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Legislative Notes for January 30, 2014

The Budget Adjustment Act was debated and passed this week.  H.655 increased total state spending by in excess of $18 million over last years approved budget.  I opposed the bill because I feel that it circumvents the diligent non-partisan process that we went through to approve last year’s spending plan. In my opinion, the budget that was passed last year was a reasonable compromise.  However, this bill increases spending by another $18+ million and puts us back on a spending path that is unsustainable going forward.  It authorizes positions that have been vacant for years to now be filled and funding for new furniture and start-up costs for an ongoing project.  This is very poor management and diminishes the integrity of the budget process.  I feel that the legislature needs to hold the Governors administration accountable for their spending practices.

Another very important issue that did not get much attention this week is education property taxes. Education property taxes are calculated using a very complex formula.  The equation factors in the value of the statewide grand list, taxpayer’s ability to pay based on their income and other variables.   Education property taxes were raised last year by 5 cents and will likely increase by another 7 cents this year.  This year’s increase equates to approximately a 10% increase in your education property taxes if you are not eligible for a rebate.  The 10% increase is an estimate based on the assumption that local school districts will pass budgets that grow at a rate of 3% or less statewide.  This is unlikely based on initial reports, several large school districts are proposing budget increases that exceed 9%, which  means that we will likely be subject to an even larger than 10% tax increase Milton.

Legislative seminars on this topic were held last week at UVM and at St Michael’s College to discuss this issue.   Unfortunately, it looks like this might be just another attempt to pacify angry voters who are voicing their outrage with these substantial tax increases.  Many of the experts present thought that our funding system was equitable.  However, they are not paying the taxes.   Vermont’s education funding system is broken and there needs to be overall reform to the system.  I feel that this is a very important issue and something productive must be done this legislative session.

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 http://www.donturnerjr.com. Thank you and have a great week.

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