Economy

Economy

Minutes - November 2013 State Convention

November 9, 2013; 1:00 pm, 
Capital City Grange, Berlin


In attendance: 125 people

Welcome: Martha Abbott
Martha started the meeting at 1:15pm and thanked the VT State Employees Association for sponsoring the lunch, Elizabeth Skarie for ice cream, Tina Scanlon for organizing the raffle, the current CoCo members and Robert Millar, staff.

A special video message: Prof. Bill McKibben
Convention attendees watched a video message from Prof. Bill McKibben on the climate change crisis and the activism of 350.org. Vermont was a birthplace of the climate change movement and that movement is growing. However, he is dismayed on how little has been done in VT on climate change. In VT Legislature, home heating efficiency never went anywhere and environmental efforts were limited to shutting down wind debate. He called for a more expansive discussion and work to be more self-reliant closer to home. Best thing to do is to sever ties between fossil fuel industries and VT organizations that invest in these industries to force them to change their practices. The cities of Seattle and Portland, Sterling College and Green Mountain College, and the United Church of Christ have all divested from fossil fuels. VT should be the first state to do this. Anthony Pollina said there should be no negative investment performance impact from divesting from fossil fuel. Chevron gave largest corporate donation since Citizen United to make sure election kept climate change deniers elected.

Divesting from the Fossil Fuel Industry: 350.org & Student Activists Panel
Student panel discussed their activism at UVM and Middlebury College, along with Maeve McBride, coordinator of 350Vermont, affiliated with 350.org. Students included Sam Ghazey, UVM, Michelle Galecki, UVM, Jack Hanson, UVM, Caroline DeCunzo, UVM, Teddy Smyth, Middlebury and Greta Neubauer, Middlebury.

UVM Campaign - Nov 2012 students presented to the Board of Trustees on the idea of divestment from fossil fuels. Continued with on campus direct actions and research on process for divestment over winter. Asked all representative groups on campus to pass resolutions to support divestment. Based campaign off off 1990s apartheid campaign. During that campaign, UVM organizers created a liaison group – Social Responsibility Advisory Council – that required research on investments as a result of that campaign. Students are attempting to use this council as part of their divestment strategy. Students helped to launch responsible investors fund – an escrow fund created so donors can donate to UVM but only released once UVM divests from fossil fuels and if they don’t divest, UVM will never get those dollars. Students reaching out to major donors to donate this way to leverage divestment. Board of trustees had divestment subcommittee and working on getting all representative groups on campus to pass resolutions. Still no answer from Board. Students noted that environmental movement needs more connectivity so doing best to build out the network.

Middlebury campaign - Used fake press releases to increase awareness in beginning. 3.6% ($36 Million) of Middlebury endowment in fossil fuels. Administration had panel in spring 2013 and had financial experts say that divesting was not possible, but up against Bill McKibben on same panel who disputed that. Presented to board of trustees in spring 2013. Middlebury announced that they would not divest in fall 2013, but will put more money in endowment and think about values related to endowment investments. Trying to engage alumni to get them organized and energized.  Students noted climate change issue impacts poor, people of color, etc and made case for narrative to be more inclusive, not just for white people as reflected on campus and students are pushing for that.

350Vermont – Working on state divestment for public pensions. Progressives have been really helpful already. Chris Pearson and Dave Zuckerman introduced divestment legislation for teacher, state employees, and some municipal workers’ pensions to divest. Anthony Pollina pushed in Senate Govt Ops to get testimony and bill to move last session. VT Pension Investment Committee (chaired by Beth Pearce) got wind of legislation, hired consultant saying that we should NOT divest, claiming it was not financially viable and voted unanimously against this effort. Govt Ops know we need to divest, but don’t know how to alleviate risks of divestment. Trying to get legislation to pass this session – three rallies planned. Also working on VPIC side and working with Beth Pearce to get committee to see things differently. Asked Progs in attendance for their help this session. 20 cities committed to divesting and only 8 colleges so far – cities have democratic process and colleges facing corporate bureaucratic structures.

