Friends, we have been busy here at the Campaign!
We published one of our most significant reports of the year last month, which found that Vermont state employees and teachers are often in the top 25% of income earners in the state.
“As a former Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Commissioner of Human Resources, I was surprised by what we found in this report,” said CFV President Pat McDonald, “I think everyone needs to read this report because there were a number of assumptions that were carried through the years that were just plain wrong.” - CFV President Pat McDonald
Vote for Vermont:
The show launched it 7th season with an episode about the state employee compensation report. We are excited to be back and doing long-format interviews on thorny Vermont policy issues.
Banter & Beans:
This summer, while VFV was on break, Pat & Ben launched a new half hour talk show - Banter & Beans - a new relaxed format morning show where the hosts talk about bills that passed during the legislative session over a cup of coffee. All episodes can be found on Campaign for Vermont Facebook page.
2022 Legislative Priorities Survey:
It is that time of year again. The legislature is set to resume in Montpelier in just a few short weeks in a hybrid in-person and digital fashion. Campaign for Vermont will be there to keep an eye on things, but we want your feedback about which issues we should focus on. This is your chance to help chart our path forward for the next year!
Summer Study Committees:
Pension Task Force
As the task force is still weighing options, Campaign for Vermont testified last week on the recent public employee compensation report.
- Pat McDonald and Ben Kinsley presented findings on Wednesday, December 1st.
- Shared that, on average, state employees and teachers are in the top 25% of wage-earners in Vermont.
- Recommended looking at adjusting benefits for new hires as much as possible to balance the pension liability.
- Pat sent a follow-up letter to the Task Force on Monday addressing questions that union representatives raised.
The task force has received actuarial analysis on:
- Cross-subsidization of pensions costs between different Vermont State Employees Retirement System (VSERS) groups
- Projected impacts of one-time revenue on the Actuarial-Determined Employer Contribution (ADEC)
- Projected impacts of recurring revenue on ADEC
- Impacts of various changes to employee contribution rates
Recently, the task force identified four potential revenue streams:
- Cannabis tax
- Sports gambling
- High-income tax surcharges
- Elimination of capital gains exclusion
Other adjustments being considered:
- Change the calculation for average final compensation used to calculate retirement benefit
- Employee contribution levels across different state employee and teacher groups
- Adjusting vestment periods that determine eligibility for retirement benefits
- The task force is supposed to have recommendations submitted to the Legislature by December 15th, they will likely need to meet at least one more time in order to do so.
- Read our full blog post.
- As the task force is still weighing options, Campaign for Vermont testified last week on the recent public employee compensation report.
Student Weighting Task Force
- The Agency of Education has published a calculator tool so you can evaluate the impact on your town.
The task force is working on a number of things. At the last meeting:
- There was a debate about using the weighting formula or block-grant funding to account for English language learners
- It is still up in the air as to whether the small schools grants will continue
- Even though it is outside the purview of this Task Force, income-based taxation was discussed. Some members believe that this would provide more cost and tax equity when coupled with the weighting factors that the legislature is debating.
The Chair of the Task Force has assigned each member with drafting a key topic in the final report, including:
- Special education
- English language learners
- Cost equity
- Adverse childhood experiences and trauma
- Small schools
- Population density and rurality
- There are only two meetings left before the Task Force needs to submit recommendations so the report will need to start coming together.
- We anticipate receiving a copy of the Task Force's report and we will provide it to you with our review and analysis.
- Read our full blog post.
Vermont State Colleges (VSC) Task Force
They have launched several sub-groups to help with this enormous project.
- Each team reports to the VSC Board of Trustees.
- The transformation team launched a student advisory council in September because they realized student input was essential to understanding how academic programs, student services, and residence life should be provided.
- The Academic Operations Team has identified some priorities like defining delivery modalities and launching a new library in the Summer of 2022.
- The branding and identity team worked with Vision Point Marketing to select the name "Vermont State University." The name focuses on the state's community and high-quality education and programming.
- Most of these groups are expected to report back to the Task Force this week.
Task Force members realized they need to understand what skills and knowledge are missing from VSC graduates. Some of the priorities they have identified include:
- Affordable Education (including grants and scholarships)
- Access to a wide variety of technical programs
- Access to career services, job training and micro degrees
- Extracurricular activities and strong on-campus residential experience
- A strong alumni support system
- They recently launched a search for a new President for the newly merged University.
- Read our full blog post.
- They have launched several sub-groups to help with this enormous project.
Campaign for Vermont Projects:
Leveraging Tourism for Prosperity
We released our plan to fuel VT tourism in October. First identified as a leading component in CFV's plan for economic recovery, this initiative promises to leverage our small state marketing budget to transform Vermont's tourism industry into an economic engine that feeds job creation and workforce recruitment. We are currently considering funding options to take this project to the next level. If you would like to help support this effort, please pledge here.
Public Employee Compensation
One of the most consequential reports we have issued in a while - the public employee compensation report found that state employees and teachers are in the top 25% of income earners in the state. This finding is surprising and suggests that the state is more competitive on wages than previously thought. As a follow up from our testimony on December 1st, this week Pat McDonald sent the Pension Task Force a letter addressing questions raised by the unions. While there is more work we would like to do on this topic. You can support that work and make sure legislators are aware of this information by pledging here.
We are sure that you are as frustrated as we are about the slow progress on water quality in Vermont. Our lakes and streams seem to get worse every summer. We seem to have a unique once-in-a-generation access opportunity to capitalize on with ARRA and infrastructure funding becoming available from the federal government. Municipal storm water and sewer facilities make a significant contribution to the pollution in our waterways, and they are expensive to update which often hamstrings efforts to fix the problem. We are working with a emerging technology consultant to identify solutions and find viable options for addressing this issue in Vermont. We hope to share these findings with you soon!
Healthcare Price Transparency
Starting in January 2021, Vermont's 14 hospitals were required by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare to disclose their pricing sheets for all procedures they bill for. Every hospital complied (more or less) and have listed thousands of procedures and the pricing for each along with negotiated rates with each insurance company. CFV has been digging through this data and we hope to share some of our findings with you before the legislative session kicks off in January.
Stay well and prosper,
-Campaign for Vermont Team