Friday, October 14, 2016

Bait, Switch and Act 46.
John Moran

Property taxes are a top voter concern and during the 2014 campaign candidates promised to lower them. However, although tax reduction proposals were in the offing, once elected, legislators did what they’ve done in the past. They switched focus from funding to governance.
During my eight years in the legislature, I and others pushed for property tax reform while defending small schools, local control and choice. Now, in one biennium, taxes are going up and everything we protected is in jeopardy. Act 46 is the wrong law. Instead of lowering taxes it addresses problems that do not exist, while creating new ones.
The number of school boards is presented as a problem, when really it is a demonstration of Vermont grass roots involvement. The state wants autocratic, top-down control; the towns want democratic diversity.
Consolidation is offered as efficient, but puts small school districts at the mercy of larger ones on matters of choice, curriculum, governance and existence.
Complex education funding mechanisms, comprehended by few Vermonters, force voters to make precipitous decisions with limited understanding.
Schools with easy decisions to consolidate are given tax breaks at the expense of schools with complicated and difficult choices.
Although property taxes are a major concern, even proponents acknowledge that the act is not likely to lower them.
While denied publicly, the drive by many for consolidation is to close small schools, which are the life centers of our towns a school official told me, and the souls of our communities a town official said.
Little is gained by Act 46 and so much is lost.
So, in the 2017 legislature I and others first will push to eliminate homestead education property taxes, to be replaced by income based funding. Residential property taxes will be needed for municipal expenses only.
Then, we will begin to undo the damage, caused by Act 46. While not punishing those districts that, in good faith, moved forward in implementing the law, we will fight for those who have the good sense to resist it.
If you want to be part of the fight, join me.
Now is the Time for Worker Fairness
John Moran

Now is the time for fairness for those who create our economy: The ski lift operator, home care provider, waitstaff, groundskeeper, sales person, housekeeper and convenience store clerk.
A server in a small cafe tells me “I make $11 an hour, but I need more hours”. A  manager at a local ski resort says, “I had to work many years before I reached the beginning salary offered me elsewhere”.  “I work full time”, reports a single parent, “but still need public assistance to get by”. “Both of us work,” says a couple, “and it’s still not enough to pay the bills.”
  Many who work independently have enough control to secure decent wages for themselves and the workers they hire, but most who labor in the tourism, retail and service industries are subject to pay and conditions determined by others.
It is fair for those who start a business to expect a return on their investment; to those who take the risk should go the reward. Yet who really puts themselves on the line? The families who sign leases or take out mortgages, the parents who enroll their children in the local school, and all who connect with neighbors and create friendships. It is really the employees, along with owners of small businesses, who are locked into the community. For corporations a failure is no big deal, because they just take their money and go elsewhere; but for those committed locally business success is essential. A just return on their human investment calls for control of working conditions, including living wages and on-job respect.
Pay of at least fifteen dollars an hour is politically, economically and morally justified.
The Declaration of Independence asserts that we all have unalienable rights that are to be secured by government. Realizing that life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness with inadequate resources are not possible, for us not to legislate a living income for all Vermonters is political negligence.
As two thirds of the economy is domestic spending, paying workers a living wage is a positive for all; families have the resources necessary for a good life and more money is put into local circulation, which increases business activity and encourages the creation of new ventures.
Most importantly, what moral argument can justify any industry in Vermont not paying its service providers an income sufficient for  themselves and their families? Many socially responsible businesses already know that the wellbeing of staff is as important as profits. It is time for all of us to determine our economic destiny by supporting an economy that serves our values of progress while taking care of our own and pays all our workers what they already have earned, a living wage.