus has advocated for an annual budget that does not raise taxes or fees, balances overall spending with revenue growth, and promotes economic vitality in Vermont. We are proud to support a budget that will finally bend the curve on our state’s overspending crisis.Read more
Montpelier, Vt. – House Republican Leader Don Turner (R-Milton) announced today that the Vermont House Republican Caucus will support the framework of the House Appropriations Committee’s FY18 Budget.
“Ever since Shap Smith and Peter Shumlin chose to override Gov. Douglas’ FY10 budget veto, House Republicans have been fighting for budgets that don’t raise taxes or fees, keeps spending in line with economic growth and delivers real results for the Vermont taxpayer.” Turner added. “Under the leadership and vision of Governor Phil Scott and the Republicans on House Appropriations we have achieved that.”
“We believe there is still room this year to make long-term policy changes that will allow us to make investments in educating the next generation of Vermonters, improving our business climate and increase housing for our middle class without negatively impacting vulnerable Vermonters. We believe that delivering on this agenda of affordability and growth will lead to an economic revival for all Vermonters.” Turner added.
Rep. Turner concluded, “The fundamental framework of not raising taxes or fees and keeping spending in line with economic growth is why we are supporting this budget. We look forward to continuing our work with the Senate and the Governor’s office to make this budget a tool for economic development. This is a good start.”
The following press release was distributed by Governor Phil Scott this afternoon.
Statement from Governor Phil Scott on Economic Priorities
Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today issued the following statement:
“As we reached the halfway mark of Vermont’s legislative session this week, it’s important for those of us in Montpelier to prioritize our efforts to make a real difference in the lives of Vermonters in the final eight weeks of this legislative session.
“On my first day in office, I signed an executive order establishing three goals that guide my Administration’s efforts: Strengthen the economy, make Vermont more affordable, and protect the most vulnerable. These are simple principles, but they are critical to solving the challenges we face and they should be the focus of each effort we undertake, and each policy we put forward.
“Vermont loses, on average, six workers from our workforce and three students from our schools every single day – trends that have persisted for years. Our population growth has been stagnant and a recent estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau showed an estimated 0.2 percent decline in Vermont’s mid-2016 resident population. National projections predict that by 2040 the number of working-age people in Vermont will drop by more than 10 percent.
“We must reverse these trends, which means it’s time to put party, politics and special interests aside. Instead of debating process and defending the status quo, we need a new approach that rethinks what state government can do. That includes rethinking how we approach the budget. We can achieve balance without raising taxes and fees, without cutting services to the most vulnerable, and while making critical investments in priority areas that will rebuild our workforce, attract businesses and working families to Vermont, combat our opiate epidemic, and protect our impaired waterways. That’s what my budget proposes to do, and there are still opportunities to achieve those critical goals.
“In the first half of the session, less than 10 percent of the bills proposed have a direct focus on economic growth. The Legislature is considering eliminating my budget’s essential investments in economic development and a cradle-to-career continuum of learning. We can’t afford a status quo budget that fails to invest in initiatives that will grow the economy, or for economic initiatives to take a back seat in policy discussions. If we want to change the State’s trajectory – and we must – we cannot ignore the need for these investments.
“I am encouraged to see many in the Legislature who agree with the goals put forward in my budget, which reflect the calls for relief I heard from Vermonters throughout the campaign. But we cannot relent or be resistant to change. Vermonters need us to spend these next eight weeks finalizing a budget and putting forward legislation that helps grow the economy, and allows Vermonters to keep more of what they earn. If we do, we will set a course for a more prosperous future that creates greater opportunity for all Vermonters.”
University of Vermont Men's Basketball team is going to the dance! They are ready to play, are you?
March MADNESS is here and the it's time to once again put together our brackets. You know, the brackets we will be agonizing over the next 4 days. We'll rant and rave when our sleeper-pick isn't actually a sleeper; or when a number 5 seed falls to a number 12...
Welcome back to the MADNESS!
