VSEA Members Making Their Presence Known At State House

As the legislature works towards adjournment, budget discussions are getting down to the nitty gritty. Monitoring as much of the budget-making process as possible are VSEA members, many of whom are taking their own leave time to make sure state employee voices are heard in as many meeting rooms as possible. VSEA thanks the members who are coming to the State House, and we invite each and every state employee to come to Montpelier to add your voice to the debate. If you have questions about visiting the State House, please contact VSEA Organizing Director Gretchen Naylor or Communications Coordinator Doug Gibson.    


     The legislature’s Labor Caucus, or a group of 15-20 legislators who identify themselves as friends of working Vermonters, met today at noon at the State House. Joining the caucus were nearly 20 state employees, some of whom are on the list of 320 cuts. 
     VSEA Legislative Coordinator Conor Casey led off the hour-long meeting by imploring the legislators to think long and hard about the short- and long-term ramifications of the Governor’s proposed cuts. He also again suggested several ways to protect services and jobs by increasing revenue, reducing temps and private contractors or any of the other viable alternatives available to legislators. 
     Rep. Paul Poirier (D-Barre) then reminded the caucus of his proposal for a 1% across-the-board income tax increase for every Vermonter, which he said would raise $107 million and protect services and jobs. Poirier said the average cost to a Vermonter would be $168 a year, or $14 a month. 
     Then, one-by-one, VSEA members rose to address the caucus, each bringing his or her own unique perspective to the debate.
     DOC employee Jerome
 Doherty is on the RIF list, and he spoke first about his concern for what would happen to a program he helped administer that assists youth in prison. He also told the caucus that his wife was out of work and he has three children in college, asking how the caucus members would feel if faced with a similar situation. With respect to the way the cuts process has played out, Doherty voiced his strong displeasure, calling it "bad government" and saying state employees deserve "better treatment."
      DCF employee Ingrid Pixley is on the RIF list and she explained about her program, which finds emergency shelter for Vermonters in need, and how the job of two people is now being done by one–and soon, none. She worried aloud about who these Vermonters will turn to for assistance, doubting the plan being proposed to address her departure would suffice due to logistics.
    Education Department employee Karen Agnew is on the RIF list, and she spoke of her concern about whether or not the resources will be there in the near future for Vermonters who choose to home school their children. 
     Mental Health employee Brian Smith is on the RIF list, and he is worried about the future ability of homeless Vermonters who live with mental illness to find appropriate shelter, which was a big part of his job. Smith told of a federal grant due to Vermont on May 30 to assist him in his job. "The grant comes on May 30, and I will be out the door on June 1."
    ACCD employee Arthur Hamlin is not on the RIF list, but he came to the State House because he wanted legislators to know what it is like for one person to be doing the job of what used to be five people, which he said he is doing now. He added that he studied economics and knew from what he learned that the cuts strategy being implemented by the Governor did not demonstrate sound economic judgment.
     DAIL employee Carol Burnor is not on the RIF list, but she wanted to speak to legislators about the possible bad ramificactions if the Governor continues to chip away at the state services charged with administering and explaining Social Security benefits to Vermonters. "We have a model program in Vermont," she reminded. "Don’t we want to keep it that way?" 

     There were others who addressed the caucus as well, and the primary message was the same from nearly all. "These cuts are a bad idea" and "Do you realize what we are doing to state government?"