Undoubtedly, the upcoming legislative session will focus some attention on health care costs. There is a lot of motivation behind changing how providers, hospitals, doctors, etc., are compensated for their work. Currently we pay medical practitioners as we utilize their services. A hospital bill has so much per day for your bed, medications, testing, physicians, and so on. What is visualized is paying medical practices a set amount per year. Each medical institution would then manage this sum to provide the services needed to all patients. Also, there is a keen interest in paying for services rendered by outcomes. In both of these cases there will be cost saving incentives built into the plan.
"Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer."
John F. Kennedy
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Your property taxes fund approximately 65% of the public education bill putting financial pressure on many Vermont households. Reducing the property tax burden on residences is the number one issue I hear about on the campaign trail. In addition, the calculation for funding education is complex and as a result not easily understood by most Vermonters. Simplifying the tax rules and diversifying where we raise the needed education dollars will reduce this burden on homeowners and create a clearer education funding formula that makes sense.
Will changing how we raise education dollars lead to lower education costs? Probably not. How much we spend on education has always been determined by our local school boards and you, the voter, on town meeting day. There is an appetite in Montpelier for addressing the funding formula, which has resulted in the legislature installing a provision that limits spending by imposing spending thresholds. However, many view any further restraints as stepping on local control.
My bias is to consider moving more to an income tax based system where the greatest tax burden rests on those that have the greatest ability to pay. The devil is always in the details and making this kind of change requires that we consider some of the issues with this concept. For example, income tax receipts are subject to greater annual fluctuations than property tax revenues, which tend to be predictable. In addition, too much emphasis on the income tax could influence high-earning taxpayers’ decisions concerning residency.
No one is against economic development. . As a member of the House Economic and Development Committee, this subject hits close to home. After my first two years, I have come to realize that we do not have a comprehensive economic development plan that will grow jobs and our tax base. While the existing leadership in the respective departments in Montpelier works hard to advance the cause, they have been given precious few resources to get the job done.
I view economic development as the establishment of a culture rather than a specific program or two. Giving a business a “tax break” to locate in Vermont is not an economic development strategy. We need to express a vision for the shape of economic growth and be committed to this vision. We need to be candid about local market conditions and capacity. Identifying the strengths and assets of the various regions around the state is important so we can focus on a region’s advantages. Often the best opportunities for economic growth lie with the companies already here. Working with these businesses is critical.
Economic development also means that the building blocks for growth are healthy. Those building blocks include a top notch public education system, sound infrastructure (roads, rail, airports, high-speed Internet), availability of quality housing close to places of employment, access to capital, job training, cultural and recreational opportunities plus other things businesses need and employees desire. The economic development culture comes by pulling all these things together, establishing an action plan and having a real buy-in from Legislative leaders and the executive branch. It is vital that we have economic growth. This growth will increase the tax base and this is important if we want to spread our states financial demands.
It is clear that there is a need for good and affordable housing for working Vermonters. Existing economic circumstances makes it is very difficult for building contractors to build homes to fit this need. I put forth legislation last session that was designed to reduce some of the barriers contractors have in constructing affordable housing. The bill addressed three critical areas: permitting, land costs and infrastructure. By focusing construction near high-density residential areas, we are able to get a speed pass on the permitting process. A minimum of four housing units per acre reduced land costs and most of the required infrastructure would be subsidized through a state program. It is my hope that the bipartisan support the bill had last session will be resumed in the new session and we can initiate a pilot project in the housing arena.