The Lesson of Squandered Savings for Teachers, Taxpayers & Kids
Montpelier, Vt. – Rebecca Kelley, Governor Scott’s Director of Communications, today issued the following statement:
“Vermont cannot afford more missed opportunities.
“Testimony in the Legislature Wednesday confirmed the concerns Governor Scott raised last year about failing to take full advantage of the opportunity to save $26 million each year by transitioning to a statewide health benefit for school employees. Had they agreed to it, this plan would have allowed us to lower statewide property tax rates and invest more in education, without asking school employees to pay more.
“Unfortunately, as the union and legislative leadership appear to be acknowledging, the complexity and inefficiency of more than 50 separately-negotiated contracts for school employee health plans has put the sustainability of those plans at significant risk. Additionally, school employees’ health insurance costs are expected to skyrocket by 16.8 percent next year (10.2 percent after use of reserves). The increasing costs also put more burden on property tax payers. The Administration predicted these outcomes last year and presented the statewide health benefit plan to prevent them.
“Again, not only could this instability and alarming increase in costs have been prevented, we could have used the savings to reduce tax rates, address the deficit in the Education Fund and invest more in early care and learning, and higher education – while making sure school employees didn’t pay more for healthcare.
“Thankfully, it’s not too late for the Legislature to do the right thing. If they act now and implement the Governor’s plan for a single health benefit for school employees, we can protect those employees, generate significant savings for taxpayers, and start to put Vermont on a stable path to steadily invest more in education quality, without raising taxes.
“Unfortunately, the way the legislative leadership treated this issue last year is an example of a disappointing impulse to put partisan politics ahead of progress. This year some leaders of the majority have even suggested sending the Governor legislation he has said he cannot support, for the sole purpose of generating negative news coverage (source: Seven Days).
“Vermonters want elected officials to find common ground. That’s why we hope the Legislature’s majority will reconsider its approach and work with us, and the minority, to reach consensus on issues we all agree will grow our economy and make Vermont more affordable – including expanding educational options and improving quality, without raising taxes.
“The Governor is convinced we can do this with a combination of ideas the Legislature and Administration have offered this session, including a statewide health benefit for school employees. The Administration will be presenting a path forward early next week that simultaneously stabilizes education tax rates and increases educational opportunities for our children.
“Again, Vermont cannot afford more missed opportunities, which is exactly what they can expect if the legislative leaders treat the forthcoming proposal the way they treated the Governor’s statewide health plan for school employees.
“We hope legislative leaders will join the Governor in putting progress first and having the courage to recognize our urgent need to move beyond the policies of the past to improve the state’s economic and demographic trajectory for the future.”
(Note: For a refresher on the Governor’s education savings proposal from last year visit http://governor.vermont.gov/press-release/education-savings-proposal-frequently-asked-questions)