LETTER: Please Listen to Vermonters

JANUARY 15, 2024

The Honorable Jill Krowinski
Speaker of the House
Vermont General Assembly
Office of the Speaker
115 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05633

The Honorable Phillip Baruth
President Pro Tempore
Vermont Senate
Office of the Pro Tempore
115 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05633

Dear Speaker Krowinski and Pro Tempore Baruth,

This fall we undertook a project to understand Vermonter’s perspectives on the trajectory of our state by conducting a 400-person scientific public opinion poll. The results tell us that Vermonters are concerned about their cost of living, housing affordability, and public safety. They believe the state is failing in the delivery of critical services like infrastructure, public education, housing, and economic development: key functions of state government.

It also seems that Vermonters blame the Legislature (40% favorability) instead of the Governor (64% favorability) for these failings. You have an opportunity to change that narrative this legislative session as we head into the 2024 elections. We are hoping that you will consider taking a more measured approach to policymaking this session. Vermonters are yearning for it.  

It is clear that the FY2025 budget will be an exercise in belt-tightening. The Legislature will need to be aggressive in cost-containment efforts in order to shield Vermonters, particularly those in the middle class, from additional increases in their cost of living. This includes dealing with the 18.5% property tax increase projected in the December letter.

A shocking number of our fellow Vermonters now believe that the quality of our public education is poor. Parents with young children are even more likely than the general public to believe this, which could be a concerning leading indicator. This perceived decline in quality, coupled with persistent property tax increases is likely to create a crisis for school boards attempting to pass budgets this year. Our education system has more than enough funding to solve this problem (second highest spending in the country[1]), but we need to take a close look at how those resources are deployed and how we demand accountability out of our public education system. We have no mechanism in place for holding teachers or administrators accountable for the outcomes they generate.

A path has been laid out for Act 250 reform that will unlock our state’s ability to build more affordable owner-occupied housing units. This needs to be a critical focus of the Legislature as precious few of these units are available to middle class families. Home ownership is a key to financial stability and a path to building generational wealth.[2] Too many Vermont families are being denied this opportunity.

Finally, our climate change strategy needs to shift. Environmental advocates have said for years that carbon cutting is the only way to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. However, it is clear that climate change is already significantly impacting our state and, as you have already realized Speaker Krowinski, it is time to shift our strategy towards resiliency. Vermonters overwhelmingly agree (72%) that we should be focusing our efforts on infrastructure improvements to mitigate the impacts of climate change INSTEAD of carbon-reduction. While you have asked the Climate Council to address this, it is now clear that they will not. The Legislature has an opportunity to lead on this issue in a way that mainstream Vermonters can support, but it will require standing up to the more extreme members in the Legislature and the industry lobbyists who support them.

Stepping back; with today’s social media echo chambers it is so easy to only hear the perspectives of those who talk the loudest. As you are aware, the political narrative in our country (and, yes, here in Vermont) has been driven by the extremes of both parties. But that is not where the majority of people are. Our polling indicates that neither party has increased their footprint in the state and 44% of Vermonters consider themselves independent. These are voices that are not being heard because they are regular people who are too busy with their own lives to have the time or energy to engage in the political process. Yet, they are speaking to us through tools like this poll. We hope you will listen.


Pat McDonald
President, Campaign for Vermont

Pat McDonald’s distinguished career includes 20 years in a wide range of leadership positions throughout state and local government. She served as Commissioner of Labor, Commissioner of Employment and Training, Secretary of Transportation, Deputy Commissioner of Education, Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, and Commissioner of Human Resources (twice) under the Republican and Democratic Administrations of Governors Snelling, Dean and Douglas.


[1] https://educationdata.org/public-education-spending-statistics

[2] https://www.habitat.org/sites/default/files/Evidence-Brief_Wealth-building-for-homeowners.pdf

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Donate Volunteer Reduce Property Tax Burden


get updates