The Vermont Education Health Initiative (VEHI) recently reported that educator health insurance premiums are anticipated to rise 7-16% in 2018, with official rate increases still subject to Vermont’s Department of Financial Regulation.Read more
ICYMI: Thanks to Liberal Lawmakers & Union Bosses, VT Teachers Face Double-Digit Health Insurance Rate Hikes
Teachers & Taxpayers Would Have Saved Millions Under Gov. Scott’s Plan
Berlin, VT—The Vermont Education Health Initiative (VEHI) has announced that school employees will face monthly premium increases ranging from 6.4% to 17.2% — in large part due to far-left lawmakers and the NEA’s drastic efforts to kill Governor Scott’s education health care savings plan.
Under Governor Scott’s VEHI plan, health care contracts for educators would have been negotiated at the state level; leveraging a unique opportunity to, in part, avoid the“Cadillac” tax on insurance plans. Not only would this proposal have achieved savings, but would have simplified contract negotiations, avoided cuts to school programing, and protected collective bargaining rights.Read more
Montpelier, VT— Facts are frequently ignored by Speaker Johnson and the far-left “government knows best” elitists within the Vermont Democratic Party.
In a recent interview with the Rutland Herald, Vermont’s Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson tried to take credit for a package to expand housing options working families can afford, stating that “a $35 million housing bond that will help construct new affordable housing is an area of success that will hopefully lead to more cooperation on other challenges facing the state.”Read more
Once again we are called to action to help our brothers and sisters in need. Hurricane Irma has devastated and continues to devastate many parts of the South including Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.
The Vermont Republican State Committee urges and encourages you to extend a helping hand to our fellow Americans in need by contributing to one of the following charities:
The Red Cross
Reach Out America
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Habitat for Humanity
The Humane Society
Operation Blessing International
Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies
Thank you for your generosity and may God bless everyone affected by these tragic hurricanes.
James Ehlers, the first Democratic candidate to challenge Phil Scott in the 2018 election, is quoted by VPR as saying voters in the next election will have grown tired of “that whole ideology of Republican thinking that says if people just work a little bit harder, then they’ll succeed, and everyone who isn’t succeeding, it’s because they’re lazy.”
Mr. Ehlers is not the only Democrat politician who imagines Republicans think like this, and I do hope they all continue saying such things; it is so 1950s. They will eventually learn today’s Vermont Republicans actually believe that if working Vermonters are not succeeding, in most cases it’s because Vermont’s very liberal government has planted a regulatory stranglehold on the economy and dug deep into everyone’s wallets with too many taxes. A few examples will suffice:Read more
Democrats & Progressive Lawmakers More Out-Of-Touch Than Ever
Berlin, VT – In a bizarre demonstration of political tone-deafness, liberal lawmakers in the Vermont House and Senate are pushing, yet again, to create a taxpayer-financed health care system as a first step to single payer health care.
Yes, this is the same system that Peter Shumlin abandoned.Read more
On my first day in office, I issued an executive order defining the top goals of my Administration: Growing the economy, making Vermont more affordable, and protecting the most vulnerable. We are laser-focused on these priorities and they guide us in everything we do.
That’s why we’ve concentrated on government modernization and efficiency, rethinking and revitalizing our approach to economic development, transitioning to a cradle-to-career education system that is the best in the nation, strengthening our response to the opioid epidemic, and making sure state spending isn’t growing faster than wages or the economy.Read more
The following op-ed was penned by Jeff Bartley, Executive Director of the Vermont Republican Party.
In bizarre moments of political posturing, Democratic House Speaker Mitzi Johnson continues to downplay the opportunity to achieve up to $26 million annually in property tax savings, saying “I don’t believe that is worth the veto.”
The Speaker has gone on to suggest the savings could be “less than a tank of gas.” Unfortunately, the Speaker doesn’t understand families across the state continue to struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table. After six years and $300 million in increased taxes and fees (which Democrats have couched as “minor increases” but compound each year) Vermonters living paycheck-to-paycheck are looking for change.
Governor Scott and Republicans understand every dollar the state can save, or every dollar that isn’t spent, is a big deal. That’s why they’ve offered plans to create a statewide health care contract for teachers, saving taxpayers millions all while making sure teachers don’t have to pay more and school programs avoid cuts. These are the kind of ideas and policies Vermonters are looking for and expect from Montpelier.
Unfortunately, at the end of the session, Speaker Johnson, Pro Tempore Tim Ashe and Lt. Governor David Zuckerman helped force the budget through without these savings, a clear sign they are advocating against the interests of taxpayers and for their true allegiance -- the Vermont NEA and the lobbyists who helped bankroll their campaigns.
