On May 31, Governor Phil Scott held a press conference updating the public on the ongoing efforts to secure up to $26 million in savings a year through a change in school employee health plans that will occur in January 2018.
Below are his prepared remarks:
“I want to reaffirm my commitment to Vermonters, and to continuing to push to ensure the state has the opportunity to realize up to $26 million in education savings a year for taxpayers.
When I learned of this opportunity in February – soon after the Vermont School Boards Association presented it to House and Senate leaders – (see a full timeline here) I felt it was had a lot of merit in light of our financial situation, and would bring lawmakers from all parties together to identify how to capture this once-in-a-lifetime savings opportunity.
But after engaging House members and leadership to look at this opportunity as they worked on the budget, it became clear it was not moving forward. Therefore, as the budget moved to the Senate, my Administration put forward a proposal for a statewide health plan.
Over these last several weeks, politics has unfortunately taken over, and legislative discussions have focused more on process than substance, and all the reasons not to act.
But, I want to remind everyone what we’re working for, why we must stop finding reasons to say “no,” and start getting to yes.
We have a crisis of affordability and I promised Vermonters I would listen to any idea to make Vermont more affordable, and that’s what I’m doing.
The change in school employee health plans presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make Vermont more affordable with up to $26 million in annual education savings – and we can do it without harming teachers or cutting programs.
But, we must have the tools in place to help school boards achieve these savings for taxpayers, and the legislature has not provided any policy mechanism to do so in the property tax yield bill. In fact, the budget uses rainy day money within the education fund to temporarily buy down residential property tax rates rather than using the savings available through this change in health plans for long-term savings. This is not a fiscally responsible approach to the budget.
Therefore, the budget will overpay school districts by $13 million this fiscal year, and that is why I will veto both the budget and the yield bills when they arrive on my desk. I know we can come to an agreement, and when we do, the budget – and Vermonters – will be better for it.
In my budget address, I shared the story of a woman who works at an area hospital. A full-time worker who, in her fifties, was moving back in with her parents, who, in their seventies, still couldn’t retire. She had to make this move because neither she, nor her parents, could afford their property taxes on their own.
We’ve all heard stories like this. Now that we can do something about it, we cannot let this woman – or thousands like her – down.”