Vermont Progressive Party's blog

Press Release: Progressive Party Statement on Entergy Yankee Decommissioning

Progressives were excited to learn Tuesday morning that the Entergy Yankee Nuclear power plant will be decommissioned and closed in 2014.  This is long overdue and something the Progressive Party has fought for since the plant was first proposed.

Progressive Party Chair Martha Abbott had this to say:

"Many Progressives fought against the building of a nuclear power plant in Vermont back in 1970.  It is wonderful news that Entergy has decided to close it.  The plant was no longer economically viable for them so they have made a savvy business decision.  It is also likely that the Vermont Public Service Board would not have given them a Certificate of Public Good to continue operating as Vermont no longer receives any power from the plant.

"While it is a great day to celebrate, we will have to hold our breath for another year and a half and hope that no more leaks or accidents happen between now and the end of 2014 when it is planned to shut down.

"More importantly we must demand that Entergy set aside sufficient funds to decommission the plant safely and 'restore the area to a green field' as was promised when it was built.  Further, we must also demand a just transition for the many Vermonters who work at the plant, to ensure that they and their families are taken care of as they move on to other positions."

Minutes - August 2013 State Committee Meeting

1. Opening Remarks from Party Chair, Martha Abbott
Martha Abbott reviewed the agenda and noted highlights of what the Party has achieved in recent years, including pushing state towards single payer health insurance, getting corporate money out of politics, raising the level of discussion around the creation of a state bank, and divesting from fossil fuels. Progressives also opposed draconian budget measures in last session. She noted she will not be running for party Chair again in November and will move to focusing on fundraising. She expressed a hope that a member from the younger generation will step forward to run for chair. She also thanked Tina Scanlon for organizing the raffle and food.

2. PRESENTATION BY PAUL CILLO, PUBLIC ASSETS INSTITUTE
Paul Cillo is the Director of Public Assets Institute (PAI), a former state representative from the Hardwick area, and an architect of the Act 60 school funding law. PAI started 10 years ago to look at taxes and state budget issues from the perspective of citizens, not legislators, businesses or the administration. A core PAI belief is that people’s money should be used for people’s well being. PAI provides data and policy analysis based on core values.

Economic Indicators
Paul presented on the Vermont economy and the current discussion that it is anemic. Overall economic growth for past 20 years has been about 60 percent; not great but not bad.  However, median household income has only grown about 1.5 percent. Top 1% of population has grown from 6.1% of overall income to 19% of income from 1981 to today.  The wealth gap is our biggest problem and impacts our entire state. We need to rebuild the middle class.

Job growth in the past decade has been negative –- worst since the great depression. Private sector job growth stagnant in the last 10 years. Poverty rates declined from 1980 until 2010, but rate has started to rise again. More Vermonters qualify for food stamps today than before the recession –- 100K vs. 60K. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) cost rapidly rising, which led to some leaders saying we need to cut back on this expensive program. PAI noted the rising use of this program is because economy was bad and people need more assistance. Health insurance premiums and deductibles have grown enormously. Vermont EITC debate in the last legislation included the Governor saying this is an entitlement, not a tax break. PAI says it is a tax break for working people and PAI says let’s pay for child care with a different tax break. Income dropping, stagnant job growth and cost of programs to help working people is increasing. Yet governmental budget cuts hurt low and moderately income people the most. Tax code changes benefit the wealthiest the most. Budget debate skewed towards lowering taxes and shrinking the budget.

State Budget
75% of VT state budget goes to human services and education. Growth in Vermont’s general fund budget despite cuts to federal assistance to budget. However, not until 2011 that the budget was actually cut (vs. slower growth). Overall, 20% less being spent in general fund. Discussion in Montpelier is about money first and people second. Important to note that this is a shift from Snelling administration when people came first. State needs to do a needs assessment –- state does not do this now. Poor have become invisible in VT and become statistics/cost to taxpayers vs. actual people in the news.

