By James Haslam, Vermont Workers' Center
Check out www.workerscenter.org/may1
For the fifth year in a row over well over a thousand people from all over Vermont will participate in a huge May 1st Statehouse Rally. In 2009, we came to change what was politically possible in healthcare reform. In 2013, its become clear that what we really need to make possible is real democracy itself.
Please join us at 11:30am at the Statehouse to gather for march and rally to remind the legislature and governor that they don't work for the Chamber of Commerce or only represent wealthy people. The legislature has a real opportunity to stand up for our communities, and we have some ideas of what they should and SHOULD NOT do is they were to do that.
A Budget that Advances Dignity & Equity
The governor and (to date) the legislature failed to meet the purpose of the state budget, which the law now mandates must "address the needs of the people of Vermont in a way that advances human dignity and equity" (32 V.S.A. § 306a). Instead, they are set to undermine people's dignity and increase inequity by:
- impoverishing more people through capping the essential Reach-Up program
- making the tax code more regressive by reducing EITC and assessing new regressive taxes such as gasoline and soda tax which affect low-income people more than wealthy people
- increasing healthcare costs for people moved from VHAP and Catamount into the exchange, which effectively makes it harder for low-income people to access health care.
Meaningful Public Participation in our State Budget Process
The governor and legislature have also failed to meet the legal requirement for "a process for public participation in the development of budget goals, as well as general prioritization and evaluation of spending and revenue initiatives" (32 V.S.A. § 306a). Instead, they are ignoring the principles of participation, accountability and transparency and increasing the disconnect between people and government because:
- budget priorities come out of a vacuum rather than from engaging communities
- the budget process starts with the result of past tax policy decisions (the revenue estimate) rather than an assessment of real needs
- the failure to measure progress and outcomes makes it hard to see what effect specific spending and tax initiatives actually have on people's lives
A Healthcare System that Meets All Our Health Needs
Both governor and legislature have failed to meet the principles of universality and equity in Act 48, Vermont's universal health care law, by:
- failing to set out an equitable financing plan for Green Mountain Care
- erecting new barriers to accessing health care by increasing out-of-pocket costs for low-income people
- failing to stop leading health care providers from forming a for-profit conglomerate, OneCare, that will profit from selling access to care rather than providing health care as a public good, as required by Act 48
The Way Forward:
As the Put People First campaign made clear at the beginning of the 2013 session, we are dedicated to advancing public policies focused on meeting the fundamental needs of all people in Vermont, which is at the heart of what human rights mean in practice.
Policy decisions that put people first would look very different from the governor's and legislature's positions, because they would be based on principles, such as equity and universality, and developed in a transparent and accountable process with the participation of the people of Vermont.
Policies that put people first would:
- commit to eliminating poverty and ensuring a dignified standard of living for all
- assess people's needs, such as access to healthcare and jobs, and require that those needs be taken into account in the budget process
- inform and engage the public in developing budget goals
- collect taxes in a more equitable way, so that wealthy people no longer get away with paying proportionally less taxes than those with low and middle incomes
- ensure that we all get what we need and give what we can
Learn more at workerscenter.org