by Ron Lawrence
Dear fellow citizens:
I know that our political environment has approached fever pitch in recent years. And that fact alone has caused most of us to simply shut our eyes and ears to anything that the opposition has to say. So, I fear that this letter is doomed to failure before I have even written the words down. Yet, as I look at what has been happening to our state and particularly, what has come out of Montpelier in recent years, I feel compelled to do something to break down these barriers and to motivate us to greater engagement. So, I’m going to give it a try.
To begin with, do you realize that our state is spending 28% of our collective income this year!
- Personal Income in Vermont: $17.8 billion http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/50000.html
- Vermont State 2013 budget: $5 billion http://www.leg.state.vt.us/jfo/appropriations/fy_2013/2013_Budget_Summary_COC.pdf
- And there is another $3 billion in pension liability that has gone unfunded. http://vtdigger.org/2012/05/17/coates-vermonts-expanding-pension-crisis-2/
- If you are a teacher or a state employee depending on your retirement plan, beware!
- Before you say, to yourself that businesses pay some of our tax revenues, please keep in mind that if businesses do not pass their expenses on to their consumers, then they cease to exist. And so do the jobs they provide.
- Neither should we be comforted by the amount of federal tax dollars that come into the state. The federal government is spending roughly 20% of our Gross Domestic Product.
- Note as well that these tax figures do not include local taxes (municipal and school) or unfunded mandates (like your auto insurance and your workers compensation insurance that your employer must pay)
But this is apparently not enough.
- Now the legislature is entertaining a punitive tax on soda. (H.0234) http://www.leg.state.vt.us/database/status/summary.cfm?Bill=H%2E0234&Session=2014
- And a gas tax increase (H.0510) http://www.leg.state.vt.us/database/status/summary.cfm?Bill=H%2E0510&Session=2014
Folks, if there is anything that affects ALL of us—including the price of food—it’s the price of gasoline!
Beyond this enormous tax burden, there is a mind-boggling array of bills that have been introduced and it is amazing to me what is being seriously considered. Please take a look for yourself: http://www.leg.state.vt.us/database/rintro/results.cfm
- Physician Assisted Suicide–a bill that has been reintroduced multiple times, only narrowly defeated.
- Bills that limit access, or dictate conditions, for gun ownership.
- Bills designed to stamp out any competition with our public schools, and attempt to stop any form of school choice. (People of Westford, how important is school choice to you?)
- Bills designed to stamp out any competition with Green Mountain Health Care or detracting from the authority of the appointed board members.
- A bill requiring non-union workers to pay union dues!
Add to these the laws of the recent past:
- Same sex marriage
- State mandated health insurance (which we still don’t know how we are going to pay for).
- Laws that take our taxes and sprinkle the country side with solar panels and purchase appliances for individuals—under the guise of energy efficiency.
- This while our state is doing everything it can to shut down VT Yankee—who generates a third of our state’s electricity.
- And finally, our lovely green state has approved the merger of our biggest electricity providers—thereby lowering competition, while facilitating the destruction of our mountain tops to accommodate wind turbines.
Folks, the collective impact of these initiatives is truly frightening! But we all seem to be asleep. We keep sending the same legislators to Montpelier year after year. I know we have differences in priorities and in our solutions to problems; but surely we can all see that our state legislature is out of control. I would like to propose two things:
1. Let’s set term limits for both the Vermont House and Senate, and
2. Let’s limit what our state can spend based on our collective personal income.
So, now I have sounded the alarm. Aside from the above simple proposals, what can I offer that might help make a difference? It seems to me that our biggest problem is that we have stopped talking to each other. And when we don’t talk, we feel isolated and powerless to make a difference.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I am all about talking through our differences. I believe that getting things out on the table is the way to better solutions. I have hosted such discussions in the past and would be willing to do so again—if there are people who would be willing to participate. I actually think we could have some fun with this and renew our appreciation for each other in the process. If you are interested in this concept, I would love to hear from you. (email firstname.lastname@example.org)
In any case, I beg you to look closely at how you are being represented in Montpelier. At the very least, talk to your representatives about your priorities. If it seems that they are not listening, then please consider changing the way you vote. I fear that time is running out to preserve what is left of life as we know it in Vermont.