Vermont Progressive Party's blog

May 1st Rally: Now is the time to send a loud message to PUT PEOPLE FIRST!

By James Haslam, Vermont Workers' Center

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For the fifth year in a row over well over a thousand people from all over Vermont will participate in a huge May 1st Statehouse Rally. In 2009, we came to change what was politically possible in healthcare reform. In 2013, its become clear that what we really need to make possible is real democracy itself.

Please join us at 11:30am at the Statehouse to gather for march and rally to remind the legislature and governor that they don't work for the Chamber of Commerce or only represent wealthy people. The legislature has a real opportunity to stand up for our communities, and we have some ideas of what they should and SHOULD NOT do is they were to do that.

A Budget that Advances Dignity & Equity
The governor and (to date) the legislature failed to meet the purpose of the state budget, which the law now mandates must "address the needs of the people of Vermont in a way that advances human dignity and equity" (32 V.S.A. § 306a). Instead, they are set to undermine people's dignity and increase inequity by:

- impoverishing more people through capping the essential Reach-Up program

- making the tax code more regressive by reducing EITC and assessing new regressive taxes such as gasoline and soda tax which affect low-income people more than wealthy people

- increasing healthcare costs for people moved from VHAP and Catamount into the exchange, which effectively makes it harder for low-income people to access health care.

Meaningful Public Participation in our State Budget Process
The governor and legislature have also failed to meet the legal requirement for "a process for public participation in the development of budget goals, as well as general prioritization and evaluation of spending and revenue initiatives" (32 V.S.A. § 306a). Instead, they are ignoring the principles of participation, accountability and transparency and increasing the disconnect between people and government because:

- budget priorities come out of a vacuum rather than from engaging communities

- the budget process starts with the result of past tax policy decisions (the revenue estimate) rather than an assessment of real needs

- the failure to measure progress and outcomes makes it hard to see what effect specific spending and tax initiatives actually have on people's lives

A Healthcare System that Meets All Our Health Needs
Both governor and legislature have failed to meet the principles of universality and equity in Act 48, Vermont's universal health care law, by:

- failing to set out an equitable financing plan for Green Mountain Care

- erecting new barriers to accessing health care by increasing out-of-pocket costs for low-income people

- failing to stop leading health care providers from forming a for-profit conglomerate, OneCare, that will profit from selling access to care rather than providing health care as a public good, as required by Act 48

The Way Forward:

As the Put People First campaign made clear at the beginning of the 2013 session, we are dedicated to advancing public policies focused on meeting the fundamental needs of all people in Vermont, which is at the heart of what human rights mean in practice.

Policy decisions that put people first would look very different from the governor's and legislature's positions, because they would be based on principles, such as equity and universality, and developed in a transparent and accountable process with the participation of the people of Vermont.

Policies that put people first would:

- commit to eliminating poverty and ensuring a dignified standard of living for all

- assess people's needs, such as access to healthcare and jobs, and require that those needs be taken into account in the budget process

- inform and engage the public in developing budget goals

- collect taxes in a more equitable way, so that wealthy people no longer get away with paying proportionally less taxes than those with low and middle incomes

- ensure that we all get what we need and give what we can

Learn more at

Roll Call: Which Senators Chose Corporate Money Over Real Election Reform?

In an effort to keep you better informed about what’s going on in Montpelier, we’ve decided to start posting some of the key roll call votes this Legislative Biennium so you can keep track of who in the Legislature is really standing up for the people – and who is beholden to the rich and corporate interests.

On April 18th, in a shocking reversal, the Vermont Senate voted to remove a ban on corporate donations from a major campaign finance reform bill, despite having overwhelmingly voted to add it to the bill just weeks before.  This vote clearly shows which Senators are with the people and which were ultimately unwilling to wean themselves from the corrupting influence of corporate money.

