And then, the end-of-session chaos

Would you buy a car under these same conditions, let alone health insurance for the state’s public educators?

PUTNEY — With the daily chaos raining down on the nation from the Trump White House, the 2017 state Legislature had to add a Trump Protection Plan to its work focused on Vermonters.

Unfortunately, though, that chaos started to leak into the Vermont scene at the end of the session - more on that later.

Some of the highlights of the session:

• We passed a balanced budget that protects vital services while rejecting Governor Phil Scott's proposed $50 million property tax increase.

• We have fought back against President Trump's discrimination against immigrant Vermonters.

• We locked in rules to protect our environment before the Trump administration could gut them.

Among the other work:

• We created a Racial Justice Oversight Board.

• We provided help for first responders to get treatment for on-the-job post-traumatic stress disorder.

• We created a voluntary state pension system for working Vermonters.

• We implemented a system of paid family medical leave insurance.

• We protected freedom of speech and a free press with a shield law.

• We passed an ethics bill that applies to elected public servants.

• We've created measures to remove firearms from the scenes of domestic assaults.

• Our Act 46 reform allows more time and flexibility for study committees to develop alternative governance structures for our school districts.

• We've helped protect the environment through aquatic invasive controls.

* * *

And then, there was the end-of-session chaos.

Eleven days before our scheduled adjournment, the governor put on the table a major proposal that he claimed would save money on health insurance for educational staff - but only if the state usurped local control for negotiations.

I find it interesting that we often hear from Republicans how much they dislike top-down power grabs and how much they like to keep decision making local. Except when they don't, as in this instance.

That this proposal was dropped on us so close to adjournment smells of an attempt to put politics before people. As things evolved, it became clear the governor's plan was a totally crass political move that could jeopardize the financial standing of the state for years to come.

Both the House and Senate rejected the governor's proposal for several reasons.

First, it was a major proposal and, as such, it needed comprehensive vetting, not an uninformed, last-second fly-by decision.

Second, the plan is an attack on local control. It is also an attack on collective bargaining, a cornerstone of labor relations - the same system that built the middle class and still keeps the income disparity in this country from growing even larger.

Third, the so-called savings aren't guaranteed. And if there are savings, how much?

* * *

The real kicker was, we were told, that the governor's plan for teachers' health insurance was presented as a “once-in-a-lifetime-better-hurry-now” kind of deal.

I'm not sure about you, but whenever a salesperson starts telling me that a deal is too good to be true but you have to act now, I put my hand on my wallet and head for the door. I wouldn't buy a used car under those circumstances, let alone health insurance.

Vermont has been one of the most stable places in this nation. So has our budgeting process, which is why for the past 12 years, the state has achieved a AAA municipal bond rating.

We hope the chaos from Washington, D.C. isn't being invited into the Green Hills. We hope it doesn't hurt either our bond rating or our state's reputation as a place to get away from the craziness of other places.

So let's hope our so-called ”moderate” governor isn't taking his political lessons from his Republican counterparts in places like Wisconsin and the White House.

* * *

And, now that the part-time Legislature has adjourned and we're back home, it's exciting to see all the grassroots actions in response to the Trump regime. With the Women's March, the March for Science, and the Climate Change March, it's heartening to see so many people becoming active in resisting the Trump regime and making Vermont a better place.

We look forward to working together in common cause, to resist and persist, and move us to a stronger, healthier Vermont.

As always, we want to hear from you. Thanks for the honor to serve you in Montpelier.

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