Education Fund
With Education Fund, when state cuts there, towns either raise local taxes or cut. Over last couple of years, state spending has been lower for education, but went up this year by 5 percent; overall education spending has been very stable. Complaint with education is that student population is declining, which means per student cost is rising. However, health insurance a major expense for schools and considering that that expense has doubled over last 20 years, school services have actually been cut. Vermont maintains an equitable system for education funding unlike most other states and continues to rank in the top 5 states for test scores and graduation rates. We have great schools. We should think about how to bring more kids into state to fill gap with education funding/student population issues.

Wealth In State
PAI and Blue Ribbon Commission looked at IRS data over 20 years and in and out migration of people is about equal: 15-16K people each year. People moving in have about 18% higher income than people moving out. This impacts property value bids and pushes housing prices up and negatively impacts working people in other ways.

Solution Ideas

• Eliminate tax breaks.
• Create a people’s budget that changes the culture of money first, people second (The Vermont Workers' Center's People’s Budget is releasing film on August 21 to begin education campaign).
• Eliminate school property taxes for primary residences
• Pay it forward college (like in Oregon)
• Boosting energy efficiency investment.

Discussion by State Committee
Discussion held on culture of putting money before people’s needs in budget process and making cuts without hearing from people. Discussion on changes to regressive taxes vs. progressive tax structures. Sen. Anthony Pollina noted that language on equity and fairness included in last year’s budget, but nothing was done with this that meaningfully impacted the budget process this year. Discussion about raising revenue and debate on taxing wealthiest has not had much traction.

Discussion on percentages of taxes –- corporate tax revenues have declined as a percent of overall budget, also Paul only C corporations get taxed in VT, not S corporations. C corporations aren’t a significant group in VT.  Paul noted that we have an overall regressive tax system that relies on sales, income and property taxes, but less regressive than many other states. Income tax in VT is progressive, but only partially helps households who face other regressive taxes in state. We still have preferential treatment for capital gains taxes in Vermont. Discussion about wealth distribution, further ways to create equity, and how to create wealth by creating jobs, not just wealth from investments. Brief discussion of Genuine Progress Indicator.

3. TOWN MEETING RESOLUTION ON HEALTH CARE
Reported that the resolution is being drafted. Noted that March 2014 may not be the best time to put something on about Single Payer that conflicts with Affordable Care Act. Proposal made to seek how much our town is spending on health care and how much would be saved with single payer.  This would likely get a positive vote and then towns would get this information. Contact Martha if interested in working on this.

4. JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON MARTIN RESOLUTION
Introduction of resolution for adoption by state committee (click here for the final resolution as passed). Amendment offered by Erhard Mahnke (Burlington) to add four new points to include reference to judicial system disparities in the criminal justice system, urging federal charges be brought against Zimmerman, advocating for hiring of people of color in state and local government and schools, and strengthening education about racism in schools. Michael Bayer moves Terry Jerolomon seconds support of the resolution. Passed with zero opposed, two abstentions.

5. FUNDRAISING & ANNOUNCEMENTS
Martha delivered a request for donations for the party. Announcements: 1) Benefit for the Old Labor Hall. Brian Jones will be performing Howard Zinn’s Marx in SoHo.  Aug 31st 7:30pm. 2) Monday, August 12th, Burlington City Council meeting and public hearing about F-35.  People will have opportunity to make 2 min statements. 3) Sad news that Ted Webster and Franklin Reeve have passed away. 4) Farewell to Mike Bayer who is moving out of state. Thank you for your years of leadership in the Party.

6. TOWN & COUNTY 2013 REORGANIZATION
Need help organizing Bennington, Lamoille, Caledonia and Essex Counties.  Contact Robert at the Party to help. Town chairs will be hearing from county chairs about more details on reorganization process. Counties organized by Oct 9th and Towns around Sept 10th.  Must be a 30 day gap between "offical" town/county meeting days.

