Bartley: It's time to change the culture in Montpelier

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.

Governor Phil Scott’s Education Proposal: Frequently Asked Questions

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 opportunityHis 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




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.



Vermonters rejected the last Waterbury Democrat who tried to raises taxes. It's time we reject this one too!


We need your support and we need it now.  Vermont Democrats and Progressives -- led by Speaker Mitzi Johnson, Senator Tim Ashe and the far-left Lt. Governor David Zuckerman -- have shown they will represent special interest groups and powerful unions like the Vermont NEA before they fight for hardworking Vermonters like you.

Governor Phil Scott and Vermont Republicans in Montpelier need you to stand with them as they try to save you $26 million annually.  Will you stand with them?


Your financial support will help us build the campaign infrastructure and recruit candidates that can win in 2018.  Without your support, Democrats like Tom Stevens will continue to raise your taxes. Will you make a contribution to our campaign?




Governor Phil Scott Vetoes Proposed Budget and Property Tax Bill


Governor refuses to walk away from opportunity to save up to $26 million a year, in a way which doesn’t ask school employees to pay more or cut programs for kids


Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today vetoed H. 509, a property tax bill, and H. 518, the Legislature’s proposed state budget. In combination, these bills forgo up to $13 million in savings for Fiscal Year 2018 and up to $26 million in annual education savings, worsening the unsustainable trajectory of continuously rising property taxes at a time when student enrollment continues to decline by, on average, three pupils each day.

Leaders of the Legislature’s majority party have so far refused to take advantage of savings available to school districts through new, lower cost health insurance plans adopted by the Vermont Education Health Initiative (VEHI), a nonprofit intermunicipal trust that administers healthcare benefits to Vermont schools. These savings, which VEHI estimates to be up to $75 million a year, can be achieved without asking school employees to pay more because, under Gov. Scott’s proposal, nearly $50 million would be reinvested to keep out-of-pocket costs the same.

This once-in-a-lifetime savings opportunity is due to VEHI’s transition to new school employee health plans beginning in January 2018 to avoid a federal “Cadillac” penalty that would be applied to its current plans.

Despite first learning about this savings opportunity in 2015, taking additional testimony from VEHI throughout the 2017 legislative session and receiving multiple proposals to secure the savings from the Scott Administration, the Legislature failed to implement a policy mechanism that would achieve these savings. While there is agreement on the available savings, they were not accounted for in the budgets passed by the House in March, the Senate in April, or the final budget on May 18. 

In his veto message, 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.” 


Read more

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:





Rep. Amy Sheldon (D)


Rep. Diane Lanpher (D)


Rep. RachaelFields (D)


Rep. Joseph “Chip” Troiano (D)


Rep. Terence Macaig (D)


Rep. Jim McCullough (D)


Rep. Trevor Squirrell (D)


Rep. Jill Krowinski (D)


Rep. Diana Gonzalez (P)


Rep. Selene Colburn (P/D)


Rep. Ann Pugh (D)

Grand Isle-Chittenden

Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D)


Rep. Cindy Weed (P/D)


Rep. Matthew Hill (D)


Rep. Daniel Noyes (D)


Rep. David Yacovone (D)


Rep. Sarah Copeland-Hanzas (D)


Rep. Mary Howard (D)


Rep. Tommy Walz (D)


Rep. Paul Poirier (I)


Rep Tristan Toleno (D)


Rep. Alice Emmons (D)


Rep. Robert Forguites (D)


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!


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.
Read more

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