Q&A and comments from floor - Glennie Sewell, Montpelier, urged students to be mindful of language about stopping climate change because can’t stop it, but can lessen impact. Ken Eardley, Underhill, urged debate not to get stuck in definition of what energy sources are renewable or not, focus on divestment. Peggy Sapphire, Craftsbury, noted her town is home of Sterling College and they divested. She shared copies of Progressive platform with students on environment, etc. and encouraged growing solidarity between Party and students. Ben Eastwood, Montpelier, asked what kind of outreach has been done on and off campus to build out network? A: Middlebury working on VT Gas pipeline too and realizing that students leave after 4 years and there are community members who stay behind and are impacted. Trying to get students in frontline communities impacted by pipelines. UVM reaching out to other activists groups and hope to go beyond fossil fuels, ex: divest from Monsanto. Liz Blum, Norwich, asked do you consider nuclear power to be a fossil fuel? A: Middlebury students said nuclear is not part of campaign; they are focused on top 200 fossil fuel companies with reserves in the ground. But they are happy VT Yankee shut down. Nuclear is based on fossil fuels for start, so it is indirectly a root cause of fossil fuel cycle.

CoCo Updates: Coordinating Committee
Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Chair of the Elections Committee, provided an update. Committee formed in early summer and started up door knocking trainings this fall (Winooski in October and Burlington in September). Looking to replicate the training in more places and use it for candidates in 2014, as well as volunteers and campaign managers. Training also helps us build lists, build skills, seek out and find more volunteers. If interested in hosting a training or joining committee, contact Emma.

Martha noted several CoCo members helped to coordinate party reorganization work on town and county level. Took a lot of effort, but we organized more towns than last cycle.

Selene Colburn, Chair of the Communications Committee, gave an update. Committee is newly formed and looking first to build up support around corporate donation petition campaign with communications strategy and using social media. Committee will also look to use virtual meetings and project management tools to do work virtually, looking for volunteers. Richard announced his public access TV – Progressive Thought – would love to have more folks on the show, please contact him. See Selene to join the Communications Committee.

Joe Sherman, Montgomery, made an announcement. He is an author and interested in writing on climate change and how to talk with kids about that issue. Contact him if you have thoughts.

Corporate Donations Petition Update: Robert Millar
Robert Millar, staff, and Selene Colburn, CoCo member, updated Convention on Corporate Donations Petition Campaign. Progressive Party doesn’t accept any corporate money. Other two major parties (Republicans and Democrats) take a lot of money from corporations (ex: Mansanto, Fairpoint, ATT, Green Mountain Power). In response to Citizens United and increase of corporate money in elections, Party decided to launch this petition. In VT, candidates can still take direct corporate donations, one of few states. Petition puts statewide candidates and parties on spot to call for getting corporations out of campaigns. Petition directed to Ds and Rs and their statewide candidates to agree to remove corporations out of elections. Looking for organizational cosponsors. Party will start 2014 with a public signature drive to align with the 2014 election cycle. Asked people to sign online.

Peggy Sapphire, Craftsbury, asked what happens for a P/D endorsed candidate and if they take corporate donations? Martha said Party would need to discuss that. Another attendee asked does signing the petition require the signer to not vote for those candidates who take corporate donations? Martha said no, just calling on major parties and candidates to say no to corporate money. Rep. Cindy Weed said she ran as a P/D and she said Dems never gave her money.

Chair Remarks
Martha reflected on 12 years of leadership and commended group of party members who have helped build this party. She thanked several people for their mentorship and support. She offered thoughts on future of party – focus on economic issues that face Vermonters and will galvanize average Vermonters, focus on what we can agree on and try not to get sidetracked. Republicans are shrinking and Democrats are beginning to monopolize and candidates will seek progressive endorsement to distinguish themselves. Has confidence in new leaders within party, but seasoned leaders need to stay engaged in party. And made a request for donations – we will have more impact when we have more resources.  Other Party members then thanked Martha with a round of speeches and announced $6500 had been raised leading up to Convention in honor of Martha’s leadership.    

Break/Raffle Drawing

Town Meeting Resolutions: Martha Abbott
Martha reported on a town meeting resolution for party members to use in March. Health care resolution came out of state committee meeting discussion in May and CoCo presented language today based on financing mechanism that state legislature will put forward this session. This resolution would help connect the dots by having towns ask how single-payer would impact their town budgets. Easy way to get people to talk about this issue. This resolution is not a formal Prog campaign, just an option/tool to use. Anyone who is interested should contact party leadership and we can connect those interested.