7. PANEL DISCUSSION ON ELECTION STRATEGIZING FOR 2014
Panel members Chris Pearson and Morgan Daybell spoke. The focus of the panel was on the gubernatorial race for 2014. Panel addressed a number of points including: historical experience of party and ability to gain traction with Democratic leadership, attraction of new party members to our party when Democrats veer from their commitments, Shumlin’s proposed state budget and impact on low income Vermonters, and focus of the party always being economic, environmental and social justice and pushing those key issues in every election. Noted success in legislative races and being the most successful third party in the country. We need a transparent discussion on the pros/cons of legislative races vs. statewide race over the coming months. Also discussion on resources of party to run statewide race and that limited resources may be best used for House/Senate races. Also some projection on future of Republican Party in future and if political winds shift, Progs may really grow in the void. Debate re: whether a statewide candidate helps to recruit local candidates.

Discussion by state committee on increasing party outreach so voters are educated on third party option. Struggle to get party recognition even when we had a gubernatorial candidate come in second place four years ago. House races build up party recognition because of direct voter contact. Further discussion on other positive elements from focusing on local house races such as building up numbers, attracting progressive Dems to the Party, building on local issues such as child care and home health care worker union organizing initiatives. Some argued statewide campaigns build publicity that reaches all voters and can’t endorse Shumlin because of his move to the right on Yankee and other issues. And some argued if Shumlin isn’t challenged he will move further to the right. People now know difference Progs represent on social and economic issues vs. Democrats and we can organize outraged low-income people who have been negatively impacted by Shumlin. Conversation is ongoing and will continue among party members.

8. ORGANIZED LABOR UPDATE
We heard from Vermont State Employees Association Executive Director Mark Mitchell and staffers Steve Howard and Adam Norton. Gave update on internal and external work in union. Undergoing elections of new officers and reengaging members via organizing model. They thanked Progressives for fighting for state workers in legislature and Cindy Weed’s leadership on fair share legislation. Still fighting to empower members to speak out even if opinions contrary to administration’s position, especially on corrections issues and privatization issues such as with the Reach Up case managers. Also 20% of Vermont state government are temporary workers with no benefits. State College employees just reached impasse in bargaining – 250 blue and pink collar low wage workers. Veterans’ hospital workers spoke out and recent report validated their concerns about staffing issues. VSEA strengthening their PAC and want pro-labor candidates in every race.

We also heard from Kelly Mangan, United Electrical Workers’ Vermont Fair Food Campaign. She worked with Bernie’s last campaign. The campaign is a grassroots movement of food workers.  57,000 people work in the VT food system. It is a huge and growing industry.  Vermonters talk about organic, sustainable and local food, but not the people working in the industry. Wages are low, jobs are often temporary and mean workers qualify for state assistance programs. Many workers don’t have benefits or days off. Also a lot of fear among food workers – fear of being fired, retaliation, afraid to speak up about safety, afraid to have union meeting. Campaign is working with the Workers’ Center, Voices for Vermont’s Children and Paid Sick Leave campaign. Currently they are working to survey workers and publish best and worst businesses for employees in VT. Send names of food industry workers to the campaign so they can get surveyed and donate to cause!

Minutes taken by Leslie Mathews. Submitted by Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Secretary, 8/13/2013.

Resolution on Justice for Trayvon Martin

WHEREAS, Trayvon Martin was murdered at point blank range by George Zimmerman for “walking while black” in a neighborhood where Trayvon was staying with his father, after Zimmerman racially profiled and followed Trayvon, despite being told by police to stay in his car;

WHEREAS, the acquittal of George Zimmerman exposes the blatant racism inherent in our judicial system and the effect that racial bias has on prosecutors, juries, and the media;

WHEREAS, African-Americans in similar situations have been convicted and are serving jail sentences for attempting to defend themselves from bodily harm, notably in the case of Marissa Alexander (also of Florida), a victim of domestic violence who was attacked by her husband and fired a bullet into the ceiling; although there was no injury to her attacker, she was given a prison sentence of 20 years;

