A New Vision for Vermont

Emailed blast sent to supporters December 4, 2016

 

Friends,

This week we announced our new "Vision for Vermont," which introduces a sharper message and better defines what we are working towards. We want to see a Vermont that is fiscally, socially, and environmentally sustainable, and where everyone can succeed. We do very well as a state in areas such as environmental and social responsibility, but we have families that are struggling to make ends meet. We must be proactive and forward thinking if we are to create a place where every Vermonter can succeed.

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CFV Announces Questionnaire Results

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – OCTOBER 26, 2016 

Contact:
Benjamin Kinsley
(802) 448-2380
Ben@CampaignForVermont.org 

Campaign for Vermont Prosperity Announces Questionnaire Results 

Burlington, VT – Today Campaign for Vermont Prosperity (CFV) announced the results from a statewide canvassing of legislative candidates on topics that matter to Vermonters. Candidates were asked a series of seven questions related to the economy, health care, education, and government ethics. The full questionnaire can be viewed here: CampaignForVermont.org/2016Questionnaire

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Vermont Ranked #1

Email blast sent to supporters October 23, 2016

 

Friends, 

Something slipped by many in the Vermont media earlier this month: Kiplinger released its list of tax-friendly states to retire. Vermont Ranked #1 for least tax friendly for retirees. They looked at a number of factors including sales tax, income tax and what it applies to, social security, pensions, property taxes, and estate taxes.

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Fighting for YOU

Email sent to supporters October 16, 2016

 

Friends,

We have been busy the past couple weeks reaching out to legislative candidates across the state to get their responses to our 2016 Candidate Questionnaire covering four key policy areas: budget, education, health care, and ethics. You can view the questionnaire on our website: campaignforvermont.org/2016questionnaire  

We are looking forward to getting responses from hundreds of candidates for the legislature. If you aren’t sure who your legislator is or even what district you are in, the legislative website can help you out: legislature.vermont.gov/people/

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Energy and Education 2

Email Sent to Supporters October 7, 2016

 

Friends,

The races at the federal, state and local levels continue to heat up. Many Americans and Vermonters to not feel their voices are being heard over the partisanship and political sniping that’s run wild.  

To that end Campaign for Vermont will continue to be a voice for you in state government, advocating for ethics reforms, transparency, and accountability in state government. We encourage you to weigh in on issues that are important by contacting candidates directly and sharing your views and their responses on our website.

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Energy and Education Boil Over

Email blast sent to supporters September 29, 2016

 

Friends,

We are energized by the recent changes at Campaign for Vermont as we work to re-engage our supporters and rebuild Vermont’s middle-class.

CFV Mission Statement:

To advocate for public policy changes by reconnecting middle-class Vermonters to their government.”

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Big Changes

Friends,

Much has changed since our last email; Vermonters have selected their candidates to face off in the November election, the EB-5 Scandal continues to develop in the Northeast Kingdom, and big changes are underway at Campaign for Vermont.

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ANESU Act 46 Minority Report

Have you ever wondered what goes on in an Act 46 study group? Read this report by three Act 46 study group members in the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union pointing out the flaws in the study group process, including bias in favor of mergers by the group facilitator cherry- picked by the School Boards Association, misinformation provided to voters and lack of effort to engage the affected community members!!!

www.campaignforvermont.org/anesu_act_46


Under the Radar: The Agency of Education Gets Busted For Unlawful Teacher Licensing Requirements

Legislative hearings on a sleeper of a bill, S. 217, have had the unintended consequence of exposing the Agency of Education’s long-standing unlawful teacher licensing process, as explained below, with important financial implications for taxpayers generally and even more serious legal and financial implications for teachers, schools and the Agency itself.

First of all, the unlawful system drives up both property taxes and income taxes. By statute, a person cannot be employed as a "teacher" in a public school without a valid license. 16 V.S.A. § 1692. However, the Agency of Education, and the Vermont Standards Board for Professional[1] (a lay body with a teacher majority membership) have created a licensing process that requires every general teacher’s license to carry a specific “endorsement.”[2] There are now 44 different endorsements (six for administrators and the rest for various categories of teachers). Dividing up the duties of teacher in this way, while prohibiting schools from employing teachers in areas outside of their endorsement area[3], contributes to overstaffing in schools. The system requires specialists and prohibits generalists. More teachers means more local staff cost for schools paid for by property taxes. It also means more members of the teachers’ retirement fund, a big chunk of the general fund, which is largely supported by the income tax. 

