Email Sent to Supporters October 7, 2016
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.
In our email last week we laid out problems with Vermont’s energy and education policies and promised we would provide recommendations for addressing them. Here they are:
There is no doubt that Vermont’s education system is broken. Many towns are experiencing double digit tax increases while at the same time cutting course offerings. Act 46 has created confusion and a massive amount of work for school boards with no guaranteed outcomes and little evidence of long-term cost savings or enhanced educational opportunities. It is also indiscriminate, all districts are forced to go through the process regardless of whether it makes sense: for example, in some instances it might actually lead to more administrative structures being put in place.
Campaign for Vermont looks at school districts as part of the solution instead of part of the problem. We recommend the following:
- Give school boards the tools to make their own decisions about spending and tax rates instead of it being dictated by student population demographics and Montpelier. We believe the best decisions are made at the local level.
- Instead of forcing consolidation across the board, the mandate should be repealed. Incentives can remain, but instead should be funded out of a consolidated district's documented savings.
- Re-organize Vermont’s Supervisory Unions into Regional Education Administrative Districts (READS) centered around our tech centers. Regionalization cuts overhead and strengthens link to post-secondary education. Local school boards will have administrative control over their READS.
- Regionalize the tax base within the READ to encourage districts to work together and stabilize tax rates.
Push services and teacher contracts up to the READ level (already done with special education). This allows school districts to share resources and teachers to make staffing levels more flexible.
You can read Campaign for Vermont’s full education plan here: http://www.campaignforvermont.org/education
Vermont’s energy policy focuses on electricity generation, yet 79% of our carbon pollution comes from residential heating and transportation. On top of substantial federal subsidies, Vermont has two primary subsidies for industrial scale wind and solar projects; both of which are cost shifts. The first is the standard offer program which fixes minimum prices for power purchased by utilities. This has a similar effect to the Medicaid cost shift where utilities pay above market rates for electricity from industrial renewable projects in order to meet requirements from the state. These higher costs are then passed along to consumers through rate increases. Currently, utilities pay 11 cents per kilowatt for power from industrial solar compared to between 4-8 cents for hydro-electric power . If we assume that 6 cents is the average for hydro power, solar is nearly twice as expensive.
Secondly, solar installations are exempt from traditional property tax assessments. Instead they pay 4 cents per kilowatt into the statewide education fund. Because the state does not track property values for solar installations it is difficult to know what the revenue impact is on the statewide education fund from this approach.
If we truly want to reduce Vermont’s carbon footprint, the most effective way of doing that would be to shift focus to transportation and home heating where the vast majority of our states carbon pollution comes from. This may include consolidating the weatherization program into Efficiency Vermont and restructuring the program offerings at Efficiency Vermont to be totally focused on efficiencies that reduce carbon emissions from furnaces.
Relative to vehicle emissions, sales taxes and registration fees could be priced higher then currently for high emission vehicles but lower than currently for low emission vehicles. Such an approach should be revenue neutral to the state. Further, sales tax holidays could be sponsored by the state once or twice a year to encourage the purchase of electric powered vehicles.
Campaign for Vermont Prosperity