WHEREAS, the Police Departments of Burlington, South Burlington, UVM and Winooski have participated in data collection on racial disparities in traffic stops since 2009 and a 2012 report on that data concluded there were significant racial disparities in traffic stops, outcomes of stops, arrests and searches;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party condemns the racial biases in our judicial system and at all levels of government and urges our fellow citizens, both those in and out of public office, to ask themselves what they can do to address this ongoing and pervasive problem of racism in our culture;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party urges the Department of Justice to bring federal charges against George Zimmerman;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will work towards ensuring that racial disparities in traffic stops, and in the criminal justice system generally, are eliminated by 2018 by advocating for more training and oversight for police;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will advocate that all school districts be required to produce annual reports on racial disparities in disciplinary actions in the schools, with a goal of ending such disparities by 2018;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will advocate for increased recruitment and hiring of people of color by state and local government and school districts throughout Vermont;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will advocate for increased anti-racism and cultural diversity training for employees of state and local government and school districts throughout the state;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will continue to actively work against racism in our communities, in ourselves, and structural racism in our institutions of education and government.

Adopted August 10, 2013

August State Committee Meeting - Proposed Agenda

Vermont State Committee Meeting
August 10, 2013; 1:00 pm
Town Hall, Bethel

REGISTRATION (12:30 PM)
STATE COMMITTEE (1:00 PM)     

Welcome: Martha Abbott (5 minutes)

Keynote – The Effect of Annual Budget Cuts on Vermonters (40 minutes)
  *Speakers: Paul Cillo & Sen. Anthony Pollina

Resolutions: Martha Abbott (20 Minutes)
  *Justice for Trayvon (See Enclosed Proposed Resolution)
  *Health Care Follow Up (Appoint Resolution Draft Committee)

Reorganization Update: Robert Millar (10 minutes)

Break/Raffle Drawing (15 minutes)

Panel Discussion – Strategizing for 2014 (60 minutes)
  *Panel Members: Rep. Chris Pearson, Morgan Daybell, Cassandra Gekas

Labor Update (25 minutes)
  *VSEA: Mark Mitchell, Adam Norton, Steve Howard
  *VFFC: Kelly Mangan

Closing: Martha Abbott (5 minutes)

Minutes - May 2013 State Committee Meeting

1. Opening Remarks from Party Chair, Martha Abbott
Martha introduced Coco members. Acknowledgement of the passing of Ed Everett, longtime peace movement leader in Vermont.

The state committee meeting in August will focus on election strategy for 2014, recruitment and identification of candidates, campaign managers and campaign volunteers. She advocated for contested primaries in Progressive Party. In the fall, reorganization will take place for the Party and this is a good opportunity for Party outreach on local level.

Noted a first-time contribution from Vermont-NEA, public education union, noteworthy because this is the largest union in Vermont and it acknowledges the party’s work on labor issues. Also, Ben Cohen reached out to the party to request co-sponsorship of the Stop the F-35 rally on Thursday, May 30, 7PM Unitarian Universalist Church. State Committee passed resolution against F-35 two and a half years ago, available on website. Party has formally agreed to sponsor.

2. Legislative Update
Rep. Sandy Haas’s Report: Attacks on EITC, Reach Up and child care provisions. EITC program widely recognized as most successful anti-poverty program in the country. Debate was ugly and paternalistic. The Democratic leadership never really budged on issue despite Governor’s call for weakening the EITC and that should be applauded. Limits to Reach Up benefits did get added, but it became mainly a media sound bite since the limit are almost eaten by the exceptions - including medical problems and domestic violence.

End of Life bill has been in the works for 9 years. Senate took the lead this year due to several defeats in House in recent years. Tense throughout whole process. Final law is very close to the laws in Oregon and Washington. The Washington law is very mainstreamed. VT will follow the Oregon model for three years and then model will sunset and evolve into something with less structure/less safeguards. Legislature may look at again, in a couple of years.

