Vermont Workers’ Center rallies at state house; demands a “People’s Budget”

Outlines a truly Marxist agenda for the legislature

By Lindsay Smith

Last January, the Workers Center came out on the first day of the legislative session to push for universal healthcare and the proposition that “Healthcare is a Human Right.” Flush with victory after the passage of Act 48, the Workers’ Center was back on Tuesday, the first day of this legislative session, with an even more ambitious list of demands.

The organization has been gathering names on a petition demanding a multitude of benefits, loosely defined as “The People’s Budget.” The petition calls for:

1. Vermont’s budget must put people first. Our spending and revenue policies must meet every Vermonter’s fundamental needs, including healthcare, housing, food, education, good jobs and a healthy environment. These are our basic human rights and public goods that our government must guarantee for all Vermonters.

2. Vermont’s budget must make providing public services for those who need them its highest priority. We must work to eliminate poverty, so that everyone can lead a life of dignity.

3. Vermont must adopt an equitable tax policy that allows us to meet people’s needs. State and federal tax cuts and subsidies have made the wealthy even wealthier and left everyone else behind, leading to a vast and growing income inequality. Vermont should raise revenue from those who can afford it, to meet the needs of our communities.

4. Vermont must develop its budget in a transparent and accountable way, with participation from the people. Only the participation of Vermonters can ensure that our budget will put people first.

During the rally, the Vermont Worker’s Center promoted their “People’s Budget” campaign, their “Put People First” campaign, and their “Vermont Parents United” campaign, which supports the unionization of early educators, as well as reaffirming their support for “Healthcare is a Human Right” campaign.

Peg Franzen, founder of the Workers’ Center, claimed that, “The government of the 1% has resulted in reduced revenues and erosion of access to services that lead to basic needs of Vermonters.” She believes the answer to their problems can and must be resolved by the legislators. “We are demanding a budgeting process that begins with an assessment of human needs that explicitly addresses itself to satisfying human needs and that evaluates itself according to success in satisfying those needs.”

Franzen went on to say that, “Public policy has for three decades served private interest and corporate goals resulting in a government that has turned its back on the people it is required to serve.” To correct this, she and her followers are “demanding social and economic justice”.

This justice will apparently be achieved through “rais[ing] enough money to fully fund public services,” such as early education, healthcare, an extreme environmental policy, and higher education on the basis that they are human rights. What would constitute “fully funding” was not clearly defined, although the group seemed to believe that these “rights” should be completely facilitated and funded by government through the taxation of the “rich.”

Therefore, all of these “human rights” are now the responsibility of only our wealthiest citizens.

As one speaker, Sandy Gaffney, articulated, they are “expecting the government to do its job and take care of us.”

A big difference between last year’s healthcare rally and this year’s rally was attendance by legislators. A survey of the room, though filled with supporters, onlookers and press, was noticeably devoid of any and all representatives and senators. Whereas last year Speaker of the House, Shap Smith, Senator Bill Carris (speaking on behalf of Senate President Pro Tem, John Campbell), House and Senate helth committee chairs Mark Larson and Clair Ayer all took to the microphone to support the Workers’ Center and their objectives, this year, only Majority Leader Lucy Leriche (D-Hardwick) spoke – and did so only at the request of the Speaker.

Lariche commended the group on “coming and packing the room” and delivering “a very compelling and effective message”, but seemed tentative and a bit put off by the idea that the liberal, Democrat supermajority wasn’t already seen to be putting people first. Lariche commented, “The perception is that we maybe we aren’t doing that as much as we should be is really an eye-opener for me.”

Rob Roper contributed to this article.