The second problem is that the unlawful system is expensive for teachers. To be eligible for a particular endorsement a teacher must meet very specific requirements for education and experience and demonstrate competency in certain skill areas. Separate ongoing professional development requirements for renewing a license apply to each endorsement. If a teacher has more than one endorsement the cost of meeting initial licensure and professional development requirements is increased.

Finally, the unlawful system has created more state employees. The Agency of Education has an entire licensing division devoted to determining whether teachers meet endorsement requirements. Licensing fees primarily fund the positions but the retirement costs are yet another general fund expenditure.

So why is the teacher licensing system unlawful? As recently discovered and exposed by the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office, AOE and the Standards Board have created these endorsements completely outside of Vermont’s statutory requirements for rule making.[4]This came to light because over the years AOE has expanded its’ endorsement turf to capture professions, like speech language pathologists and psychologists, already regulated by the Secretary of State’s office. S. 217 is intended to put an end to dual licensure and require a study of statewide licensure with an eye towards consolidation. As the hearings became contentious and turfy the Secretary of State made good on its commitment to transparency by taking a close look at the endorsement requirements.  Here’s what the Deputy Secretary of State had had to say:

“Endorsements are promulgated by the VSBPE (Standards Board) outside of the APA (Administrative Procedure Act) process…. It is well established and self evident that “when an agency adopts policy or procedure it should not supplant or avoid the adoption of rules.” See 3 V.S.A. § 800(4).

He goes on to point out a very specific APA rulemaking provision designed to control education costs:

“If a rule affects or provides for the regulation of public education and public schools, the agency proposing the rule shall evaluate the cost implications to local school districts and school taxpayers, clearly state the associated costs, and report them in a local school cost impact statement to be filed with the economic impact statement on the rule required by subsection 838(c) of this title. An agency proposing a rule affecting school districts shall also consider and include in the local school cost impact statement an evaluation of alternatives to the rule, including no rule on the subject which would reduce or ameliorate costs to local school districts while achieving the objectives or purposes of the proposed rule. The legislative committee on administrative rules may object to any proposed rule if a local school cost impact statement is not filed with the proposed rule, or the committee finds the statement to be inadequate, in the same manner in which the committee may object to an economic impact statement under section 842 of this title. 3 V.S.A. § 832(b).”

Senate Government Operations S.217

By ignoring the rule-making process both the Agency of Education and the Standards Board have avoided public input, cost analysis and legislative oversight. Then there’s the issue of enforcing “rules” that arguably don’t have the force and effect of law. [5]The implications here are staggering. How this gets sorted out is the responsibility of the Governor’s office and quite possibly the courts. Now that the Governor has direct supervisory authority over the Secretary of Education he needs to exercise it by insisting that teacher endorsements are subject to immediate rulemaking. The legislature in turn should take this as a lesson in why professional licensure should be housed entirely within an agency that understands and respects its’ legal obligations and its’ responsibility to the public.

We believe Campaign for Vermont offers substantive insight, information and advocacy on a non-partisan basis relative to Vermont's affordability crisis. We hope you have found value in the above presentation. A contribution of $50 dollars, $100 dollars or more would be greatly appreciated and well used to keep us working hard for you. We do recognize that not all of our supporters can afford this so a donation in any amount is highly valued. Please renew that support with a donation

And visit us on Facebook or Twitter too!

Best,

Barbara Crippen
Policy Coordinator



[1] Regulatory authority over licensing was transferred from the State Board of Education to the Vermont Standards Board. The Agency of Education has a full time staff issuing licenses, a Deputy Secretary for Educator Quality and attorneys and investigators preforming functions related to educator misconduct and/or incompetence complaints.

[2] Rules 5220.2 and 5440, Licensing of Educators and Preparation of Education Professionals.

[3] Rule 5220.7

[4] 3 V.S.A. Chpt. 25.

[5] See Parker v. Gorczyk, 170 Vt. 263 (1999).


Chancellor Jeb Spaulding – Fixing Medicaid Fixes Higher Education

Don’t Agonize, Advocate

The Chancellor of Vermont State Colleges (VSC), Jeb Spaulding, rightfully laments that Vermont’s higher education institutions, including VSC, UVM and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC), have lost ground in the state budget. In 2014 through 2016 these institutions received between $88.8 million and $87.7 million. Governor Shumlin’s proposal for fiscal 2017 is again level funded at $87.7 million. Such flat-lined allocations impact the finances of not only the higher education institutions but also the students they serve. With one “budget gap” crisis after another year after year at the State House, driven mostly by health care expenditures, there’s little funding left for much else.