Our executive director, Jeff Bartley, has also got the MADNESS! He is giving away TWO tickets to our next GOP dinner to the top two scores in our annual Vermont Republican Bracket Challenge! Oh and did we mention, it's FREE to sign up! The deadline is Thursday, March 16th at 12:15 PM.
Join in on the fun and sign-up for the Vermont Republicans Bracket Challenge today.
And GO CATS, GO!
Sugar! Ah, Honey, Honey!
"An act relating to imposing an excise tax on food products containing sugar" - H.477 (Read the bill here)
Rep. Jim Masland (Thetford) is quickly becoming one of the lead characters in our Looney Friday episodes. This week, he takes another aim at sugar. But instead of taxing "sugary drinks, he proposes a NEW tax on ANY food product that contains sugar.
Think about it, this new tax could easily add $20-$30 a year to your costs to shop at your local grocery store. A pint of Ben & Jerry's Phish Food ice cream could cost you an additional 6 cents per container. It may not seem like a lot on it's own, but when you tally all the foods you purchase over the course of a year; it really starts to add up!
Do you think Vermont Democrats will stop here? No. Every year they will increase this tax, syphoning more of your hard-earned dollars in favor of pet projects.
Sadly, this is what we've come to expect from Montpelier.
The affordability crisis will not only cause Vermont's hard-working families continue to struggle, it will bankrupt the state.
This week was like the old wild-west in Montpelier. Sadly, we're not all hanging out in a pub playing a game of poker. Instead we are watching Vermont House Democrats/Progressives' (it's hard to tell the difference these days) slow attempt to dismantle the integrity of our electoral process.
A good friend of mine gave me an amazing analogy which really does justice to the Democrats' attempt to overturn an election:
It’s like a terrible western movie. The bad dude with long, black greasy hair is grinning while he chews on a toothpick. You can barely see his eyes below the rim of his musty old hat. His hands are dancing as they hover over his guns holstered on his hip. He blinks and says ‘I’m going to get you!’ As quick as he can, he grabs the gun by the handle; but instead of pulling the gun out and shooting at you, he pulls the trigger too soon and shoots himself in the foot.
Thankfully, the Democrats were unable to steal this election and Rep. Bob Frenier was deemed the rightful winner he is, was and will always be.
The continued partisanship of the Democrats/Progressives, and lack of willingness to work with Governor Phil Scott on the budget is astounding. It’s time they step-up to the plate and work with Republicans as we continue to focus on the real issues.
But here we are with two gems for our “Looney Friday” edition: the carbon tax is coming back and the proposed "Artificial Intelligence Commission."
I'd say "enjoy," but you're probably shaking your head as much as I am...
Vermont Republican Party
An act relating to the creation of the Artificial Intelligence Commission - H.378 (Read the bill here)
Talk about "I, Robot" flash backs... The purpose of this bill is "to create the Artificial Intelligence Commission to support the development of artificial intelligence in the State." Seems like a good use of time funded by taxpayers.
This bill was proposed by only one Legislator, Brian Cina of Burlington.
And guess who's back!
"An act relating to a carbon tax and cap and trade study by the Joint Fiscal Office" - H.394 (Read the bill here)
The people have spoken. Governor Scott is committed to vetoing this ridiculous proposal. Moderate Democrats are speaking out against it. All for nothing.
Here we are again, like a bad mid-morning soap opera, Democrats in the House of Representatives are asking the Joint Fiscal Office to study the Carbon Tax.
Interesting enough, there are not 27 Democrats/Progressives signing onto this particular bill like they did two years ago... I wonder why...
Rep. Mollie Burke of Brattleboro
Rep. Selene Colburn of Burlington
Rep. James Masland of Thetford
Rep. Curtis McCormack of Burlington
Rep. Jean O'Sullivan of Burlington
Rep. Amy Sheldon of Middlebury
Rep. Maru Sullivan of Burlington
Rep. Michael Yantachka of Charlotte