The following Senators joined Progressives Tim Ashe, Anthony Pollina and David Zuckerman in standing strong against corporate influence in our elections:

• Phil Baruth (D-Chittenden)
• Joe Benning (R-Caledonia)
• Sally Fox (D-Chittenden)
• Peter Galbraith (D-Windham)
• Ginny Lyons (D-Chittenden)*
    *Sen. Lyons originally voted against the ban, but on 4/18 voted to keep it in the bill
• Mark MacDonald (D-Orange)
• Dick McCormack (D-Windsor)
• Dick Sears (D-Bennington)

The following Senators voted for the ban initially, before ultimately deciding they were unwilling to part with their corporate donations:

• John Campbell (D-Windsor)
• Don Collins (D-Franklin)
• Ann Cummings (D-Washington)
• Bill Doyle (R-Washington)
• Bob Hartwell (D-Bennington)
• Jane Kitchell (D-Caledonia)
• Dick Mazza (D-Chittenden/Grand Isle)
• Norm McAllister (R-Franklin)
• Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland)
• John Rodgers (D-Essex/Orleans)
• Bobby Starr (D-Essex/Orleans)
• Rich Westman (R-Lamoille)

The following Senators have consistently voted against the ban, at least showing they are honest about being beholden to corporate money:

• Claire Ayer (D-Addison)
• Chris Bray (D-Addison)
• Peg Flory (R-Rutland)
• Eldred French (D-Rutland)
• Alice Nitka (D-Windsor)
• Diane Snelling (R-Chittenden)
• Jeanette White (D-Windham)

Progressives on the Rise

Dear Friends -

It may soon be even more difficult to compete in Vermont elections.  Under pressure from Democratic and Republican Party operatives, Legislators recently made changes to a formerly promising campaign finance bill that would more than double what statewide candidates can raise from a single source, and triple what political parties can raise.  Democrats and Republicans are attempting to use Legislators’ legitimate fear of what “Super PACs” might do in future elections to convince them they should be allowed to raise more money, that the solution to the flood of money in our elections is even more money.

As you and I know, we are not going to overcome the Super PACs and corporate interests by throwing more money into our elections.  Allowing the corporate-funded parties and their candidates to accept even more money from the likes of Monsanto, Coca-Cola, Pfizer, AT&T, and HP (all actual donors to the VDP last cycle), doesn’t fix the problem, it exacerbates it.  Please join me in calling on the Legislature to stand strong and pass a bill that will help rein in election spending, rather than increase it.  If you live in Vermont, find how to contact your State Legislators here, or you can leave a message for them by calling the Sergeant-At-Arms at 802-828-2228.

Update from Burlington: Over thirty-two years since Burlington first elected Bernie Sanders Mayor in 1981, the Progressive spirit is alive and flourishing in Vermont’s Queen City!  On Town Meeting Day last week, Progressive Jane Knodell was elected in Ward 2 and Progressive Vince Brennan was reelected in Ward 3, bringing Progressives’ total on the City Council to four.  Democrats were held to seven Councilors and, in a result reminiscent of November’s results, Republicans lost the only race they contested, leaving them with just one member on the Council.

Once again, Progressives continue to be on the rise in Vermont, even as the Vermont Republican Party continues its decline.  But these wins did not come easily last week in Burlington.  It takes a lot of resources to run the kind of strong, grassroots campaign needed to take on the Democratic machine and win.  And we can’t do it without your help!  Have you considered becoming a monthly donor to the Vermont Progressive Party?  Becoming a monthly donor is the best way to ensure our people-powered party has the resources to stand strong against the corporate-funded parties, but any contribution is very much appreciated.

Finally, I want to make sure you are aware of an upcoming event.  On Saturday, March 16th at 10:00 am at Montpelier High School, Senator Bernie Sanders (who has sure come a long way since he was Mayor of Burlington!) will be holding a Conference on Global Warming, featuring Environmental Activist Bill McKibben as the Keynote Speaker.  You can learn more about the event here.

Thank you for all you do,

Robert Millar
Executive Director


Legislative Update: Prohibition Has Failed
by Rep. Susan Davis

It's been nearly a century since Vermont first prohibited marijuana in 1915. It hasn't worked and it's time for a new approach.

Just like alcohol prohibition, marijuana prohibition does not eliminate the use of the product and simply steers all of the profits to the underground market. Given the fact that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol, it is time we have it produced and sold in a legitimate, regulated market.

Regulating marijuana like alcohol and allowing the production of industrial hemp would create hundreds of new, legal jobs and generate business for a variety of other Vermont industries.


Legislative Update: Weekly Update
by Rep. Cindy Weed

Town meeting week signifies the traditional halfway mark of the legislative session in Montpelier. Typically, the first year of the biennium starts off slowly, as committees get used to new members and each other, and begin the work of taking testimony on and passing a variety of bills out of committee. Last week was the deadline to submit any and all bills. In total, approximately 500 bills will be introduced in the House and half that amount in the Senate. Naturally, with a part-time legislature, many will not get attention and literally die on the wall. Next year we will start all over again creating and introducing new bills.