Rep. Cindy Weed’s Report: Served on Housing & Military Affairs committee, which was also charged with labor bills. Dealt with Equal Pay bill, flexible work hours, agency fee (fee charged to non-union members for being represented in collective bargaining), payment of wages, paid sick days (being taken up again next year), bottle bill (lead sponsor on this bill), GMO labeling bill (passed), hemp bill (passed), migrant worker driver’s license bill (passed), and proposals on clothing tax and bottled water tax. She also participated in EITC press conference. There was also a Progressive/Democratic caucus that proposed a more equitable tax structure.

Sen. Anthony Pollina: Tough session, it was hard to define victories. Vermont reaffirmed commitment to social liberalism, but the downside is economic/economy issues. Issues that stood out: end of life bill, marijuana decimalization bill, migrant workers driver’s license bill, opening up of police records, hemp and GMO bill, equal pay and free lunch issues, paid sick days (kicked into next year), home care workers’ legislation that allows them to organize into a union, childcare workers’ union bill as well (but faced huge obstacles). Anthony introduced two bills: closing the gap in higher education costs (Senate passed after a lot of debate, died in House) and protecting tenant’s water utility rights when landlord doesn’t pay bill. State bank issue passed out of committee but withdrawn from full vote due to an amendment that would have given more power over the study to State Treasurer, who opposes a state bank. Campaign finance reform died in conference committee. Catamount Program users will need to pay more going into health exchange, which is not a good path towards real health care reform.  Glaring lack of economic justice issues – that is what sets Progressives apart. How do we keep decisions out of appropriations committee where decisions are made based on money, but not justice?

Questions and discussion from the floor: Limiting corporate contributions has never been able to pass the VT legislature. Majority of Senators voted to ban corporate contributions so they wouldn’t have to look bad on Senate floor, then tried to kill bill, but were willing to vote against it when it came back up. End of life care. What’s the ethical choice? Nothing will be able to happen in a facility in terms of extending end of life choices to people, most nursing homes will say no. Law basically helps people who can die at home and mostly applies to people who are saying no to certain kinds of treatments. Other details of the bill on how this impacts doctors who are employed by hospitals and how many end-of-life patients this applies to (est. 10%). Very specific provision in the bill that says palliative care can continue. And bill looking to tax cannabis study committee failed.

3. Coco Update
Selene Colburn (Vice Treasurer) noted the Coco has formed four new committees and shared the purpose and scope of each committee. Volunteers were asked to step forward to serve on committees.

• Communications Committee – Responsible for reviewing press releases in timely fashion, building communications strategy, drafting a new brochure for party, website/e-newsletter content review, and other items related to building and promoting party. CHAIR: Selene Colburn
• Reorganization Committee – Build strategy for where to target growth of party in state via reorganization process, outreach to towns, follow up work with towns and county leaders.  CHAIR: Mike Bayer
• Fundraising Committee – Build a fundraising strategy for the party and raise some cash!
CHAIR: Katherine Sims
• Elections Committee – Build statewide candidate recruitment strategy starting now, review data and infrastructure tools within party for elections (ex: Civi), develop election skill training strategy (ex: door knocking training). CHAIR: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak

Selene also shared some updates from the Coco’s recent work to build its capacity and engage more people within the party, such as sharing minutes from the Coco meetings with the state committee and creating working committees.

Mike Bayer (Treasurer) made a fundraising pitch to the state committee to financially support the party and our important work.

4. Town Reorganization
Robert noted there is a committee working on developing a strategy for the town reorganization process this fall. It is a chance to build our capacity as a party.


5. Panel Discussion – The Road to Single Payer
Moderated by Meg Brook (Vice Chair). Panel comprised of Peter Sterling, VT Campaign for Healthcare Security, Ellen Oxfeld, Healthcare for All, David Kreindler, Vermont Worker’s Center, and Sen. Anthony Pollina. 