In his veto of the budget and property tax bill, Gov. Scott said, “Vermont faces an immediate and growing crisis of affordability, and recapturing the available savings – without asking school employees to pay more or cutting programs for kids – can only happen during the unique set of circumstances at this moment. Without a mechanism to ensure the savings are achieved, these bills currently create an environment that will eat away the available savings and, therefore, our ability to lower property tax rates.”
Governor Scott deserves credit for bringing a new perspective to Montpelier; the message he is sending is loud and clear: $26 million in potential savings is a big deal and every dollar in savings makes a real difference for so many Vermonters who are trying to get by.
Now is the time to join us in support of Governor Scott and his plan. Stand up and continue to elect more common-sense Vermont Republicans to the legislature. Together, we can and we must change the culture in Montpelier. If we don’t, we’ll continue to watch the majority shrug off taxpayer savings as “less than a tank of gas” and Vermonters will fall victim to tax-and-spend approach to government, rather than living within our means and promoting opportunities and prosperity for all Vermonters.
The following post was distributed by Governor Phil Scott's team on June 12, 2017.
Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott’s office today issued the following information relating to the Governor’s education savings proposal and the ongoing negotiation with the Legislature to realize up to $26 million in education savings a year:
Why are school employees’ healthcare plans being changed?
The federal Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, put high-valued health plans at risk of a “Cadillac” tax. The Vermont Education Health Initiative (VEHI), an independent non-profit organization that offers school employees their health benefits, is transitioning to new plans in January 2018, which are projected to cost substantially less than existing plans and will not be subjected to the federal penalty. This change to new plans is, in part, to avoid the “Cadillac” tax, and to offer plans that are more competitive with the ACA-compliant exchange plans. Premium savings are estimated to be up to $75 million a year.
In 2016, representatives from VEHI, including its Vermont NEA representative, presented the reasons for the transition in legislative committees, including Senate Finance, highlighting the potential taxpayer savings if the state moved to these new plans.
What does the Governor’s proposal do?
In April, after weeks of stakeholder discussions, Governor Phil Scott presented a proposal to maximize the benefit of this unique savings opportunity. His proposal:
- Achieves savings by transitioning to a statewide health plan where school employee unions would collectively bargain with the State for the health benefit only;
- Reinvests nearly $50 million back into school employees to keep average annual out-of-pocket costs the same;
- Uses the remaining savings to benefit taxpayers – up to $13 million in Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 (because the plan year begins January 1 and the state fiscal year ends June 30), and up to $26 million a year moving forward.
- Simplifies the bargaining process for school boards, providing much-needed relief from complex healthcare negotiations so these volunteer boards can focus on education priorities for students; and
- Introduces equity in the system so that all school employees enjoy the same benefits and there is parity across districts.
How does Governor Scott’s proposal ensure the savings?
Currently, more than 60 school boards each negotiate with school employee unions for benefits, salaries, paid time off, etc., resulting in wide-ranging benefits that vary from district to district. With a statewide health plan, the State would negotiate one contract for healthcare for all school employees. This change would maximize the potential savings of up to $26 million a year, while maintaining bargaining rights.
Assuming the State negotiates an 80/20 premium cost sharing ratio between employer/employee for the best value VEHI plan, estimated premium savings are $75 million a year. Governor Scott’s proposal reinvests nearly $50 million to keep school employees’ average exposure to out-of-pocket costs the same. The remaining $26 million ($13 million in FY 18) in savings would be held in the Education Fund, allowing for property tax rate reductions, or investments in other education-related priorities like reducing the underfunding of the teachers’ retirement fund.
Does the Governor’s proposal impact school employees’ healthcare benefits?
No – it is important to note the change in health plans has been underway for years, and the new plans go into effect in January 2018. The Governor’s proposal aims to maximize the benefit of the savings resulting from this change for all Vermonters. It is designed to keep school employees whole by limiting any change in exposure to costs. The Governor’s proposal reinvests nearly $50 million directly back into benefits for school employees, funding Health Savings Accounts or Health Reimbursement Accounts to offset any potential increase in out-of-pocket costs for VEHI members as they transition to the new plans.
Further, an analysis by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont found that by investing this $50 million to cover out-of-pocket costs, the actuarial value of new plans is estimated to be between 95-97%, which is equal to, or greater than, the actuarial value of current school employee health plans (estimated at 95%). This means the modeled health care plans in the Governor’s proposal have more value and cost less than current plans – so the Governor’s proposal is a better deal for school employees than the status quo!
Will this result in cuts to school programming?
