Education funding: Diagnosis before treatment

Posted by Jack Hoffman on June 27, 2024 at 10:02 am | * Comments (4)

Whatever Montpelier did this year about education taxes was going to be a can-kicking exercise. By overriding the governor’s veto of the so-called “yield bill,” which sets tax rates for the coming year, the Legislature avoided a protracted fight over how far to kick the can. That bought them some time—about six months. Now, let’s hope, we’ll get a serious effort to understand what’s going on with education funding before plunging ahead with solutions.

In response to the uncharacteristically large increase in school budgets for next year, the Legislature created the ambitiously named Commission on the Future of Public Education in Vermont. It is scheduled to start meeting in July.

2023 Con Hogan Award Winner HB Lozito Speaks about the Award and Its Impact

Posted by Sarah Lyons on June 5, 2024 at 4:15 pm | Comments Off on 2023 Con Hogan Award Winner HB Lozito Speaks about the Award and Its Impact
2023 Con Hogan Award Winner HB Lozito Speaks about the Award and Its Impact Nominations for the 2024 award close on June 27; the winner to receive $15,000 Cash Prize

HB Lozito was honored with the 2023 Con Hogan Award. Lozito is the executive director of Brattleboro-based Out in the Open, which is working to build a multi-issue, multiracial social justice movement of rural LGBTQ+ people. In a recent interview, they talked about their life and work and what receiving the award meant to them both personally and professionally.

Now in its tenth and final year, the award recognizes Con’s life and work by rewarding a community leader who shares his vision of a better Vermont and who seizes the responsibility for making that vision a reality. Awardees are individuals who focus on results, use data and measurement to mobilize action, work with people across diverse perspectives, take risks in pursuit of their vision, and persist through setbacks. The 2024 award will be presented at the Vermont State House in Montpelier at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 9.

The new and “improved” CLA

Posted by Jack Hoffman on April 30, 2024 at 3:37 pm | Comments Off on The new and “improved” CLA

The 1973 oil embargo prompted many energy-saving ideas—real and imaginary. Daylight savings was extended year-round, which was spoofed in a cartoon of President Richard Nixon demonstrating an energy-saving blanket. He was shown cutting a strip from one end of the blanket and sewing it back on to the other end.

The current plan to reform the notorious CLA—common level of appraisal—looks a lot like Nixon’s blanket. It doesn’t actually change how things work, it just makes them look a little better to the public. The latest version of the yield bill now in the Senate changes the way the CLA is calculated but doesn’t actually change the way the CLA works or affects tax bills.

Taking a beat on education funding reform

Posted by Jack Hoffman on April 19, 2024 at 10:40 am | * Comments (2)

A projected jump in school taxes next year has everyone’s hair on fire in Montpelier. But before taking drastic action, legislators and the administration ought to take the time to assess all of the reforms of recent years to understand what’s really going on.

Nobody is saying that the double-digit increases in education spending and likely tax bills this year are sustainable, including many voters. In a normal year, a handful of school budgets get voted down while 90-95 percent of them pass. This year, a third went down, some more than once. The voters spoke and rejected increases that felt too high.

But does that mean Vermont needs more funding reform? It’s too soon to tell.

Vermont Can Invest in Brighter Future With Targeted Income Tax Measure

Posted by Sarah Lyons on February 12, 2024 at 12:14 pm | Comments Off on Vermont Can Invest in Brighter Future With Targeted Income Tax Measure

February 1, 2024

Testimony of Wesley Tharpe, Senior Advisor for State Tax Policy, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Before the Vermont House Ways and Means Committee

Chair Kornheiser, distinguished members—good morning. I’m Wesley Tharpe, and I’m Senior Advisor for State Tax Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) in Washington, D.C. Thank you very much for the invitation to speak, and I appreciate the opportunity to share some brief perspective here today and to take any questions you may have at the end.