Notes from the Auditor’s Office: State Auditor Doug Hoffer
Auditor Doug Hoffer reported on recent audits from his office on: 1) state employees workers’ compensation program ($8M a year, didn’t do claims audit, looked at whether state was doing its work to prevent workers’ comp issues). Cuts in state government make reducing workers’ comp claims hard; many departments did not implement safety fixes because they don’t have resources. 2) Agency of Transportation, looked at Bennington Bypass project and it was done within budget and on time. Another paving project was very late and over budget. If contractor is late, contract includes a penalty on contractor, but state only charges cost of overrun when late, not other delay costs such as overtime and this always happens in every AOT contract. 3) Bidding process for fuel prices – 5% more than cost included in contract, but if more than that when project actually happens, state pays extra cost. This cost us $14M over last 10 years because of this process. Pushing AOT to get real cost figures vs. artificial cost formulas that have caused this cost. 4) Corrections health care costs and looking at overseeing contractors’ cost. No one can estimate actual cost so they make it uncapped and this went $4M over. Working to create more oversight of contractors and maybe bring back state employees to do that work vs. private contractor. 5) State employee cell phones - $200-300K overrun, state management doesn’t oversee this. Each department oversees this and should have consistent policies. Administration said they would take all Doug’s recommendations.

Forthcoming reviews/audits of: 1) Mental health contractors - we spend $300M on these services each year and need to look at whether we are monitoring the services and they are meeting performance requirements. 2) State liquor stores – private stores, but state administers store. What does sale of alcohol have to do with state’s purpose? Doug will look at other models that might work better for state. 3) State energy plan for state infrastructure – will look to reduce energy expenditure on state buildings and vehicles, etc. Because state is very decentralized, suspect there are potential cost savings. In the future reviews of: 1) Tax department – collections are flat, receivables keep rising, how aggressive have they been on people underreporting 2) Special education cost - $300M a year, concerns about expenditure and how funds are being used.

Doug noted that his office gets a lot of whistleblowers and ideas on what to investigate. Auditor can’t keep whistleblowers names confidential in VT, no law protects them. State employees have protection on paper, VSEA doing survey on this issue and most say they will never report because they would be retaliated against by boss. Looking for VT Legislature to deal with whistleblower issue.

Announcement by Shawn Jarecki, Pittsfield, Rutland County Chair, VT rep for Lawyers Guild event – legal observer training and civil disobedience training at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph coming up.

Point of order by Ed Stanak, Barre, regarding the platform. Bylaws Article 3 Sec 5 says primary role of Convention is to adopt and revise the platform – last time we did that was Nov 2011 based on website. Revision of platform is not on agenda. He suggests a platform committee be formed, but there is no annual meeting again until Nov 2014. This is a problem because he feels the platform should be tweaked ahead of legislative session to give Progressive legislators more guidance.

Martha responded, process of having dozens of people wordsmith at Convention has not work so have set up a committee in past. Can form another committee of state committee members and present modified platform at a future state committee meeting (not annual meeting). Also encouraged people to talk to legislators now and not wait for platform to change.

Ed questioned this process based on process outlined in by-laws. Peggy Sapphire, Craftsbury, noted that when she chaired platform committee in past, they realized we need to renew platform every two years under state law. Peggy willing to help with this process to update/review platform.

Barry Kade, Montgomery, suggested we could suspend this meeting and take up again at a future meeting so Convention could continue. Peggy Sapphire seconded. Tabled item until end of meeting.

