Challenges for Change: Keep the process open

Posted by Jack Hoffman on March 10, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Comments Off on Challenges for Change: Keep the process open

Challenges for Change—the new government efficiency plan passed by the Legislature just before the Town Meeting Day recess—is getting off to a bad start. The Education Design Team, which has a little more than two weeks to come up with plans for pretty sweeping changes affecting how schools are run, held its first meeting on Monday behind closed doors. Read more

Tax cuts are a zero-sum game

Posted by Jack Hoffman on March 3, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Comments Off on Tax cuts are a zero-sum game

A new report challenges the conventional wisdom that states can stimulate their local economies by cutting taxes. “The Zero-Sum Game,” from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C., explains that the effects of broad tax cuts are generally cancelled out by the reduction in state spending and layoffs of public employees that typically result from tax cuts. Read more

The Mystery Is Why, Not How

Posted by Jack Hoffman on March 2, 2010 at 3:41 pm | Comments Off on The Mystery Is Why, Not How

On Town Meeting Day, voters in many Vermont communities are confronting school tax increases that are bigger than the increase in overall school spending or the increase in per pupil spending. One explanation from critics of Vermont’s education funding system is: Well, that’s Act 60 for you. Read more

Let’s hear the alternatives

Posted by Jack Hoffman on February 9, 2010 at 10:06 am | Comments Off on Let’s hear the alternatives

Voters in Oregon bucked conventional wisdom last month and chose to raise taxes rather than accept deeper and more damaging cuts to the state budget. The Legislature had approved the package of tax increases on corporations and on households with personal income of $250,000 or more ($125,000 for individuals). Read more

The governor’s ‘tax relief’ sleight-of-hand

Posted by Jack Hoffman on February 3, 2010 at 2:32 pm | * Comments (3)

Ever hear of the con game pulled on bartenders in busy pubs? A guy strikes up a conversation with a bartender at one end of the bar and says he can make a $100 bill disappear and reappear. He asks the bartender to take $100 bill out of the cash register. Read more

He had it right the first time

Posted by Jack Hoffman on January 26, 2010 at 9:08 pm | * Comments (1)

In his State of the State Address in January 2008, Gov. Jim Douglas made a persuasive argument for changing Vermont’s policy of excluding 40 percent of capital gains from state income taxes:

“Today, I am proposing to close another tax loophole—one that penalizes working Vermonters. Read more

STATEMENT: Public Assets Institute on Governor Douglas’s Budget Address, Jan. 19, 2010

Posted by Jack Hoffman on January 19, 2010 at 3:51 pm | * Comments (1)

There are two parts to Vermont’s current budget problems. One, which the governor accurately described in his budget address today, is the temporary problem of declining revenue brought on by the recession. We need a balanced approach to address this temporary problem. Read more

Health care is the budget-buster—not education

Posted by Jack Hoffman on January 18, 2010 at 3:06 pm | * Comments (4)

From 1992 to 2009, the amount Vermonters spent on health care shot up. In the early 1990s, health care spending was roughly 10 percent of the state’s economy. Last year it was over 17 percent.

When you plot those figures on a chart, you see a steeply rising line. Read more

Is the governor’s budget adequate? Who knows

Posted by Jack Hoffman on January 14, 2010 at 11:15 am | * Comments (1)

Gov. Jim Douglas will present his eighth and final budget request to the Legislature next week. Unfortunately, Vermonters won’t have the information they need to determine whether the governor’s proposal is good or bad, adequate or inadequate.

That’s because Vermont doesn’t prepare annual estimates of the cost of providing the services and programs that it’s currently expected to deliver: a current services budget. Read more

Better results from public services – or just more cuts?

Posted by Paul Cillo on January 8, 2010 at 7:59 pm | * Comments (1)

It was good to see this week’s government efficiency report focusing on better outcomes from essential public services. Challenges for Change: Results for Vermonters held out the promise of saving $38 million in fiscal 2011 and nearly twice that much in fiscal 2012—all while delivering “the same or better result.”

If it comes to pass, it will be a welcome change from across-the-board budget-cutting the state has suffered the past two years. Read more