House Ways and Means Committee Testimony—January 25, 2024

Posted by Stephanie Yu on January 25, 2024 at 1:56 pm | * Comments (4)

Hi everyone, thanks for having me back. Again, I’m Stephanie Yu, Executive Director of Public Assets Institute. I just want to make a couple of quick points about what all this great work (and clear, thoughtful methodology behind it) from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) means.

First, that the goal is a progressive tax system; we’ve heard now that our tax system actually improves income inequality unlike so many states, but that it remains regressive at the top end and is not truly a progressive system.

So what’s the best way to make our system more progressive? Do we need to increase taxes on the high end or decrease them on the low end? I think the answer is both.

Statement on Gov. Phil Scott’s Jan. 23, 2024 Budget Address

Posted by Stephanie Yu on January 24, 2024 at 8:42 am | Comments Off on Statement on Gov. Phil Scott’s Jan. 23, 2024 Budget Address

For a speech that started out on a theme of affordability, it was striking how much Gov. Phil Scott’s budget address focused on the idea of public investment to deal with problems Vermonters face. He repeatedly talked about investing, rather than spending. But he also said he would make his investments while holding to a modest increase in the General Fund portion of the budget.

It was a confusing message. The governor acknowledged that smart, public investing is the key to addressing housing, public safety, drug addiction, workforce training, and other initiatives, so why is he proposing to invest so little? Investments often require some extra initial effort, and an ongoing commitment to provide the resources necessary to get the job done. Vermont has the capacity—and the obligation—to act on these problems now, instead of waiting for Washington or economic winds to somehow generate clearly needed new revenue. These are not problems that we can solve by doing more of the same.

It’s time for the wealthiest to pay their fair share in taxes

Posted by Anika Heilweil on December 8, 2023 at 10:56 am | * Comments (1)

We can build a Vermont that works for everyone who lives here.


We can have thriving downtowns, safe roads and bridges, and housing that people can afford. Our children can learn in vibrant and supportive schools. We can protect our environment. We can care for Vermont families at every stage of life.

But first, we need to look at our tax code. That’s right—our tax code.

In recent decades, wages for many Vermont residents have not kept up with the costs of living. Meanwhile, elected officials tell us that Vermont doesn’t have the money to make crucial public investments to take care of families, infrastructure, and the environment.

Yet the data show that this scarcity narrative is rhetoric, not reality. Income inequality is growing in Vermont. Our wealthiest residents are getting wealthier. Our highest income earners are earning more and getting a larger and larger share of overall income. And our current tax structure protects the wealth of a small number of residents, instead of focusing on the needs of all people in Vermont.

We can reduce poverty, but will we?

Posted by Jack Hoffman on October 5, 2023 at 2:47 pm | Comments Off on We can reduce poverty, but will we?

We have the means to reduce poverty. What we need is the political will. That is the conclusion of a massive real-world experiment that took place during the Covid pandemic of 2020-2022. Now that the emergency has subsided, we are beginning to see the effects of actions—and the dangers of inaction—taken by political leaders to help people meet their ongoing basic needs.

In response to the economic problems triggered by the Covid pandemic, the federal government moved quickly to put money in people’s pockets. Some of the efforts were temporary, such as the Economic Impact Payments and the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that helped employers retain their workers while businesses were shut down. Once things opened up again, those programs lapsed.

Flood Update

Posted by Staff on July 17, 2023 at 1:22 pm | Comments Off on Flood Update

We’re grateful all of our staff and board are safe and sound. But the same cannot be said for our office, much of downtown Montpelier and many other parts of the state.

Like so many other businesses on Main Street in Montpelier, our basement office was completely submerged and nothing in it was salvageable. We were able to get into it late last week alongside our officemates at Voices for Vermont’s Children. And an amazing group of volunteers showed up and helped us, working tirelessly in the rain and the mud to clear everything out.

The post office has informed us that the mail that was in their building when the flood hit was lost, so if you’ve sent us mail or tried to be in touch via our main phone line and voicemail in the past few weeks, please check in with Steph directly at