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Legislative Notes for May 2, 2013

April 26, 2013

The session appears to be finally moving closer to adjournment. We are starting to spend much more time on the floor and less time in committee. A number of bills passed this week including H.510 the State’s transportation program, H.538 an act making miscellaneous amendments to education funding laws and S.14 an act relating to payment of fair share fees.

The transportation program bill included increasing the gas and diesel taxes effective May 1st. This modified bill was the result of negotiations between the Senate, House and Governor. The bill insures that all available federal dollars will be drawn down for state highway work. It also creates a study group to propose a method for charging all users of the state highway system in a fair and equitable manner. Since gas and diesel taxes are the primary funding mechanisms for the transportation fund, it is widely known that electric, hybrid, natural gas and other vehicles do not pay an adequate amount for their usage of the highways. I support many items included in the bill however, I could not support the increase in gas and diesel taxes and therefore did not support passage of the bill. Unfortunately, the bill did pass and you will be seeing higher gas and diesel prices at the pump beginning on May 1, 2013 and further increasing in 2014 as a result of this legislation.
Education property taxes were raised earlier this year by 5 cents and will likely increase at least another 5 cents next year. H. 538 made a feeble attempt at addressing these unsustainable increases. The bill changes the equalized pupil hold-harmless percentage as of 2015, lowers the excess spending threshold in 2015, 2016 and 2017 to 121% of statewide average per pupil spending, reduces the renters rebate and reduces the maximum education property tax rebate from $8000 to $6000 in FY2015. These changes may help curb the education spending and as a result I voted to support the bill. Vermont’s education funding system is broken and this appears to be another band aid rather than a sincere attempt to repair the system.
S.14 titled the fair share bill by its supporters is far from that in my opinion. This bill, known last year as the agency fee bill, requires that most people who work in a school district, municipality or for the state to pay up to 85% of the union dues to the respective union even if they are not a member of the union. We offered a number of amendments to try to grandfather employees, each attempt failed. I find this bill incredibly unfair to people who do not want to become a union member and did not support this bill.
As your representative, I look forward to representing you and your concerns in Montpelier. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, comments or concerns. I am very interested in hearing from you. During the session, I can be reached at the Statehouse by calling 1-800-322-5616 or by cell at 373-5960. My email address is dturner@leg.state.vt.us. My web-site address is www.donturnerjr.com. Thank you and have a great week.
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