Lawmakers Refusing to Support Common Sense Property Tax Proposal Bankrolled by the Vermont NEA

 

Berlin, VT— During the 2016 election, the Vermont NEA financially backed one-third of the Democratic and Progressive lawmakers who voted against and continue to block Governor Scott’s proposal to save up to $26 million annually for property taxpayers. Additionally, they spent tens of thousands of dollars bank rolling the Vermont Democratic Party and the Democratic Governors Association’s Vermont-based Super PAC.

Governor Scott’s proposal would achieve up to $75 million in annual savings by implementing a new statewide health benefit for school employees.  Nearly $49 million of the $75 million in savings would be used to ensure school employees aren’t paying more out-of-pocket, leaving up to $26 million to be returned to hardworking Vermonters through property tax relief. The legislation is strongly supported by both the Vermont School Boards Association and the Vermont Superintendents Association, and would be a win-win for both school employees and taxpayers. In fact, this proposal has such broad-based support, that when brought to the Democratic supermajority in the House for a floor vote, there was a tie, thanks to Speaker Johnson's rare vote!

In addition to Speaker Johnson, many of the Democratic and Progressive lawmakers who voted against this common-sense proposal were financially backed by the NEA in the 2016 elections!

The VT-NEA has been the most vocal lobbying group (spending tens of thousands of dollars in paid media!) against the Governor’s proposal, despite the fact that teachers would see premium reductions, lesser or equal out-of-pocket costs, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont confirmed that the actuarial values of the new VEHI plans would be higher than their current plans. So why doesn’t the Democratic Leadership like this plan? Because they have been bought and paid for! 

The truth is, Democratic and Progressive lawmakers in Montpelier are playing politics with YOUR money by putting the interests of their donors ahead of the interests of their constituents and taxpayers all across Vermont.

Below is a list of the Democratic and Progressive legislators who received money from the NEA in 2016 and voted against Governor Scott’s proposal:

 

District

Name

Addison-1

Rep. Amy Sheldon (D)

Addison-3

Rep. Diane Lanpher (D)

Bennington-2-1

Rep. RachaelFields (D)

Caledonia-2

Rep. Joseph “Chip” Troiano (D)

Chittenden-2

Rep. Terence Macaig (D)

Chittenden-2

Rep. Jim McCullough (D)

Chittenden-3

Rep. Trevor Squirrell (D)

Chittenden-6-3

Rep. Jill Krowinski (D)

Chittenden-6-7

Rep. Diana Gonzalez (P)

Chittenden-6-4

Rep. Selene Colburn (P/D)

Chittenden-7-2

Rep. Ann Pugh (D)

Grand Isle-Chittenden

Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D)

Franklin-7

Rep. Cindy Weed (P/D)

Lamoille-2

Rep. Matthew Hill (D)

Lamoille-2

Rep. Daniel Noyes (D)

Lamoille-Washington

Rep. David Yacovone (D)

Orange-2

Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D)

Rutland-5-3

Rep. Mary Howard (D)

Washington-3

Rep. Tommy Walz (D)

Washington-3

Rep. Paul Poirier (I)

Windham-2-3

Rep Tristan Toleno (D)

Windsor-3-2

Rep. Alice Emmons (D)

Windsor-3-2

Rep. Robert Forguites (D)

Windsor-4-2

Rep. Gabrielle Lucke (D)

Chittenden Senate

Sen. Tim Ashe (P/D)

Chittenden Senate

Sen. Phil Baruth (D/P)

Chittenden Senate

Sen. Debbie Ingram (D)

Chittenden Senate

Sen. Ginny Lyons (D)

Chittenden Senate

Sen. Chris Pearson (P/D)

Chittenden Senate

Sen. Michael Sirotkin (D)

Orange Senate

Sen. Mark MacDonald (D)

Washington Senate

Sen Ann Cummings (D)

Washington Senate

Sen. Anthony Polina (P/D)

Windsor Senate

Sen. Dick McCormack (D)

Windsor Senate

Sen. Alice Nitka (D)

 

In total, the NEA donated over $110,000 to Vermont Democratic organizations, candidates, and PACs in the 2016 election cycle alone. This includes $4,000 to the Vermont Democratic Party, and $75,000 to a Vermont Democratic Super PAC.