Legislative Priorities for 2014: Progressive Legislators
Sen. Anthony Pollina, Rep. Chris Pearson, Sen. Dave Zuckerman, Rep. Sandy Haas, Rep. Cindy Weed, Rep. Susan Hatch-Davis all gave updates based on their committees and issues they are putting forward in January. Sen. Zuckerman working on GMO issue again and looking at private school vs. public school mandates and what inhibits teachers from being effective in classroom. Rep. Haas working on reduction of mental health issues and barriers for Vermonters in corrections system. Sen. Pollina will focus on issue of divestment from fossil fuels, “pay it forward” college funding concept, increasing state funding for education, and state bank issue. Rep. Weed will focus on labor bills, including paid sick days. Rep. Hatch-Davis will focus on paid sick days, early education organizing, changing the minimum wage to a livable wage. Rep. Pearson will focus on health care transition issue and how to get us to single-payer, also working on an economic bill of rights bill and continuing work on myriad climate change bills.

Watch for updates from Party to help weigh in to help with bills.

Party Platform
Martha suggested a motion be made to suspend the Convention to reconvene at the next state committee meeting to address platform issue raised earlier in the meeting. Ben Eastwood, Montpelier, quoted the state statue and said that major parties must adopt a platform on or before 4th Tuesday of November (even year). He moved to table discussion until the Chair calls a meeting to address platform. There was some confusion on when platform last addressed. Chris Pearson, Burlington: If people want to change platform or by-laws, submit it to leadership and it starts process. Barry Kade, Montgomery, withdrew motion from earlier in the meeting because state statue requires action in even year. Tony Smith, Wolcott, asked how the state statue works with what Chris Pearson says. Martha, state law says 2014 is the rule, not odd years. Peggy Sapphire, Craftsbury, said party members can provide revisions anytime, not just in even years, and the Coco can create a committee to review the platform. No vote was taken.

Motion by Tom Kingston, Colchester, Second by Ben Eastwood, Montpelier to adjourn state convention. Unanimous approval at 4:12pm.

STATE COMMITTEE ACTIONS: Robert Millar 
Robert Millar called State Committee to order at 4:12pm.

Election of Officers & Coordinating Committee
 - Candidates:
Chair: Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Winooski, nominated by Chris Pearson, Burlington
Vice Chair: Selene Colburn, Burlington, nominated by David Zuckerman, Hinesburg
Secretary: Chris Brimmer, South Ryegate, nominated by Nancy Potak, Greensboro
Treasurer: Martha Abbott, Underhill, nominated by David Zuckerman, Hinesburg
Vice Treasurer: Katherine Sims, Lowell, nominated by Marjorie Kramer, Lowell

At Large: 6 seats
Caryn Connolly, South Royalton, nominated by Liz Blum, Norwich
Mari Cordes, Lincoln, nominated by Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Winooski
Corey Decker, Fletcher, nominated by Phil Bronz, Bakersfield
Ben Eastwood, Montpelier, nominated by Jeremy Hansen, Berlin
Richard Kemp, Burlington, nominated by Kyle Silliman-Smith, Burlington
Lee Madden, Brattleboro, nominated by Tim Kipp, Brattleboro
Adam Norton, Burlington, nominated by Chris Pearson, Burlington
Nancy Potak, Greensboro, nominated by Marjorie Kramer, Lowell
Becky Raymond, Middlesex, nominated by Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Winooski

Glennie Sewell and Peggy Sapphire counted ballots. Election results: All officers ran unopposed. 6 At Large Seats elected: Caryn Connolly, Mari Cordes, Corey Decker, Lee Madden, Adam Norton, and Nancy Potak.

Discussion: CoCo Subcommittees


We did not address this item.

Submitted by Emma Mulvaney-Stanak, Secretary 11/13/13

Press Release: Auditor finds cost overruns in correctional health care, but contract oversight has improved

MONTPELIER, VT – Spending on health care for in-state prisoners was $4.2 million over budget for the last three years, according to an audit released today by State Auditor Doug Hoffer.

The Department of Corrections (DOC) contracts with Correct Care Solutions (CCS) to operate a comprehensive health care program for inmates housed in-state. Because of the importance and expense of this contract, the State Auditor’s Office (SAO) decided to review the State’s oversight of this contract.

In fiscal year 2012, DOC housed an average daily population of in-state inmates of 1,583, which included both sentenced offenders and detainees. The State budgeted $49.1 million for the three-year contract but eventually paid $53.3 million, including a $4.7 million management fee.

