Legislature keeping things complicated and simple
by Legislative Update: Sen. Jeanette White
May 15, 2017 | 2742 views | 0 0 comments | 167 167 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jeanette White, (D), incumbent
Jeanette White, (D), incumbent
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There has been a lot of interest lately in the $26 million savings in the education fund that Gov. Phil Scott has proposed. I realize it always seems like some kind of cop out to say it is complicated, but it is usually true.

This one is both complicated and simple at the same time. Gov. Scott has stated that there is $26 million to be saved by putting the health benefits portion of teachers’ contracts into a statewide contract rather than have it happen at the local level. This is true, in part. The savings will be realized whether the negotiating is done at the local level or the state level. I won’t go into detail but it has to do with the Affordable Care Act and will happen regardless of who does the negotiating.

So there are two issues and here is where it seems a bit complicated and where the Legislature and the governor differ. The governor’s plan would take the savings and put it in three places: a third to the education fund, which would lower property taxes some; a third to early education (he promised them money but proposed no way to pay for it); and a third to the General Fund. I have heard from school administrators and some school boards who like this because they are tired of the negotiations. I have also heard from many teachers who oppose this.

The Legislature’s proposal would have it negotiated at the local level. The savings would come to the state by reducing the amount of state money sent to each district to match their negotiated savings. The entire savings would go into the education fund, thus reducing property taxes statewide. This would reduce property taxes more than the governor’s proposal. I have heard from teachers who favor this because they don’t want to lose their negotiating power and from some who support the entire amount going into the education fund. I have also heard from those who oppose this for a number of reasons.

The Legislature’s solution seems to make sense. It reduces property taxes, which we know people are concerned about, it keeps the negotiations at the local level, and the savings are still there. Of course one of the things this does is creates a dilemma for the early childhood folks. They would love to have the money promised by the governor but many are also concerned about other aspects of the governor’s proposal.

We were under the impression that this was a compromise solution until Friday afternoon when it tanked, which is why we headed back to Montpelier on Wednesday. It seems that the governor and his staff do not like this solution because all along one of their goals was to break the teachers’ union and they saw this as a good way to start.

I for one do not support the governor’s proposal. I like the savings, and we will realize them either way, but I do not feel that we should attack the teachers’ union in this manner. Of course I suppose if it does go the governor’s way there could always be a statewide teachers’ strike over health care benefits. What a horror show that would be.

We should know by next week where we should go from here. Like I said, even though no one wants to hear it, it is complicated.
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