Legislative Update – February 8, 2108

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Feb 8, 2018 No Comments ›› maxinegrad

Property Tax Relief

Property tax relief is perhaps the biggest concern I hear from you. I am pleased to report that the House Ways and Means Committee is addressing this concern.

The Committee is working on a proposal that will reduce reliance on the homestead property tax, will better reflect ability to pay, respects the requirements of Brigham, maintains local control, is simpler and more transparent, and maintains the overall progressive structure of the current system.

The proposal is evolving and should be considered to be a DRAFT. The basic outline of the DRAFT is as follows:

  • Replace the Ed Fund transfer from the General Fund with direct revenue from a variety of sources, principally all the revenue from the sales and use tax, the lottery and other sources
  • Retain the non-residential property tax as-is
  • Institute a tiered/progressive education income tax, the revenue from which would go to the Ed Fund
  • Keep a residential property tax that all Vermont income tax filers would pay, even those below $47,000. However, committee is exploring several mechanisms to protect below $47k filers as they are now by the super circuit breaker
  • The new residential property tax rate would be substantially lower than the current rate, but the loss of that revenue will be made up by the education income tax
  • Excess school spending will be made up by the local education property tax
  • The committee is concerned about cost containment and will consider various proposals
  • The proposal would eliminate income sensitivity and the need to file a homestead declaration each year
  • Vermont taxpayers receive two color-coded bills from their town treasurer, one for the local property tax and one for the education income tax.

The proposal will better reflect local budget decisions with locally adjusted tax rates. Because it includes a change in the way property tax rates are set to better reflect spending decisions, the actual impact will vary from town to town.

Under this proposal, every voter on the school budget will feel the consequences of their vote.

Special Education

Special Ed. Funding is another issue that greatly impacts our communities. The House Education Committee continues to focus on special education and began work on a committee bill that would dramatically change the way special education is funded and delivered. The goal of the bill is to give school districts more flexibility in how they target special education dollars on services, including services that today are not reimbursable by the state, and dramatically cut down on the enormous amount of ‘bean counting’ that goes on in local districts and at the Agency of Education.

Rental Housing

This is another key concern I hear about from you. House General is considering a committee bill that would create a rental housing advisory board, empower and improve the effectiveness of local health officers, create a statewide tracking system for rental housing units and create inspection reports.

Having an unhealthy or unsafe living environment greatly increases the health costs and adverse health outcomes for Vermonters and impacts our economy. With our shortage of affordable housing in Vermont, Vermonters are often left with nowhere else to go. Unhealthy rental properties cost landlords a lot of money when the situation is created by the tenants living choices and they cost Vermonters in uncalculated medical expenses when landlords don’t make necessary repairs and upgrades. Having a way to ensure safe rental housing will not only have a positive effect on people currently living in our state, but will help attract young skilled working families to move here.

Mental Health and Corrections facilities

Many of you have contacted me about the need to improve mental health services. The House Institutions Committee is addressing Vermont’s immediate needs: 

  1. The replacement of the current eight-bed Secure Residential Treatment facility in Middlesex with a 16-bed facility 
  2. How, within Medicaid funding, we can continue to support the number of beds needed at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital in Berlin 
  3. The desperate need for more forensic mental health beds within our Mental Health, Corrections and Judiciary systems.

Public Hearings on the Governor’s recommended FY2019 State Budget

The House and Senate Committees on Appropriations are seeking public input on the Governor’s Recommended FY2019 State Budget. They will hold a public hearing on Monday, February 12, 2018, 6:00-7:00 p.m. at the State House.

Please send your comments to me at [email protected].

 

Please stay in touch: [email protected]; 828-2228 or 496-7667.

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