You may have received a postcard paid for by Vermonters First, a right-wing political action organization funded by millionaire Lenore Broughton. Vermonters First is attempting to replace Vermont’s proud tradition of civil discourse and truthfulness with shock-and-awe propaganda. I think most St. Johnsbury voters are naturally suspicious of big-money politics, and know better than to blindly accept Vermonters First’s clumsy attempts to boil weeks and weeks of legislative work onto a sensational postcard. But just in case – here is more explanation (and fact-checking) for my votes so far this session.
We are facing very harsh economic realities. After several years of relying on “one time money” to fill budget gaps, we have to find additional revenue or risk cutting programs that low and moderate income people rely upon for their very survival. And there are cuts in the budget, even as demand for services remains high during our slow crawl out of the recession. The tax bill was flawed (see my previous post about this), but the committee had spent weeks exploring revenue options, and had discarded several that would have been even worse for our community. Compromise is the name of the game as a legislator. I also vowed to be transparent and accountable. I could have voted “no” or taken a walk and missed the vote (as other legislators did) – knowing that the bill would pass without my vote. But I believe that if I support the critical programs for Vermonters in the budget I need to stand by a method of payment.
I was voting FOR:
- a 3% Medicaid rate adjustment that local health care providers (including dentists and mental health counselors) have requested to stop the cost-shifting to private pay clients.
- an adjustment to the child care financial assistance program to incentivize high-quality child care, make it affordable, and keep families working
- the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program – also known as “fuel assistance” which many St. Johnsbury residents (especially seniors) depend upon to stay warm in the winter
The Medicaid rate adjustment and child care investments are estimated to bring an additional $1.2 million into Caledonia County in support of essential services and businesses. By advocating against the Governor’s proposed raid on the EITC, we avoided a forced redistribution of nearly 1 million dollars from low-income working St. Johnsbury residents.
As for the gas tax – yes, I voted in support of the transportation budget. This bill had strong tri-partisan support because the Transportation Committee made it clear that our failure to pass it could have forfeited $56 million in federal funds. Caledonia County has the worst roads in the state. This is impacting tourism and our ability to attract businesses, not to mention taking a serious toll on our vehicles. Our existing Transportation funding structure hasn’t kept up with the changing habits of drivers. As vehicles become more fuel efficient, having a fixed fuel tax isn’t generating enough revenue to keep up with basic repairs. The Transportation Budget was actually an $800,000 decrease over the prior budget, with substantial cuts in an effort to direct the money raised by the new tax to the most critical infrastructure projects.
And as for property taxes, St. Johnsbury’s property tax rate actually decreased as a result of the education funding bill we passed (and the school board’s careful budgeting).
The postcard you received was propaganda, pure and simple. The claims made by Vermonters First range from outright lies (regarding property tax) to very selective and incomplete assertions taken well out of context.
I challenge St. Johnsbury voters to read beyond the rhetoric!