Last Thursday, the Governor presented his budget to the joint assembly. This is an annual ritual that is like a watered-down version of the “State of the Union” address the President will give next month. It comes complete with awkward pauses for applause and dutiful shout-outs to honored guests.
When it was all over many of us were left wondering what exactly Shumlin's goal is.
On one hand, he wants to increase funding to make Pre-K universal across Vermont. This is an essential economic development and quality of life tool that will help families with young children. Shumlin rightly points out that investing at the early end of the education spectrum pays off in the long run in the form of better brain development and more. Progressives have advocated for more quality pre-school opportunities since Anthony Pollina raised the issue in his 2000 campaign for Governor.
On the other hand, Shumlin wants to cut the state's most successful anti-poverty program to fund this Pre-K expansion. As Sen. Tim Ashe said in the Burlington Free Press, "It's like robbing Peter to pay Peter less." Shumlin proposes to take money currently going to the State’s Earned Income Tax Credit. This program puts cash into the hands of the poorest 44,000 Vermont families. This is how single moms pay for their rent or groceries.
Compare this funding idea against our proposal last year to increase the income tax for the wealthiest 4,000 Vermonters and you get a clear idea of Shumlin's values. Our proposal was nixed as a "broad-based tax." His proposal, which hits 10 times the number of Vermonters, isn't because he's constricting benefits rather than technically raising taxes. Lovely.
Fortunately we have heard that Rep. Janet Ancel (D-Calais), who chairs the House Ways & Means Committee, isn't taking the proposal seriously. Speaker Shap Smith told Seven Days he has strong concerns about it. In the Senate, the relevant committee is now chaired by Sen. Ashe.
Shumlin also proposed cuts to the state's "Reach Up" program. That's welfare for those of you unfamiliar with the jargon. Apparently, Vermont is too generous with these benefits too.
The governor wants to increase funding for UVM and the State Colleges. And he wants more money to go to weatherization and renewable energy. More Progressive priorities. Most of this gets funded by taxing "break-open" tickets sold in bars, VFWs, etc. Basically this expands our dependence on the lottery.
Taken together, Shumlin has found about $40 million to fund exciting priorities. But this money is coming from those who can least afford it, at a time when according to the Public Assets Institute, "real median household income, though slightly higher than last year, was less than in 2007."
Progressives now face the challenge of supporting these important priorities while redirecting attention to alternative sources of revenue. We will need your help.
Health care report confirms savings potential in single-payer
Details about what our tax bills will look like once Green Mountain Care (our single-payer system) is up and running remain to be seen, but once again experts agree single-payer will: cover everyone, increase the quality of coverage for over 100,000 Vermonters who are currently under-insured, and save money overall.
The entire report can be found here.
From the summary: "Overall, GMC is estimated to save $281 million over the first three years, even with these enhancements to coverage, elimination of the uninsured, and a reduction in out-of-pocket costs for Vermonters. GMC is estimated to cost approximately $3.5 billion, but only $1.61 billion would need to be financed due to federal contributions for the remaining amount. In 2013, individuals and employers will contribute approximately $3 billion between private insurance costs and out-of-pocket costs, so overall the costs to Vermonters are reduced under Green Mountain Care."