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Public Assets Institute, PO Box 942, Montpelier, Vermont 05601.

Public Assets Institute

Update December 2011

In this issue:
-- Pressure on the property tax
-- Toward more effective government
-- People first
-- The rich get richer, the poor colder
-- Weigh in on health care reform

Pressure on the property tax
Despite two years of school budget cuts, Governor Shumlin has asked school districts to level fund next year's budgets. But even if they comply, property taxes can be expected to rise this year in many districts. How can that happen? As we have blogged and discussed with vtdigger.org, there's nothing mysterious about it. The Legislature cut General Fund support for public education. That means higher property taxes.

Toward more effective government
Challenges for Change, the 2010 plan to improve government efficiency, flopped when it became a pretext for more budget cuts. Now the Legislature's Joint Fiscal Office is pursuing another approach to improving government performance. The Pew Center on the States has developed Results First, a system for measuring the return on investment of public programs that looks at the programs' costs and calculates the benefits and savings they reap, such as reduced crime and increased high school graduation rates. As we blogged recently, budgeting with results in mind is better fiscal policy, and it's more useful than fixating on the size of state government. Results First uses this approach—assessing the effectiveness of public programs and funding the ones that do the most to improve Vermonters' lives.

People first
During this economic downturn, our elected leaders have failed to raise adequate state revenue, opting instead to cut support for schools, the elderly, highway and bridge repair, and even the efficient management of state government itself. In essence, the state is putting money before people's needs. Meanwhile, 15,000 more Vermonters have drifted into poverty in the last decade, and those still in the middle class have seen their incomes and prospects stagnate. Vermont can and should put its people first again. That's the message the Vermont Workers Center will bring to the State House with a rally on Jan. 3, the first day of the 2012 legislative session.

The rich get richer, the poor colder
Because President Obama cut funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Vermont is being forced to supplement this federal program. The federal LIHEAP cuts, which affect Vermont's most vulnerable citizens, come just a year after Congress and the Obama administration extended tax cuts for the richest Americans. Governor Shumlin announced this week that the state would step in to fill some of the gap, but as we blogged, it's not as if Vermont didn't have plenty of other budget pressures to deal with this year.

Weigh in on health care reform
There's still a chance to be heard on how Vermont should pay for a reformed health care system. The Green Mountain Care Act, passed earlier this year, put Vermont on a course to universal health care and a more efficient funding scheme. Vermonters have aired their views at three public hearings. Another is scheduled for Jan. 12 from 7 to 9 p.m. at Catamount Arts, 115 Eastern Ave. in St. Johnsbury.

Public Assets Institute is funded by grants and donations. Please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to support our work.

Fact: Beginning Jan. 1, 2012 Vermont's minimum wage will increase to $8.46—the third highest minimum wage in the country.

Data source: Economic Policy Institute; U.S. Department of Labor

With your help we
can meet our our $20,000 fall fundraising goal. Your ongoing support is critical to Public Assets Institute's work. If you haven't yet made your 2011 donation, it's not too late. Any contributions made before December 31 will be tax deductible for this year.

bringing fiscal data home

School Taxes Based on Income, 2011
Since 1998, Vermont residents have had two options for calculating the school taxes on their primary residence. They may base their payment either on the value of their home or on their household income, whichever is less. Over the years, the Legislature has limited eligibility for paying based on income. But most Vermonters still tie some or all of their school taxes to household income.

This town2town map shows the 2011 income-based school tax rates in each town. Check out your town.

2011 Legislative Session Opens
January 3, 2012
10:00 a.m.
State House, Montpelier

Governor's State of the State Address
January 5, 2012
2:00 p.m.
State House, Montpelier

Governor's Budget Address
January 12, 2012
2:00 p.m.
State House, Montpelier

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Public Assets Institute, PO Box 942, Montpelier, Vermont 05601.