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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.

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

Black boys denied the right to be young

By Eugene Robinson, The Washington Post, July 15, 2013

Justice failed Trayvon Martin the night he was killed. We should be appalled and outraged, but perhaps not surprised, that it failed him again Saturday night, with a verdict setting his killer free.

Our society considers young black men to be dangerous, interchangeable, expendable, guilty until proven innocent. This is the conversation about race that we desperately need to have — but probably, as in the past, will try our best to avoid.

George Zimmerman’s acquittal was set in motion on Feb. 26, 2012, before Martin’s body was cold. When Sanford, Fla., police arrived on the scene, they encountered a grown man who acknowledged killing an unarmed 17-year-old boy. They did not arrest the man or test him for drug or alcohol use. They conducted a less-than-energetic search for forensic evidence. They hardly bothered to look for witnesses.

Only a national outcry forced authorities to investigate the killing seriously. Even after six weeks, evidence was found to justify arresting Zimmerman, charging him with second-degree murder and putting him on trial. But the chance of dispassionately and definitively establishing what happened that night was probably lost. The only complete narrative of what transpired was Zimmerman’s.

Jurors knew that Zimmerman was an overeager would-be cop, a self-appointed guardian of the neighborhood who carried a loaded gun. They were told that he profiled Martin — young, black, hooded sweatshirt — as a criminal. They heard that he stalked Martin despite the advice of a 911 operator; that the stalking led to a confrontation; and that, in the confrontation, Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the chest.

The jurors also knew that Martin was carrying only a bag of candy and a soft drink. They knew that Martin was walking from a 7-Eleven to the home of his father’s girlfriend when he noticed a strange man in an SUV following him.

To me, and to many who watched the trial, the fact that Zimmerman recklessly initiated the tragic encounter was enough to establish, at a minimum, guilt of manslaughter. The six women on the jury disagreed.

Those jurors also knew that Martin, at the time of his death, was just three weeks past his 17th birthday. But black boys in this country are not allowed to be children. They are assumed to be men, and to be full of menace.

I don’t know if the jury, which included no African Americans, consciously or unconsciously bought into this racist way of thinking — there’s really no other word. But it hardly matters, because police and prosecutors initially did.
 
The assumption underlying their ho-hum approach to the case was that Zimmerman had the right to self-defense but Martin — young, male, black — did not. The assumption was that Zimmerman would fear for his life in a hand-to-hand struggle but Martin — young, male, black — would not.

If anyone wonders why African Americans feel so passionately about this case, it’s because we know that our 17-year-old sons are boys, not men. It’s because we know their adolescent bravura is just that — an imitation of manhood, not the real thing.

We know how frightened our sons would be, walking home alone on a rainy night and realizing they were being followed. We know how torn they would be between a child’s fear and a child’s immature idea of manly behavior. We know how they would struggle to decide the right course of action, flight or fight.

And we know that a skinny boy armed only with candy, no matter how big and bad he tries to seem, does not pose a mortal threat to a healthy adult man who outweighs him by 50 pounds and has had martial arts training (even if the lessons were mostly a waste of money). We know that the boy may well have threatened the man’s pride but likely not his life. How many murders-by-sidewalk have you heard of recently? Or ever?

The conversation we need to have is about how black men, even black boys, are denied the right to be young, to be vulnerable, to make mistakes. We need to talk about why, for example, black men are no more likely than white men to smoke marijuana but nearly four times as likely to be arrested for it — and condemned to a dead-end cycle of incarceration and unemployment. I call this racism. What do you call it?

Trayvon Martin was fighting more than George Zimmerman that night. He was up against prejudices as old as American history, and he never had a chance.

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)

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

By James Haslam, Vermont Workers' Center

Check out www.workerscenter.org/may1

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 workerscenter.org

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