40,000 Vermonters need a raise now

Posted by Stephanie Yu on February 11, 2020 at 2:11 pm | Comments Off on 40,000 Vermonters need a raise now

Yesterday, the governor vetoed the Legislature’s proposed minimum wage increase. The bill would raise the wage to $11.75 an hour in 2021 and again in 2022 to $12.55, from the current wage of $10.96. While the bill falls short of the most ambitious plans passed by the Legislature in recent years, it’s a big step forward for working Vermonters, and it should be enacted. Read more

Yes, all kids deserve a decent start

Posted by Jack Hoffman on February 5, 2020 at 2:38 pm | * Comments (1)

There’s a lot in the budget the governor presented last month to the Legislature—and to the public. It’s a proposal to spend more than $6.3 billion for the fiscal year that starts July 1. The detailed budget book is over 1,350 pages, and that doesn’t count the supporting documents.

Buried in all of that information is one number that is hard to understand: a saving of $449,704 in the Reach Up program, which helps to pay for food, clothing, and housing for children in low-income families that can’t afford these basic necessities.

The saving comes from a projected drop in the Reach Up caseload. More than 6,000 families turned to the program for help during and immediately after the recession. But now participation is down to about 3,500, and the forecast is that the number of families needing help will “decrease modestly through 2020 and stagnate in 2021.”

That all seems to make sense—fewer people, less cost—until you dig into another document the governor included in his budget package.

The governor’s U-turn

Posted by Jack Hoffman on January 23, 2020 at 4:07 pm | Comments Off on The governor’s U-turn

Give Gov. Phil Scott credit for having the humility to reverse course and abandon a bad idea. A few days after announcing a plan to exempt young adults from the Vermont income tax, he scrapped the proposal. He changed his mind when he found out it would cost $14 million in lost revenue. Read more

Statement on Gov. Phil Scott’s Jan. 21, 2020 Budget Address

Posted by Jack Hoffman on January 21, 2020 at 4:41 pm | * Comments (1)

Gov. Phil Scott used his Budget Address today to lay out a clear vision of the role state government can play to improve the lives of Vermonters. Child care, transportation infrastructure, affordable housing, climate change, job creation, mental health care and suicide prevention, small town revitalization, and refugee resettlement were just some of the items on his long list of worthy targets for public investment.

He rightly identified the challenges Vermont faces and even seemed eager to the take on the task, as the head of state government, to solve these problems.

But the speech also contained a major contradiction. In the governor’s view, taxes—the means for making these critical investments in the state’s future—make the state unaffordable. So while much of his address outlined modest additional funding for programs and services that governor said had shown proven results, he said it all could be done without raising taxes. In fact, he make several proposals to cut taxes.

Vermont does face many new challenges, and it’s going to take additional effort if we’re going to address them in time to make a difference—especially for the youngest Vermonters. State and local taxes in Vermont, as a share of the economy, haven’t changed in 25 years. Today’s problems won’t be solved without major new public investments. Major investments were nowhere to be found in the governor’s address.

Play State of the State Bingo; Win free stuff!

Posted by Sarah Lyons on January 8, 2020 at 6:17 pm | Comments Off on Play State of the State Bingo; Win free stuff!

2:00pm Thursday, January 9, 2020

Vermont faces challenges of all sorts. The State of the State address is an opportunity for the governor to share with Vermonters his assessment of the state’s successes and challenges over the past year and to outline his proposals to the Legislature. We’ll be listening closely to what the governor says—and to what he doesn’t say. We hope all Vermonters will be listening as well to this important speech.

Listen along with us and play State-of-the-State Bingo! The first three winners get a Public Assets t-shirt or hat.

Public investments move the state forward

Posted by Jack Hoffman on January 6, 2020 at 3:22 pm | * Comments (1)

As legislative leaders prepare to tackle pressing issues confronting Vermont, the Scott administration has signaled that they shouldn’t be looking to state government for any more help. If the Legislature wants to combat climate change, expand the availability of high-quality child care, or extend paid family and medical leave benefits, any new investments will have to come from existing programs because state government is doing all it can do.

At least that seems to be the clear implication of the letter sent early last month to House Speaker Mitzi
Johnson and Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe.

Equitable education for all Vermont children

Posted by Stephanie Yu on November 4, 2019 at 1:56 pm | Comments Off on Equitable education for all Vermont children

Voices for Vermont’s Children’s annual conference Just Systems and Thriving Communities, for Every Child and Youth is this Wednesday, November 6, at the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier. The conference will focus on economic security, child protection, and health and education. Voices is a longtime partner of Public Assets Institute, particularly in the area of ensuring equitable educational outcomes for all Vermont’s kids. Read more

Testimony: Vermont Tax Structure Commission

Posted by Stephanie Yu on November 1, 2019 at 4:10 pm | Comments Off on Testimony: Vermont Tax Structure Commission

The Vermont Tax Structure Commission was formed in 2018 to analyze Vermont’s tax system and make suggestions for improvements. As part of that work, the Commission has been looking at Vermont’s school funding system and invited Public Assets to testify recently about moving to income-based school taxes for Vermont residents.

That testimony and related attachments are posted here.

The Commission has released several white papers and other information and is expected to complete their final report in January 2021. The public is welcome to attend their meeting and provide feedback on Vermont’s tax structure. The next one is scheduled for Wednesday, November 6th. Public input into revenue and spending policies can also be submitted to the administration online.

Welcoming immigrant workers is good for Vermont

Posted by Stephanie Yu on October 10, 2019 at 11:47 am | Comments Off on Welcoming immigrant workers is good for Vermont

The Pew Research Center estimates that there are several thousand undocumented immigrants in Vermont. These workers pay roughly $3 million in taxes annually and support a number of state industries, especially agriculture.  And their contributions aren’t just economic: immigrants writ large are an integral part of our families, schools and communities. Read more

Let’s learn from the newcomers

Posted by Jack Hoffman on October 4, 2019 at 8:00 am | * Comments (4)

There has been a certain amount of hand-wringing for the last decade or so about how many rich people and young people are moving in and out of Vermont. Migration data compiled by the Internal Revenue Service are at the heart of the debate, which invariably focuses on the people leaving. Why don’t we pay more attention to the new arrivals, including the thousands of international immigrants who have settled in Vermont but aren’t counted by the IRS? They could tell us something about how to improve life for all Vermonters.