 

By voting with their donors rather than with their constituents, these representatives are putting politics ahead of principles. YOU can help make a difference by calling the Sergeant-At-Arms office at (802) 828-2228 and leaving a message telling your lawmakers to support Governor Scott’s common sense plan today! OR, you can contact your lawmakers directly here.

 

High Priority Recruitment to Win in 2018

We need your help!


For the first time in nearly a decade, Democrats don’t have a veto-proof majority and can be held accountable for their failed fiscal policies and reckless spending. But, as the Democrat’s opposition to Governor Scott’s proposal to save taxpayers millions of dollars without requiring cuts shows, it is not enough. We need more Republicans running and winning if we are truly going to change the direction of Vermont’s economy and make our state more affordable.

In 2018, we have an important opportunity to recruit more common sense, fiscally responsible candidates to run for the Legislature.

As many of you know, there was recently a close vote in the Vermont House of Representatives on Governor Scott’s proposal to save $75 million in the Education Fund.  Under the Governor’s proposal, nearly $50 million of the $75 million in savings would be used to make sure employees don’t have to pay more for health care and $25 million would be returned to taxpayers annually through reduced property taxes. It’s a true win-win for school employees and taxpayers.  That’s why it is strongly supported by the Vermont School Boards Association and the Vermont Superintendents Association!

However, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) cast a rare vote (the Speaker does not usually vote) causing a tie and blocking Governor Scott’s common sense plan.

Speaker Johnson and her caucus have been refusing to save taxpayers up to $26 million each year, just to carry favor with the teachers’ union – one of their biggest political donors. And, now, under intense pressure from voters to do the right thing, they are scrambling.  But we shouldn’t let them forget that if it wasn’t for Governor Scott and Republican lawmakers, they wouldn’t be talking about this opportunity to save you money at all!

WE MUST BRING MORE BALANCE TO MONTPELIER

Looking ahead to next year, the 74 Democrats and Progressives who voted against the savings are vulnerable. With formidable candidates, we are committed to winning these races in 2018. The most targeted seats are those filled by Democrats and Progressives representing districts that strongly supported Governor Scott over Sue Minter.

Below is a list of 26 House Districts with 33 total Democrats who voted against this legislation but represent areas that have supported Republican gubernatorial candidates over the last two elections.
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Say What??!!

 

NEA President Willing to Gut Programs for Kids & Burn Taxpayers to Block a Proposal that (you're not going to believe this...) Actually Ensures Teacher Healthcare Costs Don't Increase and Saves Taxpayers up to $26 Million

Berlin, VT – In a rare moment of candor that starkly revels who the teachers' union is really concerned about, Jeff Fannon, the executive director, of the Vermont NEA yesterday on Vermont Public Radio (VPR) bluntly expressed his union's willingness to cut services and programs for kids in order to block a change that would save taxpayers millions without costing teachers any additional money. 

Governor Scott’s proposal for a statewide teachers health care benefit would realize up to $26 million in savings for taxpayers each year. Not only would hardworking Vermonters see much-needed property tax relief, under Governor Scott's proposal teachers would see their premiums decrease and out-of-pocket costs stay the same.  These savings wouldn’t require reducing resources available for our kids.

Jeff Fannon has thrown his support by the Democratic Majority’s counter-proposal, which is an across the board mandate for local school boards to slash $13 million from schools, with no clear mechanism to achieve savings. 

Sadly, Fannon confessed to a VPR reporter that the teachers' union is perfectly content with the possibility of selling out our kids, academic programs and school boards in order to block Governor Scott’s proposal, which ensures they receive the same, or better, healthcare at the same, or lower, out of pocket costs. 

Can you believe a union representing one of our state's most highly regarded professions would be that selfish? 

According to VPR"Fannon says it’s possible that if districts can’t extract those savings through property health benefit negotiations, then they could have to reduce expenditures that directly impact educational programs.” The Vermont School Boards Association (VSBA) has distributed calculations for the costs for every supervisory union under the Democratic Majority’s plan, which you can read here.

Rather than saving money through the responsible plan for savings introduced by the Governor, the union bosses appear all too eager to leave local kids behind.  And for what?  

You can help by contacting your lawmakers and calling on them to support Governor Scott's proposal to save up to $26 million per year.  Act now to stand with Vermont’s taxpayers, school boards, educators, and students in supporting Governor Scott's proposal.