Hoffer noted that, "Since it’s a cost-plus-management fee contract, the state bears the financial risk and the contractor lacks incentive to minimize costs." The audit report stated that DOC’s "cost monitoring was not robust during the earlier years of the contract but has improved since late 2012."

For complex cases involving treatment outside prison facilities, the contract requires CCS to ascertain whether the inmate has health insurance and to pursue collection on the State’s behalf, including from Medicaid if applicable (only for services provided outside the prisons). During the audit, "testing identified one instance in which Medicaid was not billed for an inmate who was hospitalized at a cost to DOC of $84,000." This is important because state funds for Medicaid are matched with federal funds, while the Corrections’ budget is entirely state funds.

The report further stated that, "DOC’s monitoring of CCS’s performance against the contract requirements has been mixed." Based on testing by the audit staff, CCS met some of its performance standards and was deficient in others, with no apparent pattern. Hoffer stated that, "DOC’s failure to levy contractually allowed penalties for two years represented a lost opportunity for the State to offer a monetary incentive for CCS to correct its deficiencies in a timely manner."

Furthermore, the report found that "the lack of timely application of all allowable penalties appears to be due, at least in part, to significant personnel and operational changes at the Department." Hoffer stated that "DOC’s hiring of a new contract monitor in October 2012 has resulted in substantial improvements to both their cost and performance monitoring processes in the past year. Nevertheless, DOC (and all state entities) should plan for such contingencies so that contract oversight will not suffer when personnel changes occur."

Notwithstanding the progress already made, more needs to be done to help ensure that the State is not paying excessive amounts for these services and that the contractor meets the performance standards in the contract. Accordingly, we have offered various recommendations to help reduce DOC’s current costs and improve internal controls, and to reduce its risks in the implementation of health care delivery models under current consideration.

The full report can be found here.

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.

Progressives strategize for 2014 elections though gubernatorial bid unlikely

August 11, 2013; Alicia Freese; VTDigger

Even those supportive of fielding a candidate acknowledged the party’s monetary and manpower limitations would make that role less than enticing. Marge Power, who herself made a bid for lieutenant governor in 2010, declared, “If we can get sacrificial lambs, at least, I think we should run in all of the statewide races.”

But running throughout the conversation, there was the question, how could they not?

“You found a self-professed liberal Democratic governor proposing a state budget that Jim Douglas wouldn’t have dared propose in terms of what it did to low income and working Vermonters,” Pearson said. “As a populist party, how could we not challenge someone who is putting forth those ideas?”

Read the whole article >>

Should Progressives challenge Shumlin in 2014?

August 5, 2013; Terri Hallenbeck; Burlington Free Press

When members of the Vermont Progressive Party gather Saturday for their state meeting, they will openly discuss the burning issue of the day: Should they challenge Gov. Peter Shumlin in next year’s election?

Here’s the dilemma: Progressives kind of like Shumlin, at least some of the time. They just can’t believe some of the cuts he’s proposed to social programs. But they’re not so sure they’ve got the money or the candidate to mount their own viable campaign. And they think they’re doing pretty well affecting change by focusing on getting members elected to the Legislature.

“I have absolutely no idea where we’re going to end up,” said Party Chairwoman Martha Abbott of Underhill. “I want to hear what everybody’s thinking.”

“I really don’t know,” said longtime Progressive Anthony Pollina of Middlesex, when asked if the party should run a candidate for governor. “That’s why I think the conversation is important. I think there are a lot of differences of opinion.”

“His budget priorities were so far off the mark that the Democratic majority shut them down,” said Chris Pearson, a Burlington representative.

Read the whole article >>

Better off?

June 28, 2013; Tim Johnson; Burlington Free Press

Sen. Anthony Pollina, D/P-Washington, chief sponsor of Vermont’s GPI legislation, told a session of the ecological economics conference devoted to GPI how he came to realize a new measure was needed.

“I was having my breakfast, and I opened up the newspaper, and there was an article that said Vermont had one of the strongest gross domestic products or gross state products of any state in the country,” he said. “So that seemed pretty good, that Vermont had such a strong economy.

“Then I turned the page,” he continued, “and it said hunger had increased by a third in the state over the last year. That got me thinking about the need for a different kind of indicator that would put us more in touch with reality.”

Read the whole article >>

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