Moran makes case for income equality
by Mike Eldred
Mar 06, 2014 | 1990 views | 0 0 comments | 51 51 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SEARSBURG- Rep. John Moran updated Searsburg voters on his legislative efforts in their behalf at their Town Meeting Monday evening.

Moran told Searsburg residents that he has sponsored two pieces of legislation to address income inequality that he said is threatening both workers and businesses. “For every $6 in the United States, $5 goes to the richest people, and the last dollar gets spread among the rest of us, the 90% and below,” he said. “We’re working on this at the state level because the federal government has become so dysfunctional, the only way to straighten it out is at the state level.”

Moran told voters about three measures that he has co-sponsored. Two bills he introduced would increase the minimum wage, one calling for a $12.50 minimum wage, and another calling for a “living wage,” which would be set at about $15. “Right now the minimum wage is $8.73 an hour,” he said. “No one can really afford to raise a family on that amount of money. In February 1968 the effective minimum wage was $11 an hour. Through the ‘60s and ‘70s, when adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage was higher than it is now. Since 1980 it has gone down and down and down.”

Moran said companies that don’t pay a livable wage are, in effect, being subsidized by taxpayers. “Because they don’t pay a livable wage, we’re subsidizing businesses like Walmart and McDonalds,” Moran said. “Walmart and McDonalds are telling their workers who don’t get paid a livable wage how to sign up for LIHEAP, food stamps, and the earned income credit. Who pays for that? You and I do.”

Searsburg Selectboard member Tony Kilbride asked if an increase in the minimum wage would mean higher prices. “Not necessarily,” said Moran. “Henry Ford, 100 years ago, realized when cars come off the assembly line, his employees couldn’t afford to buy his product. He raised their salary to $5 per day, unheard of at the time. When employees were able to buy more, it lifted the economy, it made industry grow. When you pay workers more, especially people who aren’t making much to begin with, they don’t sit on it like rich people, they spend it and put it right back into the economy.”

A third bill would mandate paid sick time for most employees. “Right now there are about 60,000 Vermonters who have no time off whatsoever,” he said. “They’re usually the lowest paid people, many are working parents. If they get sick, they have to make a choice whether to go to work sick or stay home and miss a day’s pay. Many of them are people in the service industry – I don’t think anyone wants sick people sneezing in their food.”

Moran, a Wardsboro School Board member, told voters he has continued to follow education and education funding issues. “There are three education issues we have to look at,” he said, “performance, governance, and funding.”

In education performance, Moran noted that Vermont students typically score higher than their peers nationally. “We pay more for education in Vermont, and we get results.”

But Moran said some in Montpelier incorrectly conflate governance with funding, and as a result are moving to a more “top-down” system. “When we’re talking about funding they offer us a solution, not to reform the property tax system, but to change the governance,” he said. “Changing governance has nothing to do with funding.”

Moran recalled former Vermont Commissioner of Education Richard Cate’s white paper that recommended the consolidation of the state’s 284 school districts into 63. “But when they looked at it, they found there was no money to be saved in consolidation. What they’re talking about in the education committee is a top-down consolidation of schools and districts that will just take away local control. I’ve been working with a group of legislators that have a bottom-up solution, working with towns to come up with solutions.”

Moran said Act 68, the current education funding system, has impacted so many towns that few are contented with it. “Vermont pays more for education because of the economy of scale,” he said. “We’re a small state with a declining school population, but we still have the overhead. The trouble is funding it through the property tax the way we are isn’t going to work. We’re working on other ways to fund education.”

Moran said Montpelier’s refusal to raise other taxes results in a de facto increase in the property tax. “If we don’t raise other taxes, what happens is it all gets shifted to the property tax, but it’s not obvious and people don’t see it.”
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