Colin J. Moffett Office Phone: 802-656-2053
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---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 18 Feb 1997 11:53:04 -0500 (EST)
From: Newserve <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Legislative Update, Feb. 15, 1997
Volume 7, No. 6
Published by the Office of Government Relations
Ruth Wallman, Director
[log in to unmask]
February 15, 1997
Now that the euphoria surrounding the Supreme Court ruling regarding the
property tax as a funding source for higher education has subsided, grim
reality has dawned on legislators, the leadership and the Governor. The
House Ways and Means Committee, charged with designing a bill to be
passed this session, had thought they would have a draft available for
the week of Town Meeting, in two weeks. Now they're talking St.
Patrick's Day! Still, snippets of information are available: the
Committee is leaning toward a Guaranteed Yield formula, much like last
biennium's H. 351, also authored by Rep. John Freidin. This device
guarantees that a certain tax rate will yield a certain number of dollars
per student. Therefore, towns could count on raising a certain amount of
money for, say, a 1% property tax, and the state would make up the
difference in what 1% can bring. There is still talk of new taxes on
gasoline, services, and junk food. All of these have their opponents.
With no specific plan floating to keep a lid on costs, Ralph Wright's
statewide teachers contract is again in the wind.
The Governor, meanwhile, has been quoted as saying that Vermont already
spends enough on education, and that it is merely a matter of
redistributing the wealth. The conventional wisdom, however, says that
more spending will be necessary in order to hold harmless the
high-spending towns while bringing up the low-spending towns to the
foundation level, or some other level of spending agreed to as "equal" as
opposed to "adequate". No one wants to propose the solution put forth by
New Jersey Gov. Whitman recently, which would have capped spending in
property-wealthy towns in order to equalize spending in all towns. She
withdrew her proposal.
This is probably the most-covered story in the media in the past ten
days, and will probably continue to be so until a draft is available for
public review. Meanwhile, the Ways and Means Committee will be receiving
testimony at public hearings, and legislators will be talking with their
constituents during the week of Town Meeting.
President Salmon, accompanied by Ray Lavigne and Jon Crystal, testified
before the House Appropriations Committee last Tuesday. Salmon gave an
overview of his six years as President, highlighting some of the major
advances such as new compacts with the State Colleges to coordinate
programs and offer IBM a full spectrum of education and training courses,
as well as the Vermont Technology Council's activities to support
economic development in the state. Salmon indicated that a 5% increase
will be needed to help address a budget imbalance caused by an increase
in Vermont student need. He said that the increase will ensure access
and quality. The Governor has included in his budget a 3% increase in
the appropriations for UVM, VSC and VSAC. An additional 2% would
increase this amount by approximately $525,000.
The House Education Committee this year asked to review the budgets of
the three higher education entities in order to be able to recommend its
priorities to the Appropriations Committee. After hearing budget
presentations from UVM, VSC and VSAC, the Committee voted to give VSC
$1.3 million more than the Governor's Recommend, an 8.3% increase; VSAC
an extra $1 million, an 8.2% increase; and UVM a $525,000 increase, or
2%. This decision was partly based on the fact that VSC and VSAC asked
for 20% increases, and UVM asked for 5%. One legislator remarked that
$525,000 was enough because "it is what they asked for." It raises the
old question of whether to ask for what you need or what you think is
possible in a year of lower revenues. On Friday two members of House
Education, Rep. Crawford of Burke, and Rep. Krasnow of Charlotte, made
the above recommendations to House Appropriations. It is unlikely that
Appropriations will vote those huge increases, as there is no funding
source except "cutting someone else," but the recommendation does put
forth the idea that UVM only asked for what was needed, rather than what
might be possible. House Appropriations will not be marking up the
education portion of the budget for at least a week. Rep. Francis Brooks
of Montpelier will be reporting that part of the budget.
Sen.Illuzzi Gets Involved in the Mountain top
Sen. Vince Illuzzi, Chair of Senate Institutions, has brought to his
Committee the issues involving the top of Mt. Mansfield, owned by UVM and
host to broadcast towers for the major media in Vermont. Suspicious that
the Mt. Mansfield Collocation Association, which is responsible for
planning the future of the mountain top, has denied access to a new TV
station, Champlain Valley Television, or Channel 44, Illuzzi called in a
panoply of station owners to respond to his challenge. After determining
that the Act 250 process was not guilty of denying access, Illuzzi
queried all the other parties. Channel 44, meanwhile, has hired
high-powered lobbyists Kimball and Sherman to represent its interests in
the Statehouse. Althissioner of Health Care Administration. A report is
called for to evaluate the impact of this bill on health care costs.
S.78 Confidentiality of Medical Records
This bill is being substantially rewritten. UVM's Office of Sponsored
Programs pointed out some problems in the construction of the bill, which
will be addressed in the next draft, out next week.
S.28 Moratorium on Herbicide Spraying
This bill, which passed the Senate, contains a section calling for the
Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation, in consultation with UVM,
to report to the legislature in 2003 on the current status of scientific
and technical literature .
H.318 Enacts three computer crimes: 1) access to computer for fraudulent
purposes, 2) intentional access, alteration and damage, and 3) computer
theft. The crimes call for imprisonment and fines.
S.107 Requires Lobbyists to Wear Identification Badges
"Each badge shall include the word 'lobbyist' in bold print" says this
bill, sponsored by Sens. Ready and Ptashnik. An annual fee of $5 will be
charged,, and the color of the badge will be changed each legislative
Monday, February 24, on Vermont Interact TV, 7:15 to 9:45 p.m.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will be hearing from citizens on the
FY 98 Appropriations Bill.