News Release – Vermont Sierra Club
May 18, 2017
Vermont Chapter Conservation Program Manager
In solidarity with the Vermont National Education Association the Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club released this statement of support:
Late in the legislative process, Governor Scott has demanded that health care for all public school teachers be negotiated on a statewide basis.
The Vermont Chapter of the Sierra Club is deeply concerned with the Governor’s proposal and his threats to veto any budget that doesn’t have his demands met. Even though legislators have worked to negotiate with the Governor and their proposals represent the will of their constituents, their proposed alternatives seem to have fallen on deaf ears.
We question the Governor’s demands for the following reason:
1. The Governor’s plans were introduced late in the process. Significant changes, such as teachers healthcare, require time for full and public vetting. Issues at play like collective bargaining rights, the move toward a statewide teacher contract, and the balance of costs and savings between the general fund and the property tax are major issues, and sneaking this through under the threat of veto is government without integrity. It fails to respect the system of governance; it fails to respect the people involved.
2. The Governor’s savings declarations are far less certain than is promoted, and most likely far less than what is stated.
3. While his proposal claims to reduce costs, it also reduces health care benefits and drives up costs for teachers and their families. This is a cost shift, not a savings plan. What the governor and the legislature should focus on is finding ways to lower costs in the healthcare system overall, in ways that would improve benefits and reduce costs for all Vermonters.
4. His proposal undermines the collective bargaining process in the following ways – splitting teacher contract settlement into two parts; separating real people and negotiating units from negotiating health care elements; severely limiting the range of outcomes.
5. The healthcare insurance program for teachers is already in the process of change. It has the potential to provide a win-win for school districts and for teachers. With the great variety of starting places, that is best achieved by engaging and involving teachers across the state. The Governor’s proposal guarantees a “lose” for teachers, and it pulls the potential savings away from districts, so it’s not a win for communities’ property taxes either.
We offer our strong support to the Vermont National Education Association and request that any legislative solutions have the support of the Vermont National Education Association.