In the Media: Vermont Democrats Want More Money in Politics
by Paul Heintz

On Wednesday, they settled on a fivefold increase for statewide candidates, allowing them to collect $10,000 checks from each donor. But after Sen. Anthony Pollina (P/D-Washington) protested, on Thursday, the committee scaled that back to $5000.

“There’s no reason why anybody should give $10,000 to a political campaign,” Pollina argued to his fellow committee members.


In the Media: Balance shifts in Burlington Council makeup
by Joel Banner Baird

Until the final vote count, Knodell said later, "I didn’t know if I was the underdog or not in this race. Both sides wanted it bad."

She credited a "classic, Progressive grassroots campaign" with her victory.


Vermont Economic Snapshot

Press Release: Progressive alternative funding sources

Progressives have pushed for a greater investment in childcare, higher education, student loan forgiveness, weatherization and clean energy for years, so it was encouraging to hear Governor Shumlin promote these initiatives in his state budget.

While we applaud his priorities, many of us across the state find his funding proposals detached from the economic reality of our neighbors. They are an insult to the working families of our state.

Take a look at this snapshot provided by Thom Kavet in his annual revenue summary prepared for JFO, which shows the change in income by income class for Vermonters over the past 10 years.

2001-2011 Income Growrth

The median household income in Vermont is $53,000. That is, half of Vermont households are on the top half of this chart and half are on the bottom. Given that, I think most reasonable people would look at this and conclude that any new sources of revenue have to come from the top half.

Gov. Shumlin seems to think it’s those living in the bottom half who should pay up.

Today, we present nine revenue options that draw from those on the top half of this chart. We present a package totaling $50 million and hope it will stimulate discussion and inspire legislative leaders to find ways to advance Shumlin’s priorities without hurting those who can least afford it.

Progressive Revenue Menu

1.    Bank Franchise Tax (pay higher of BFT or corporate income)     $5.0 million
       currently 0.000096 of the average monthly deposit
       banks have expanded into services, etc

2.    Tax capital gains as ordinary income                                       $11.0 million
        currently exempt first $5,000

3.    Property Transfer Tax per 0.25% value > $500K                         $1.5 million
       adds 3rd tier for high-value properties

4.    Estate Tax – reduce exemption from $2.75 to $1 million             $1.9 million
       brings into line with neighboring states

5.    Income Tax Top Bracket Collapse                                           $20.0 million
       brings actual rates closer to marginal rates

6.    Vermont Alternative Minimum Tax                                          $1.0 million
       parallel’s federal structure

7.    Escheat (unclaimed bottle deposits)                                      $1-2 million
       reclaim the nickels

8.    Natural Resources Extraction Taxes
       Groundwater extraction 28 cents per gallon                          $4.5 million
       Earth Resources extraction 2 cents per cubic yard
       We are one of only 11 states without one

9.    Eliminate Sales Tax Exemptions
       Bottled Water                                                                    $1.0 million
       Clothing > $100                                                                  $2.2 million
       We don’t need bottled water
       People buying $120 sweater can afford $7.20

Action Alert: Call the Governor Today!

Fellow Progressives,

On Tuesday, Progressive Legislators held a press conference at the Statehouse to express their concerns about Governor Peter Shumlin’s proposal to divert millions of dollars from the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit program, an extremely effective anti-poverty program.  Although Progressives share the Governor’s goals of universal Pre-K and more affordable and accessible Higher-Ed, they have substantial concerns about funding these programs with what amounts to a tax increase for thousands of working Vermonters.

Will you join our Legislators in standing up for working families by calling the Governor today at 802-828-3333 and letting him know you don’t support this funding scheme?  You can also email him here.

Diverting money from the Earned Income Tax Credit shifts funds away from those who need it the most.  It is a new tax that hits lower-income Vermonters hardest.  Some may say this is not a broad-based tax.  But it is worse.  It is a tax targeted at those least able to afford it: low-income Vermonters, working families, and others struggling to make ends meet.  It is tax that would affect over 40,000 Vermonters.  The Earned Income Tax Credit is recognized as one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in Vermont.  Cutting it contradicts our focus on building a state budget that puts people first.

Rather than tax those who are least able to afford it, our Progressive Legislators are asking the Administration to take the time to look at other funding options.  Will you join their effort by contacting Governor Shumlin at 802-828-3333 today?

Thank you for all you do.


Robert Millar
Executive Director

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