This letter appeared this week in the Valley News. Thanks, Ashley!
No Way To Thank Vt. State Employees
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Vermont state employees have been working mornings, nights and weekends to make sure that vulnerable Vermonters are taken care of. It has not been easy.
In my division, Economic Services, we have been the backbone for providing emergency housing, food and fuel benefits and cash assistance for struggling Vermonters. On top of procedural changes, our caseloads have increased exponentially.
Department of Labor employees worked relentlessly for months processing benefits. Can you imagine being a teacher during the pandemic? I truly do not know how they did it. I am in awe. I could go on about all the state departments and divisions that worked very hard this last year.
Last year, Rep. Cynthia Browning introduced an amendment to eliminate a negotiated pay increase for state employees. Thankfully, our legislators voted no. Less than a year later, lawmakers want to thank state employees for their hard work by taking money from our pensions that was (again) already agreed upon in order to fix budgetary issues we have not caused.
My millennial generation has had to endure one economic crisis after another that we did not have a hand in creating. I applied for a state job, and have worked for the state for more than five years, because of the benefits and security that come with it.
Please stand by state workers, and tell your local representatives to look at the impact these proposals would have on the state workforce. Support the use of one-time money — federal relief or other available funds — and identify a dedicated revenue source to support the retirement system. Bill S.59 would create a temporary income tax surcharge on income over $500,000. S.43 would give the agreement between the state and its employees the full force of contract law.
The solution to budget issues should never come from the pockets of hard-working public service employees. What these proposals say to me and to others is that our representatives do not care about us. We will remember this at election time.
The writer is a benefits program specialist in the Economic Services Division of the Department of Children and Families.
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