ICYMI: Governor Phil Scott's Administration Responds to Proposal From Senate Pro Tempore

The following press release was sent from the the office of Governor Phil Scott.

Montpelier, Vt. – In the enclosed memo, Governor Phil Scott’s Administration responded to a proposal offered by Senate Pro Tempore Tim Ashe.

The Pro Tem has proposed a $13 million cut to school budgets in Fiscal Year 18 with no mechanism to ensure those reductions are covered by the estimated $75 million in savings available through the Vermont Education Health Initiative (VEHI)’s transition to new school employee health plans. Without that mechanism, this proposal puts school employees and programs for kids at risk. 

In contrast, Gov. Scott’s proposal offers a solution that will benefit taxpayers, teachers, students and school boards, and maximizes the available savings for all Vermonters. The Governor’s proposal for a statewide health benefit provides a mechanism to achieve up to $26 million in savings annually – $13 million in the first year – for taxpayers, while investing nearly $50 million of the total savings to ensure teachers don’t see increased out-of-pocket costs. This approach protects teachers and school programs for kids, and ensures savings for taxpayers.

“The Governor put forward a serious and reasonable proposal that balances the benefits to taxpayers with the need to ensure teachers are kept whole, and collective bargaining rights are preserved,” said Rebecca Kelley, spokeswoman for Gov. Scott. “We hope legislative leadership will begin taking serious steps to act. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make Vermont more affordable for all – this year and in future years.”

“Gov. Scott has repeatedly said that if legislative leaders present a plan that includes a mechanism to ensure the available savings are achieved without costing teachers more or requiring cuts to kids’ programs, and creates equity in the system, simplifying negotiations for school boards, he will consider it,” Kelley added.

“The legislature has yet to put forward a proposal that meets these commonsense principles that will maximize the benefit of these savings for Vermonters,” Kelley continued. 

The Administration’s memo can be read by clicking here.

 

ICYMI: Pass Governor's Health Plan

In Case You Missed It:
"Pass Governor's Health Plan"

by Paula Delano
Burlington Free Press
Letter to the Editor
May 10, 2017



It would seem that the Vermont House is not interested in saving Vermonters $26 million annually. Well at least half of them are not, and that includes the two representatives from Grand Isle County.

For many years, the people of Grand Isle County have been very vocal that something needs to be done about curbing the ever increasing property taxes.

This year because of a unique opportunity, Gov. Scott, along with a tri-partisan group of lawmakers, introduced legislation that would save property taxpayers millions. It has to do with negotiating the teacher’s health care insurance at the state level. It would provide the teachers with equal or better coverage at the same time saving the taxpayers millions.

However, when put to a vote, both of the Grand Isle County legislators voted against this obvious tax relief. In fact, Rep. Mitzi Johnson cast the deciding vote to defeat the measure.

I commend Gov. Scott for promoting this opportunity. This measure is due to be discussed and voted on again this week. I will be contacting my legislators, I hope you will too.

Paula Delano, South Hero

Senate Majority Leader Threatens to Hold Economic Development & Affordable Housing Legislation Hostage

Berlin, VT – Senator Majority Leader Becca Balint (D-Windham District) is threatening to block crucial legislation that would invest in economic development and housing that is affordable for Vermonters. Balint is attempting to use this legislation as leverage to kill Governor Scott’s proposal for up to $26 million in savings for taxpayers, without cuts to services or benefits. 

Governor Scott has proposed legislation to save taxpayers up to $26 million annually by implementing a statewide health benefit for school employees. The plan would reduce premiums for teachers, hold school employees harmless for out of pocket cost changes, and avoid cuts in school programs, all while returning savings to property taxpayers.

Balint, however, remains opposed to this common sense proposal. During a May 8th interview on Green Mountain Mornings (1490 WKTV), Balint was asked about the legislation’s prospects of passing. Instead of simply reiterating her opposition, Balint doubled down with a threat to block important economic development legislation and a housing bond. Balint had this to say:

“However, there’s something that the Governor really wants, and that is this $35 million housing bond—which we haven’t really gotten into—but it’s something he cares a great deal about. There’s also a bunch of pieces in S.135, which is the economic development bill. So it’s possible that in the final days, there’ll be some leverage applied there.”

By pledging to block important legislation as leverage, Balint is putting politics ahead of property tax relief.

