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March 1997

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
Volume 7, No. 10
Published by the Office of Government Relations
Ruth Wallman, Director
656-8627
FAX: 656-3203
[log in to unmask]

March 21, 1997

Property Tax Reform Dominates This Week in the House

The House Ways and Means Committee proposal to replace the local property 
tax as source of funding for education was hotly debated this week in the 
House. Over twenty amendments were proposed to try to derail the 
proposal, which is an amalgam of statewide taxes on residential and 
non-residential property, a local income tax, and increases in several 
General Fund taxes. The major assault on the plan was an amendment by 
Rep. Ruth Dwyer, R-Thetford, who proposed a tax on gross receipts to 
replace not only the property tax but also the sales tax. Her research 
showed that a gross receipts tax would raise millions of dollars, enough 
to fund K-12 education.  Her proposal, supported by Republicans as well 
as a few Democrats, failed 86-59. An even more controversial amendment, 
proposed by Tom Little, R-Shelburne, would have removed the income tax 
piece of the proposal. This amendment was defeated 82-64.

Both of these votes assured the passage of the property tax bill, 
formally known as H. 527.  However, both the Republicans and the Governor 
took comfort in the votes on the two important amendments. The Senate, 
where H.527 is headed, is not inclined to support the income tax. The 
close votes show the Senate that support for the bill in the House is 
soft. Likewise, the Governor can now veto the bill, if it continues to 
contain the income tax, and be less concerned that the legislature will 
override. The ensuing discussion in the Senate will illuminate the deep 
divisions within the Democratic party regarding funding of education. In 
addition, the Senate is likely to add a school choice piece to the bill; 
Sen. Chard, D-Windham, chairs the Senate Education Committee and is 
supportive of public school choice. Meanwhile, members of the business 
community continue to advocate a "go slow" process, for fear that such 
radical change in tax policy will harm Vermont's fragile economy.

FY 98 Capital Budget

Thursday evening's news reported that Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, 
R-Essex/Orleans, has proposed an amendment to the Capital Budget 
affecting UVM. It essentially ties UVM's appropriation to the ability of 
Channel 44 to build a tower on Mt. Mansfield by circumventing the 
regulatory process, and then mandates that UVM transfer ownership of the 
Mt. Mansfield property to the state. The proposed legislation also 
embargoes UVM's appropriation until UVM complies with the amendment. 
Although UVM would be the principal loser in the event such an amendment 
was approved, all the existing lessees on the mountain are affected, 
principally WCAX, VPR and ETV. The proposed amendment is unlikely to be 
supported by the other members of the Senate Institutions Committee, 
which Sen. Illuzzi chairs. Generally, Sen. Illuzzi adds amendments to the 
capital bill after the Conference Committee has worked out a compromise 
acceptable to all sides.  This year, at least, we have advance notice of 
his intentions.

Extension System Annual Statehouse Visit a Success

On Tuesday, President Tom Salmon, Dean Larry Forcier and many Extension 
faculty and staff came to the Statehouse for the sixth annual 
presentation to legislators of Extension activities.  The House was in 
session that afternoon, debating various amendments to the property tax 
reform bill, but members made frequent trips to the cafeteria where Kate 
Baldwin, Division Advancement Officer, had arranged for a sumptuous 
spread of Vermont food products for sampling.  Legislators returned to 
the floor refreshed for another round of debate, which lasted into the 
dinner hour. Over a hundred legislators joined us for the warmly-received 
occasion, which featured a short talk by Lt. Governor Doug Racine, in 
addition to speeches by Salmon and Forcier.

UVM Experts Aid Legislators With Bills

Several UVM faculty and administrators have made Statehouse appearances 
lately to help committees draft legislation:  

Regina White, Director of Sponsored Programs, testified before the Senate 
Health and Welfare Committee on S.78, the confidentiality of medical 
records bill.

Jill Tarule, Dean of CESS, and Education Department Chair Bud Meyers, 
have visited the Senate Education Committee to talk about teacher 
preparation and school choice issues.

Larry Shelton, Integrated Professional Studies, testified before the 
Senate General Affairs Committee on a proposal for family court judges to 
mandate a mediation program.

Dr. Alan Guttmacher is working with the House Judiciary Committee on a 
bill to regulate genetic testing.

Dr. Hyman Muss, head oncologist at FAHC,  testified at a public hearing 
this week sponsored by  the House and Senate Health and Welfare 
Committees regarding a bill which would  require insurance companies to 
cover more cancer treatments in their basic plans. Rep.Karen Kitzmiller, 
the bill's sponsor, is a patient of Dr. Muss.

Dean Larry Forcier testified at a Joint Education Committees discussion 
of agriculture in education.


New Legislator a UVM Alum

Richard Marron, a resident of Stowe, has been appointed by Governor Dean 
to replace Kermit Spaulding, who was recently elected to the post of 
Sergeant at Arms. Marron, owner of Town and Country Motor Lodge, is a 1959 
graduate of UVM. He began his legislative term this week.

The focus is now on the Vermont Senate. All the big bills, Budget, 
Capital Budget and Property Tax Reform are all in the hands of 30 busy 
people, who are still grappling with restructuring the Vermont electric 
utility industry, DUI proposals, and the confidentiality of medical 
records. The word is that they will try to adjourn on time, late April, 
but time will tell.


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