This content has been edited since its original posting to reflect the 2015 End of Legislative Report
VSEA Members’ Fighting Back Against Shumlin Administration’s State Employees’ Savings Mandate
The State of Vermont has faced yet another budget deficit, and Vermont’s Governor has propsed to eliminate or reduce vital state services and has asking state employees to help by re-opening recently signed contracts and giving something back. But we know that VSEA members have already helped out many times, taking a 3% pay cut, enduring step freezes and increasing employee contributions to our health care and pension plans. This time, however, we can and must say "no" to the hasty proposals and to a mindset of "let’s just balance the budget on the backs of state employees and the Vermonters who rely on their services".
How are we fighting back? Right now, state employees across Vermont are participating in a VSEA-sponsored “Fight Back” campaign to put pressure on State leaders and lawmakers to reject more cuts to our quality public services—and to our jobs.
Why Are VSEA Members Fighting Back?
This content has been edited to reflect the 2015 End of Legislative Report
This core proposals present a negative impact on all state employees:
- “Eat” the Pay Act?– The Administration’s budget proposal anticipates Departments and Agencies “eating” nearly $5.8 million ($4.5 million General Fund Share) in Pay Act costs (i.e. 18% health insurance premium increase, COLAs, steps, 40% increase in dental) for the first six months of FY16. The budget proposal does fully fund the Pay Act during the second half of FY16. It’s unclear whether Departments and Agencies can absorb these costs without further RIFs.
This state services is at immediate risk to be eliminated or dramatically restructured:
- Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs): The Governor proposes saving $1.7 million by closing PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points) in Derby and Rutland and transferring each PSAP’s respective workloads to Williston and Rockingham. This consolidation includes the elimination of 20 positions. Eliminating these PSAPs from the local communities they serve puts residents at risk by removing the knowledgeable frontline workers needed to properly direct State and local emergency services. Saving 911 Dispatchers will help save lives!
Click here to learn how you can help Vermont’s Public Safety Answering Points
$18 Million Gap
As for the Administration’s FY2016 budget proposal (beginning July 2015)—which already included 72 RIFs and a demand for $5 million in concessions—an additional $18 million burden was recently added to the deficit. This means the Legislature and Administration must now agree to more cuts or to more revenue. Recently, the Administration provided lawmakers with a list of draconian cuts to fill the $18 million budget hole that includes ill-advised ideas like privatizing the Vermont Veterans’ Home, closing the Windsor correctional facility, closing state parks and lands, a fee for state employees to park, eliminating VOSHA, reducing the number of game wardens and eliminating the Women’s Commission.All the more reason for VSEA members to fight back.
Together, we are Stronger. The First Steps Each of Us Should Take to Fight against Proposed Cuts:
Now that the budget process is unfolding, state employees are constantly adapting how we are fighting back. Stay tuned and get involved. There is no guarantee on what the outcome of VSEA members’ collective action will be, but there is a guarantee that, if we do nothing, the cuts to our quality services are coming and so are RIFs.
The administration has proposed a mix of painful budget cuts, and some new revenue, to close Vermont’s $112 million current services budget gap. Unfortunately, the governor’s budget “balance” between new revenue and devastating cuts is heavily skewed toward the latter, with less than $30 million in new revenue being dedicated to funding current services budget gaps. The administrations preference for budget cuts will result in devastating reductions to programs supporting vulnerable Vermonters and will accelerate the decline of Vermont’s middle class. However, the Governor’s revenue proposals offer a critical opportunity to debate whether the budget proposal is meeting the crucial needs Vermonters and if not; how do we raise revenue to address these needs?
The revenue plan has been crafted to address the budget cuts included in the Governor’s FY16 budget proposal. Furthermore, these revenue sources will make Vermont’s tax code less regressive and more sustainable. The administration’s talking points frequently include mention of a “structural deficit” in state government, as state spending exceeds revenue growth. On the contrary, recurring state government deficits are directly attributable to growing income inequality; particularly because Vermont’s revenue streams rely on consumption and property taxes while incomes for most Vermonter’s have stagnated. The growth in state revenue can be increased by targeting new revenue sources at the wealthiest residents, who have enjoyed disproportionate income growth over the past decade.
Compared with revenue increases, a policy of budget cutting through
state-employee layoffs will cost Vermont an additional 11.4 jobs for every $1m of deficit reduction.
While tradition and pressure from bond holders mandate an annual balanced budget, there are different ways to achieve this goal. States can reduce spending, raise taxes and fees, draw down savings, or find new sources of outside revenue. While the bottom line of a balanced budget can be the same, the effects on state income and employment can be dramatically different depending on whether balance is achieved with revenue enhancements or spending reductions. By taking money out of the community and reducing disposable income, all budget balancing policies reduce state income and employment, and the effects are magnified by a “multiplier” where others lose their jobs when spending is reduced by people laid off by the state or facing higher tax bills, and reduced state income than lowers state revenues and requires higher state safety-net spending that forces further action to achieve budget balance.
Here is what you can do to take action!
- Call and/or email your legislator directly. You can find their contact information by clicking here.
- Become a worksite “VSEA Fight Back” campaign representative, keeping state employees where you work informed and up to date on campaign activities; email email@example.com to sign up.
- Write a letter to the editor to ask elected officials to respect state employees. You can learn more by clicking here.
- Post VSEA-produced educational information about new revenue sources and about the impact cutting state services will have in our Vermont communities and in our worksites.
For more information about the campaign and what you can do to help, please contact our organizing department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 802-223-5247 and ask to be connected with one of our organizers.
Stop The Cuts! Fund State Services & Jobs!
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