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Posts from the ‘Washington-Chittenden’ Category

When Time is of the Essence, Mistakes Can Be Made

May 11, 2017


Detail, Senatorial Shoes, Vermont State House

Nothing has caught attention like the desire of the Scott Administration to somehow collect some kind of savings from the savings to be found if and when our local school boards negotiate new health insurance packages with our teachers.

The administration has been promulgating a number which is, at best, 100% too big. Those of us who oppose this attempt to split the way a teacher’s salary and benefits are negotiated, which will weaken their union, have asked the Administration for numbers, and, at last, there are two different reviews of the proposal, one by the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office, and one by our Office of Legislative Council.

The fate of the legislative endgame is at stake with the outcome of this discussion. Up until this week, the Administration had not met with representatives of the teachers. There have been a handful of meetings this week, and the Governor is holding firm to his threat that a solution must be found to reclaim these (phantom) savings or he will veto the budget.

These two documents are lengthy, but if you want to know why I am hesitant to break into a teacher’s right to collective bargaining for the shallow claim of savings, please read them.

Money quote:

The Contracts Clause (of the US Constitution) provides that “[n]o state shall . . . pass any . . . law impairing the obligation of contracts….” That happens when a legislature enacts a statute that trumps the terms of an existing collective bargaining agreement.

We are a nation of laws. We should live by them. There is nothing wrong with negotiating change to collective bargaining agreements if they are done by law. Trying to step around contracts, as the Vermont School Boards Assn. and the Administration have proposed, is simply unprecedented in Vermont. That is why I will continue to support preserving the collective bargaining rights of the teachers.

Update 4:00 PM 5/11/17: The House and Senate have made a proposal that goes like this: The House and Senate will propose a three cent, immediate cut in the statewide property tax. Expectations are for $13 million savings in the first year from locally negotiated contracts. Three cent deduction is baked in for the time being and Waterbury benefits even more by starting to see the “gift” from the state for merging under Act 46. We are still checking to see if those are negatively affected. The estimates are more solid than those proposed by the Governor. What we would vote on would provide immediate and real savings to property taxpayers without disrupting relationships between school boards and teachers.

Update 10:00 AM 5/12/17: The details of the “Ashe amendment” have been made clearer, and they have inspired many more questions about the notion of calculating possible health insurance savings within the current legislative session. School boards are concerned that if they do not meet the savings that curricular programming would have to be cut back. These factors really dovetail with the need to take more time to work out what the desired outcomes should be and what the consequences may be. It’s clear to me that the issue has moved further away from the actual policy and is deadset in the middle of politics. The possibility of making mistakes grows when trying to negotiate issues in the waning days of the session.


2017 Town Meeting Report

March 3, 2017


screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-10-34-50-amHere is a link to a PDF of our 2017 Town Meeting Report. Rep. Theresa Wood and I are sharing our initial thoughts on the new session with this report. Please feel free to contact us with questions at anytime.

Housing That is Affordable Matters

March 25, 2016


Luna Moth

Creating housing that is affordable is expensive. That paradox paralyzes everyone who can identify the need for affordable housing and housing that is affordable. If you are a private developer and building a new house or new rental units, the sweet financial spot you have to meet after purchase of land, infrastructure (especially water and septic), permitting, labor and construction loans, along with profit, is pretty high and can make that housing unaffordable for most Vermonters. If you are a nonprofit developer, you have the same costs and many, if not more, regulatory hurdles to overcome, but you have mechanisms that allow for outside investment, and that allow for rents that are affordable to Vermonters at the lower end of the economic spectrum.

The need for affordable housing, and housing that is affordable, is clear. Housing is a key component to economic development and growth in Vermont. Without housing, businesses will have a harder time choosing to locate here, or to grow here. Without housing, working Vermonters will not be able to afford to rent or buy a home, so they can live and raise a family in the community they choose. And, as this article from Pacific Standard illustrates, creating housing stability is one of the surest paths to a middle class life.

So what makes an apartment, or a home, affordable? By federal definition, the costs associated with your housing — rent, mortgage, insurance, taxes — will be affordable if they are less than 30% of your annual income. In Vermont, nearly 48% of renters are paying more than that, and are considered to be “cost burdened.” And just under 50% of those folks are paying over 50% of  their income for housing, and are considered “severely cost burdened.” For owners, our information shows that 33% are cost burdened, and just over a third of those are severely cost burdened. Read more