No. By linking the savings directly to the lower healthcare costs, Governor Scott’s proposal ensures savings result from those lower-cost plans – not by cutting school programming.
In contrast, alternate proposals from the Legislature have suggested reducing the State expenditure to school districts by $13 million in FY 2018 to account for the savings, but provide no policy mechanism to ensure the savings are earned through the change in health plans. This proposal puts programs at risk. Vermont NEA president Jeff Fannon acknowledged this possibility, telling Vermont Public Radio, “it’s possible that if districts can’t extract those savings through health benefit negotiations, then they could have to reduce expenditures that directly impact educational programs,” Fannon said in reference to a proposal from the Legislature, known as the “Ashe amendment.”
Does the Governor’s proposal alter collective bargaining?
The Governor’s proposal keeps all benefit and salary negotiations other than healthcare at the local level – those negotiations remain unchanged. For the health benefit only, school employee unions would negotiate with the State for a statewide health benefit, rather than the local school board. Similarly, retired teachers currently receive health insurance with cost-sharing set by the State.
It is important to note that Governor Scott has also been open to alternatives that further mirror the current negotiation process, including a panel of school board officials that could negotiate the statewide contract (rather than having the State as the bargainer), and setting a plan in statute for a limited period to secure the maximum savings and then return to local district-by-district negotiations.
Why is this a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity?
Health plans are typically negotiated on a rolling basis, but because the planned change is occurring statewide, each district is currently negotiating on the same schedule and most contracts are open. However, a policy mechanism – such as the plan proposed by Governor Scott – is necessary to ensure the savings are realized for taxpayers.
If the plans cost less, won’t taxpayers see the savings without any policy changes?
Thirteen school districts have already settled their healthcare contracts and are not achieving the available savings.
These early settlements demonstrate why the Vermont School Boards Association – along with the Vermont Superintendents Association – approached the Governor, as well as House and Senate leadership in February (Source: Burlington Free Press) with the opportunity to work together to realize these savings for taxpayers. They asked for assistance from the State because, in their experience, volunteer school boards are often at a disadvantage when negotiating with the professional unions and their statewide network (Source: VT Digger).
Why veto the budget and the property tax yield bill over this?
Instead of taking advantage of this savings opportunity, the Legislature uses rainy day funds from the Education Fund and applies one time money to temporarily buy down residential property tax rates, while raising non-residential property taxes (which includes small businesses, camp owners and renters).
In combination, these bills all but guarantee a property tax increase in FY 2019. By vetoing both bills, Governor Scott provided an opportunity for legislators to work with him to put a mechanism in place that will make Vermont more affordable with up to $26 million in annual savings.
For more information visit www.governor.vermont.gov.
The Vermont Republican Party hereby adopts the following Resolution in Montpelier, VT this 10th day of June, 2017:
Whereas: Susie Hudson began her career in politics as a Republican after her graduation from the University of Vermont, working for candidates across the state of Vermont as State College Republican Chair, and
Whereas: Susie Hudson served in many capacities in the Vermont Republican Party including Washington County Chair, Secretary of the State Republican Committee, Executive Director, Victory Chair, and National Committeewoman to the Young Republican National Federation, and
Whereas: Susie served in the administrations of President George W. Bush at the U.S. Department of Justice under Attorney General John Ashcroft and Vermont Governor Jim Douglas as the Executive Director of the Vermont Commission on National and Community Service, and
Whereas: In 2002 after the election of James Douglas as Governor, Susie Hudson was recognized along with her colleagues as a “Young Gun” by the Vermont media, and
Whereas: Susie Hudson successfully Chaired the re-election campaign of Lt. Governor Brian Dubie in 2006 and 2008, and
Whereas: Susie Hudson was elected National Committeewomen succeeding her friend Sara Gear Boyd in 2008, and
Whereas: Susie Hudson has served on the Vermont Republican Party Executive Committee for over a decade, successfully managing dozens of events and raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Party and Republican candidates, and
Whereas: In January of 2015, Susie Hudson was elected Secretary of the Republican National Committee and was re-elected in January 2017 to the same post, serving on the Executive Committee of the Republican National Committee, and
Whereas: Susie Hudson has attended every Republican National Convention since 1992 and on July 19, 2016, Susie Hudson made all Vermonters proud as she read the roll-call at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, now
Therefore Be it Resolved: Susie Hudson will always remain an integral part of Vermont’s proud history, known for her kind heart, and her unwavering dedication to the Vermont Republican Party and the lifetime efforts and achievements of Susie Hudson be duly noted in the official record of the Vermont Republican Party and in the archives of Vermont’s proud history.