But Chancellor Spaulding is in a unique position to turn the tide in favor of higher education. After all, he’s a former Secretary of Administration as well as a former Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Further, he’s in a position to call upon the help of other seasoned state house players. There’s Richard Cate, former State Commissioner of Education and now UVM’s Vice President for Finance and Treasurer as well as Senator Richard Westman, a VSAC manager now serving on the Senate Finance Committee and former Chair of the House Appropriations Committee. Chancellor Spaulding might call these folks together to roll up their sleeves and pursue this path for higher education funding.

Governor Shumlin has proposed increasing the fee/tax on mutual funds to raise $13.5 million. (In fact, state house scuttlebutt has this revenue source being hit even harder). He then proposes that $1 million of these new revenues fund a new program to create $250 college savings accounts for every Vermont newborn, with the remainder going to the general fund to bail out the Governor’s most recent Medicaid driven “budget gap”.  However, without limiting eligibility, reforms in Medicaid can address the Medicaid “gap”. With such reforms, the new revenues from mutual fund taxes can be used, for example, to support higher education institutions or lower property taxes by covering the cost for the state’s mandated but unfunded pre-K program now forced upon property tax payers.

Vermont has one of the most expansive Medicaid programs among the 50 states. As of December, 2015, 30 percent or 190,398 of all Vermonters were directly enrolled in Medicaid as compared to a national average of 22 percent. In 2003, with then Representative Westman as Chair of House Appropriations, Representatives Patty O’Donnell (R-Vernon) and I (I-Calais) successfully proposed and got enacted major reforms and efficiencies to Vermont’s Medicaid payment system. These changes basically eliminated almost all co-payments by converting the system to a more progressive and disciplined income based premium system. One can see this legislation here in Act 66 , the fiscal 2004 Budget Act (see Section 147).

More recently, here is a set of 21 tables recently published by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) comparing Medicaid enrollment and cost sharing policies across the 50 states.

From the above there are two observations of note. First, when comparing Medicaid programs across the 50 states it is clear there exist numerous options among which states can choose to structure their Medicaid program. Medicaid is not a top-down, one-size-fits all federal program. In fact, Vermont has more flexibility in this regard than many states because of our Global Commitment waiver. Secondly, when comparing Kaiser Family Foundation premium and co-pay data profiling Vermont with that established in 2003 by Act 66, it’s clear that many premiums and co-pays have not been adjusted for inflation and in some instances  have been reduced or eliminated since 2003.

The above observations are not new. In 2009 a team of talented and seasoned state employees undertook an analysis and issued this report - A Path to Medicaid Savings

The Executive Summary of the Report concludes the following. “The original goal of the EDS/Medicaid Tiger Team was to identify expense reductions or revenue enhancements that save 5% ($50 million) of the $1 billion total spending in FY09. We believe this paper identifies options of this order of magnitude.”

Further, this recent Rand Corporation Report to the legislature shows that low and moderate income households of equal income levels pay widely different proportions of their income for health care insurance. (See Tables A.9, A.10, A.11)

The Rand Report concludes: “We find that people with the same income levels often pay very different amounts for health care, suggesting that horizontal equity in the state is limited. For example, 27 percent of individuals with incomes below 139 percent of FPL will pay less than 5 percent of income on health care, while 21 percent of these individuals will pay more than 20 percent of their income on health care. This finding is driven partly by the fact that people with the same income levels get health insurance through different sources. For example, a person with income below 139 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) could be enrolled in Medicaid, employer coverage, or Medicare; that individual could also be uninsured.”

The additional resources that Chancellor Spaulding seeks for higher education are not going to fall from the sky. Further, it is perfectly clear from the above three cited reports that options exist to rationalize and make more efficient both the revenue streams and expenditure profiles of Vermont’s Medicaid and publicly funded health care programs. Cost saving reforms of just 3 percent in these programs would yield over $37 million, with the state dollar share comprising almost half of such savings. Given this, the Medicaid “budget gap” can be addressed within the Medicaid program, and Chancellor Spaulding might look to the new mutual fund revenues to support higher education budgets.

…………………………..

We hope you have found value in the above presentation. We believe Campaign for Vermont offers substantive insight, information and advocacy on a non-partisan basis relative to Vermont's affordability crisis. A contribution of $50 dollars, $100 dollars or more would be greatly appreciated and well used to keep us working hard for you. We do recognize that not all of our supporters can afford this so a donation in any amount is highly valued. Please renew that support with a donation.

Be Well,
Campaign for Vermont



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