YOU can call on the Democratic Majority to exercise real leadership and stop threatening important legislation that would help grow our economy and make Vermont more affordable. Contact your legislators today by clicking here.

ICYMI: Property Taxes Have Skyrocketed Under Democratic Leadership

Berlin, VT – Over the past twenty years, property taxes and education spending have gone through the roof for Vermonters while the quality of education has remained roughly the same, according to University of Vermont economist and Burlington Free Press columnist Art Woolf.

Woolf states that, “When Act 60 took effect Vermont spent 12 percent more than the average state to educate each student in our schools.  Fifteen years later we were spending 60 percent more than average and today the gap might be as high as 80 percent. Despite this high level of spending my analysis of the evidence shows that Vermont students don’t perform any better than their peers nationally.”

For almost every single biennium since Act 60 was passed, the Democratic majority in Montpelier has controlled both chambers of the Vermont Legislature. They’ve ignored opportunity after opportunity to achieve common-sense savings and lower property taxes for Vermonters.

Just this past week, Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson cast a vote that halted Governor Scott’s proposal to save Vermont taxpayers $26 million annually in education costs, without making teachers pay more or cutting services to kids. Despite the proposal’s tri-partisan support, Johnson and the majority of Democrats in Montpelier demonstrated that their loyalty lies with lobbyists and special interests, rather than with Vermonters grappling with the crisis of affordability.

However, Woolf also points out a silver lining: “Governor Phil Scott seems to have secured a major victory with an overwhelmingly Democratic legislature: A balanced budget with no tax increases.” It’s due to the hard work of Governor Scott and Republican legislators that we have a budget on the table that doesn’t raise taxes or fees on Vermonters for the first time in decades.

But there is still more work to be done. We need to secure property tax relief for struggling Vermonters. And there’s still time to do it.

YOU can help by contacting your lawmakers and calling on them to support Governor Scott’s common-sense plan to lower property taxes by $26 million annually.

Governor Scott and Republican lawmakers have bucked the status quo in Montpelier by championing legislation to make Vermont affordable and expand economic opportunities without raising taxes. Let’s help them finish the job.

To read Art Woolf’s full column in the Burlington Free Press, click here.

St. Albans Messenger: The Democrats’ gift to Vt. Republicans

The following editorial was published in the St. Albans Messenger on May 2, 2017

The Democrats’ gift to Vt. Republicans

Vermont Democrats are on the cusp of giving Gov. Phil Scott and the Republican Party the gift that keeps on giving. The drama will be played out this week, part by part, as the Legislature lurches toward adjournment on Saturday.

The issue is the $26 million that would be saved each year if the state were in charge of negotiating our teachers’ healthcare package. The Democratic leadership is opposed, having decided it’s best to do the Vt. NEA’s bidding. The Republicans, including some Democrats and Independents, are in favor.

The most recent turn of events is the refusal of the House leadership to even allow a vote on the issue. The strategy is to push the school tax bill to the conference committee without a floor vote, and the only way that can be avoided is if the Republicans were able to garner 76 votes. Reportedly, they are a half-dozen votes shy, and that’s including eight Democrats and five Independents who have aligned themselves with the Republicans.

 

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ICYMI: House GOP United Behind Governor Scott’s Proposal to Save up to $26 Million Per Year

Urge Mainstream Democrats to ‘Do the Right Thing’


Berlin, VT – House Republicans stood united at a press conference recently in support of Governor Scott’s proposal to save up to $26 million annually by negotiating teachers’ health care benefits at the state level, and now they are urging mainstream Democrats to join them in doing the right thing by putting progress ahead of partisanship.

“I don’t want to leave millions if not tens of millions of dollars on the table. We need to return that value to the taxpayers who have supported our teachers for such a long time,” said House Appropriations Committee Vice-Chair Peter Fagan (R-Rutland).

The Vermont Education Health Initiative (VEHI) would create a statewide health benefit to take advantage of a federal requirement that health plans be renegotiated this year. VEHI would also avoid the upcoming “Cadillac tax” on certain taxpayer-funded health insurance plans.

Through VEHI, healthcare contracts would be bargained at one time, instead of at 60 times throughout the year. This would save up to $100 million over the next five years, without forcing teachers to pay more for healthcare or cutting services to our children.

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Need we say more?

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