Peter Sterling noted the healthcare exchange is not healthcare reform. Obama care begins on Jan 1. 2014. People on public health care will actually be forced to go into private health care. People will be forced to go into exchange, cost is an issue. Governor and legislature had a chance to fix this. Shumlin cut Catamount subsidies to address other pressures in running the exchange and to help doctors. The good news is the exchange will be final nail in the coffin of whether private insurance can deliver affordable health care. Peter noted that the only people really supportive of real reform were Progressives. We need to elect more Progs in House and Senate. And State of Vermont needs to come up with additional revenue to subsidize exchange and make it affordable. Adult dental benefit needs to be added.

Ellen Oxfeld noted Act 48 did not have a financing plan. In January 2015, the Legislature will have to pass the financing/tax. Don’t confuse the exchange with single payer. We don’t want to repeal affordable care; we want to replace it with something better. Governor will call whatever he puts on table single payer no matter what it is. It is up to us to make sure that it is actually single payer. Financing package needs to be equitable. Progressives should take lead and make payroll tax happen to help fund system. There will be a fight to make hospital boards subject to open meeting laws.

David Kreindler noted it is important to think of the framework about policy & power. We need to create power. Workers’ Center created frame around issue based on human rights. Act 128 and Act 48 include the human rights principles. The challenge is seeing the vision become reality. Peter Shumlin wants the cache of creating universal health care, but he’s working for business & ruling class. He’s not going to give us health care as a human right. He’s going to deliver single payer as a publicly funded program. Message needs to be “from coverage to care” and “everybody in; nobody out” and fight needs to be for equitable financing and need to be publicly run and not-for-profit system.

Anthony Pollina noted it is a mess. It’s a political problem and it is about power. Have to constantly remind legislators about commitment to budget principles. There is not a lot of conversation about single payer – all diverted to the exchange and talk about hospitals and insurance companies. Legislators seem to see through the insurance lobbyists, but hospitals have more clout. Conversation on tax reform and funding being put off, but eventually we will get to discussion on publicly financed health care either through payroll tax and other methods. Also need to involve unionized folks, especially teachers, because they have good plans in place and probably don’t want to give them up, plus their benefits will likely be negatively impacted by exchange.  We need to build power and a clear message. Administration doesn't have a message. Every Vermonter is covered by Green Mountain Care and we need to insist on this.

SUGGESTIONS FOR NEXT ACTIONS FOR THE PROGRESSIVE PARTY
(from panelists and attendees)

• Elect more Progressives (e.g. 78 Representatives and 22 Senators, or more)
• Advocate for public money to subsidize
• Ensure adult dental benefit gets added to the exchange
• Push for a financing plan
• Bill for open board meetings at hospitals
• Support Healthcare is a Human Right equitable financing legislation
• Get involved with Health Care is a human Right campaign
• Continue to build political power
• Have a coherent message (maybe the Governor and other will adopt it)
• Urge town committees to merge and work with their local Workers Center/Health Care is a Human Right groups
• Make single payer the #1 campaign issue in 2014
• Hold Progressive primary for Governor based on the single payer issue
• Tell the world: make a resolution or document on Progressives and single payer
• Look at the DVD made by Deb Richter on the issue; make something similar to use in getting the word out
• By the end of the summer draw up a resolution for March 14 town meetings

May State Committee Meeting - Proposed Agenda

Vermont State Committee Meeting
May 18, 2013; 1:00 pm
Old Labor Hall, Barre

REGISTRATION (12:30 PM)
STATE COMMITTEE (1:00 PM)

Welcome: Martha Abbott (5 minutes)

Legislative Updates: Progressive Legislators (40 minutes)

CoCo Update: Coordinating Committee (15 minutes)

2013 Reorganization: Robert Millar (10 minutes)

Break/Raffle Drawing (15 minutes)

Panel Discussion – The Road to Single Payer: Meg Brook (60 minutes)
  *Panel Members: Anthony Pollina, Ellen Oxfeld, David Kreindler and Peter Sterling

Next Steps (Small Group Discussions) (30 minutes)

Closing: Martha Abbott (5 minutes)

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