The four issues listed below constitute a policy list designated as VPP’s top priorities by the Progressive Party’s state Coordinating Committee. Below you’ll also find a list of priorities from each Progressive legislator. This legislative agenda is, by no means, an exhaustive or exclusive list. Rather, it is an attempt to focus the grassroots power of VPP’s membership on key progressive issues that Party leaders and elected Progressives believe can be advanced this year.
Political Priorities Designated by the CoCo:
1. Progressive Property Tax Reform
2. Fighting Back Against Budget Cuts and Further Austerity Measures
3. Criminal Justice Reform (including Marijuana Legalization)
4. Divestment of State Assets from Fossil Fuels
Political Priorities Designated by Progressive Legislators:
Sen. Anthony Pollina (Washington Co – P/D):
“Currently in Vermont, families earning less than $100,000 a year pay about 3% of their income in property taxes. Meanwhile, those making $300,000 and $500,000 a year only pay 2% and 1% (respectively), while those earning more than $1 million pay less than 0.5% percent of their incomes. Bill S.175 would require those earning more than $90,000 a year to complete an income adjustment form, and either pay based on the value of their homesteads, or the same percentage of their income that lower- and lower-middle class Vermonters pay (whichever is greater).
If we have a law that says it’s fair for middle class homeowners to pay 3% of their income to fund local schools, it’s only fair to have others do the same…. Some (those who can most afford it) will pay more; others will pay less. The bottom line is that it restores fairness and can give middle-income families some much needed relief.”
Sen. David Zuckerman (Chittenden Co – P/D):
“As a small business owner I believe it’s imperative that working Vermonters have access to earned sick leave. No one should be forced to potentially lose their job because they get sick. No one should be penalized at work for needing to stay home to take care of a sick child. No one should have to choose between losing a day’s wages, or coming to work while they’re ill and potentially exposing others to their illness. This is a workers’ rights issue, it’s a women’s rights issue, it’s a children and families issue, it’s a public health issue, and it’s good business management. These are some of the reasons why Paid Sick Days is one issue I feel very strongly about this session.”
Rep. Chris Pearson (Burlington-P):
“Since I introduced this bill last year, two states have enacted it into law (Oregon and California). Several other states are now getting ready to follow suit and we hope Vermont will join the movement. The proposal would have Vermonters automatically registered to vote upon renewing a drivers’ license unless they opt-out. Not only would this add people to the voter rolls it will also help keep voter lists up-to-date. If this proposal were in place across the country estimates are that 27 million more Americans would be registered to vote.”
Rep. Diana Gonzalez (Winooski-P/D):
“The concept is to disallow employers to inquire about previous criminal convictions during the initial application process for employment positions. This is important to give employers and potential employees a fair chance of finding a good employment match. Currently, having a box to check declaring potential criminal record creates an unnecessary and significant barrier to employment for many Vermonters. The governor has already banned the box on state applications and Obama is calling for the end of the box for companies that receive federal contracts.”
Rep. Sandy Haas (Rochester-P/D):
“S.20, an act relating to establishing and regulating dental therapists, would set up a new intermediate dental care provider to address the crisis in access to dental care now facing poor people, especially children and others on Medicaid. Akin to physician assistants and advance practice nurses in health care, dental therapists would be licensed to perform a longer list of procedures than dental hygienists, thus increasing the workforce that can provide routine preventive care and basic services to Vermonters. Currently, a Medicaid recipient who experiences a dental emergency is most likely to end up in a hospital emergency room. Sadly, S.20 is strongly opposed by the Vermont State Dental Society, even though many Vermont dentists refuse to treat any Medicaid patients at all; of those dentists who do accept Medicaid, most severely limit the number of Medicaid recipients they will see. S.20 passed the Senate on a vote of 18-8. The bill is currently being considered by the House Human Services Committee. If it passes there, it will also need to be approved by the Government Operations Committee before it can reach the House Floor.”
Rep. Susan Hatch Davis (Washington-P/D):
“H.688, An act relating to good cause employment, would create a ‘good cause’ employment standard in Vermont, adding language into 21 VSA 495(b)(1) that would expressly make it unlawful to discharge an employee for other than good cause shown once past their 90-day probationary period. Employees could then only be discharged for a reason that was (1) reasonable; (2) in good faith; and (3) related to a legitimate business reason.
“H.689 proposes to create a Universal Basic Income Commission to study and analyze the adoption of Universal Basic Income in Vermont. The commission would make recommendations on, and provide long-term vision for, Universal Basic Income in Vermont, including potential revenue sources and the amount of funding needed.
“H.646 proposes to require a business that receives a Vermont Employment Growth Incentive to repay the value of the incentive if the business is sold within three years of receiving the incentive.”
Low Income Weatherization
Rep. Robin Chesnut-Tangerman (Middletown Springs – P/D):
“Weatherization funding in the state has come from a number of different sources including ‘one time’ federal stimulus and a fund created when Green Mountain Power and Central Vermont Public Service merged. That money has now been spent and the sole funding source is a 1/2¢ per gallon excise tax on liquid fuels: gasoline, heating oil, and propane. This tax has stayed level since it was created in 1990.
The good news is that fossil fuel consumption in Vermont has decreased due to both the long recession and increasing efficiencies. The bad news is that decreased sales have gutted the funding for low income weatherization assistance. With the loss of funding experienced ‘green collar’ workers are laid off and specialized weatherization equipment gets mothballed and sits idle.
We are working for a modest 1/2¢ per gallon increase in the excise tax, bringing the total to 1¢ per gallon. This increased funding will pay for itself many times over in putting Vermonters back to work, decreasing dependency on fossil fuels, and making homeowners warmer, healthier, and more productive.”
Rep. Mollie Burke (Brattleboro-P/D):
“The Gross Receipts tax currently raises just under $8m per year through a tax on the retail sales of heating oil, propane, kerosene, natural gas, electricity, and coal at a rate of 0.5%. The majority of this money supports the Weatherization Program. Another $1m comes from the US Department of Energy. This program needs to be re-authorized every few years and will expire in June if not re-authorized. Another draft, also sponsored by Alison, not only reauthorizes but also doubles the amount of the tax for all those fuels except for electricity which leaves the tax at 0.5%
Funding for the Weatherization Program has dropped from a high of $12.9 million in FY12 to it’s current level of $8m. At the same time an estimated 125,000 Vermonters lived in “fuel poverty” in 2012, meaning that more than 10% of monthly household income is spent on energy. In 2007, Vermont set a goal to weatherize 20,000 more homes by the year 2020. At the current funding, this goal will not be reached until 2029. With an increase in funding, Vermont could not only help more low-income residents, cut carbon emissions from fuels, and provide more livable-wage jobs for weatherization contractors. This effort is meant to be a bridge to a longer term solution like the Carbon Pollution Tax. If that tax becomes a reality it is possible that those revenues can replace all or part of the gross receipts tax.”