2017-05-18 / News

Legislative Update

Patti Lewis
Representative Northfield and Berlin

I truly believed the Legislature would have finished their business by May 6,, however we spent a lot of time on bills that will not be acted on by the Senate until next year.  This means that we didn’t spend time on the bills that must pass, like the budget and other money bills.  We convened in the morning, only to recess a short time later, or return hours later, and still we were not able to accomplish the important work.  

I believe this is a stall tactic by the supermajority, in order to delay action on Governor Scott’s health insurance initiative for teachers and school staff. This is a proposal that will save property taxpayers at least $26 million each year going forward.  Teachers should see this change seamlessly. In other words, they are to be held harmless.  The total savings is projected to be much greater, but to be sure the out-of-pocket health expenses would not be burdensome to those affected by this change, the proposal is to compensate by utilizing Health Savings Accounts and/or Health Reimbursement Accounts.

Health insurance and health benefits would be “bargained” at the state level rather than with the local school boards.  This would be a huge relief for our local boards.  The VT School Boards’ Association wholeheartedly supports the Governor’s proposal.

This is a rare opportunity to make Vermont more affordable for all. I have received so many emails, notes and phone calls asking me to support this initiative, and only a few asking me to not support it.  It makes sense for everyone.  Anything that can be done to reduce the burden on education property taxes should be done.  

This week an alternate amendment was offered by Senator Ashe of Burlington.  This alternative would do nothing to save the projected $26 million.  It would force the supervisory unions and districts to find their own savings within the budget already finalized.  Some of the larger districts would have to find over $500,000; while schools in Northfield and Central Vermont would have to find $200,000 - $250,000.  That just may not be achievable.

We are due back at the Statehouse Tuesday and Wednesday.  I’m in hopes that we can complete our work by the end of Wednesday, and walk away knowing that we did something to save taxpayers money.

Thank you,

Rep. Patti J. Lewis    plewis@leg.state.vt.us

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